Automobile technology is constantly on the move, and today’s vehicles are safer, more efficient, more powerful, and cleaner than ever before in history.
Tomorrow’s vehicles are here today, only they haven’t all congealed into a single marketable product. It usually goes that way with automobile technology. Theories abound until one company produces a product, and then everyone scrambles to improve on it, sometimes anyways. Take, for example, the Toyota Prius, the first hybrid electric vehicle, in 1997. Now, practically every automaker has at least one hybrid vehicle on the production line, even those who you’d never imagine getting into hybrid technology.
An interesting article appeared October 8th over on Edmunds.com, “6 Car Technologies That Will Revolutionize Driving in 10 Years,” and I got to thinking, will these reduce emissions in any way? Here are a couple I thought were noteworthy:
- Autonomous Vehicles
Besides, theoretically speaking, making vehicles safer for everyone on the road, autonomous vehicles should be able to do something that no HOV lane or public transportation system has been able to do – eliminate highway congestion and traffic jams. Vehicles run their most efficient when they are cruising around 55mph, but things seriously go south when people are dodging and weaving or exceeding the speed limit, which then leads to the exact opposite, stop-and-go traffic congestion or even traffic jams.
Autonomous vehicles could keep traffic flowing at a steady pace, which is great for everyone’s well-being. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says that an autopilot function is years away, and Nissan has actually promised production of a fully autonomous vehicle by 2020. Reducing idle time and stop-and-go traffic also greatly reduces emissions associated with a typical commute. Who knows, maybe you can just sit back and enjoy that cup of coffee and catch up on your morning emails?
- Cheaper Electric Vehicles and Nationwide Quick-Charging Stations
The expense of the lithium-ion battery is probably the first objection people raise when considering electric vehicles. Charging infrastructure is probably the second. Those who can afford them, and learn how to drive them, absolutely love their electric vehicles. Making them cheaper and easier to use could only make them more appealing to the general public.
If researchers can formulate a new energy storage and charge package that is: a) at least as energy-dense as lithium-ion, b) cheaper than it is now, perhaps 30% or better, c) recharges in about half an hour, and d) is at least as abundant as the average gas station, it could go a long way toward increasing adoption of electric vehicles. Is that asking for a lot? Perhaps, but researchers are already working on these very things. Soon, an electric vehicle driver will be able to use his car exactly as he would a conventional vehicle, reducing emissions every mile.
Image © JD Hancock / Foter / CC BY