A look at the main future automotive technologies
With peak oil approaching, alternatives are being sought to power our cars. From hybrids to biofuels and from electricity to algae, the possibilities are numerous.
Terra Eco, a French magazine, published recently an article on this very topic and the least we can say is that the findings are interesting. Cars in 10 or 20 years won’t look like the ones we drive now.
I don’t think any of these technologies will have the quasi monopoly in ten or twenty years but each solution will be present at a different level.
Well adapted to urban lifestyles, electric cars are limited in autonomy (currently less than 250 kilometers /155 miles) and in speed (130 kmph / 80 mph).
Another French magazine, Science & Vie, outlined in its January 2009 issue no less than sixproblems that have to be solved. Besides the autonomy the time of charging the batteries is another.
Security is the third problem as batteries can’t heat up too much. Fourthly, the main raw material – lithium – is also scarce. Finally, cost and recycling have to be addressed as well.
- Natural Gas
There are two main fuels: methane or NGV (natural gas vehicle). One of the main advantage is the cost of fuel. It also burns more efficiently than gasoline.
However, the pollution is similar or even more important. To a French report, they could reach mass markets by 2030.
First generation biofuels compete directly with crops for food. With the riots of hunger we have seen recently, this is no sustainable solution.
To have ten percent of our oil for transportation coming from such fuels we would need more than a fifth of our arable lands…
Second generation biofuels emit less greenhouse gases such as biomass waste aren’t ready yet and will reach markets by 2015-20.
Even if it seems to be a great solution as it is totally renewable and is everywhere (H2O anyone ?), hydrogen is not ready as many problems – including storage and excessive costs – have to be solved.
The fact that more and more people are living in the cities at a global level leads me to believe that car sharing solutions like this one have a bright future. Indeed, who needs a car 24 hours per day, 7 days a week ? Renting one when there is the need seems to be a perfect solution.
To conclude, I believe future cars will be smaller and will have fewer passenger seats. Current trends show this quite clearly.