With advancements in motoring technology meeting new green energy and lifestyle objectives, what will the car of the future look like, and who will use it?
Here we break down some ideas about how the car will develop in the short and longer term, and how some of those changes can be seen right now.
It’s no surprise that electric vehicle production and purchase is rapidly on the rise. Even with electric cars, however, there is work to be done on the power source. From reducing the high cost of the batteries to extending their life and energy density, and ensuring their safety while doing so, research continues into ways to make electric vehicles a preferable choice across every category. Solid-state lithium batteries are cheaper, safer and perform better than the batteries currently in use, and will likely be the future of electric vehicles once this technology has reached a suitable level of cost, safety and efficiency. Also on the table are lithium air batteries, which promise numerous benefits including a lesser environmental impact.
Making cars as light as possible has always been a manufacturing goal, because the lighter a car is, the less fuel is needed to move it. The rise of electric vehicles has accelerated the development of lighter cars too, because their batteries can weigh up to 300kg. If the battery weight is non-negotiable, that leaves the rest of the car to be engineered for maximum strength at minimum weight. Swapping out heavier materials like steel for carbon fiber magnesium, and aluminum can reduce the weight of a car by up to half
The physical build of the car is of course extremely important, and there are manufacturers with a long history in this area. However, with the advent of electric vehicles has come a new area of expertise in car manufacturing, and that’s the software. Drivers in the future are just as likely – if not more likely – to want to know that the car’s software is top spec. This opens the door for software companies to begin designing cars, just as much as it opens car manufacturers to develop software. The future melding of these two formerly separate industries will be an interesting thing to watch.
One big problem for electric vehicles is their ability to be hacked. Traditionally breaking into a car was a manual job, but now it can be done by hacking wifi or cloning electronic keys. And it’s not only having a car stolen that is a concern, with the potential for taking control of electric vehicles also a possible threat. However, car manufacturers are working to solve this problem and are introducing new security features that will, within just a couple of years, make this threat much less of a concern. A standardization of security across the sector, and legislation to protect consumers, will also help to push these developments.
The old model of buying a car outright, or even on finance, is rapidly going out of the window. For the generations who have grown up with the idea of ongoing subscriptions rather than ownership, the same model can be seen on the horizon for cars. Volvo, Jaguar and Mercedes are among the car manufacturers who have recently launched a subscription service for their vehicles through which customers pay a monthly fee covering all aspects and costs associated with car ownership. If the car needs to be replaced, this can also be covered by the subscription, until such time as a car may not be needed anymore. This works well for those who can’t afford to front up the money for the purchase of a car and promises major disruption to the traditional showroom purchase. There may also, of course, be a total reduction in the number of people opting to use a car at all, as green strategies across the world make public transport and bikes a better way to get around, as well as increasing pedestrianization in cities.