If there is any agreement in the automotive industry on what the future will hold, it is the notion that fossil fuels will run out eventually. This month’s guest blogger – Jennifer Smith – gives you an overview from a UK perspective of existing and upcoming green technology.
When looking at the future of automotive technology, it’s like looking through green tinted glasses. Nearly every major car company now is offering a greener alternative to their standard range of gas guzzling vehicles. From Volkswagen’s Bluemotion and Ford’s Ecoboost it’s clear that consumers are seeking more efficient ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Be it for the soaring and increasingly unstable fuel prices, or from social consciousness, people are looking beyond stop-start technology and are looking more towards sustainability. Hybrid sales are increasing year after year, and electric cars on the rise. Here, we’ll be looking at some of the Green technology that you should expect to see in cars, and when you should expect to see it.
Green Technology is becoming the new hallmark of top quality engineering, and any car manufacturers seeking to stay on top of their game need to look at entering the environmental fray. With companies such as Porsche and Ferrari now producing and showcasing hybrid technology, green tech has truly entered the mainstream, and here is what the future holds.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars
For a long time, the dream of a hydrogen cell car, a vehicle that’s only waste emissions being water, has been only that. So much so that the hydrogen fuel cell car became a laughing-stock among environmental sceptics, however, this is no longer the case. With so much money in future green technology, the development of hydrogen powered cars is speeding up.
This year, hybrid trail blazers and market top dogs have revealed their plans to release a large scale production of hydrogen cell cars in 2015, these will roll out across the world at quarterly periods. This step no doubt has come as a result of Hyundai’s surprise news of their own hydrogen cell car, the ix35 in 2013. Yet perhaps it’s too soon to get so excited about this, as the cars are still very expensive. In fact to purchase one of Toyota’s vehicles you’ll be looking at around £60,000, or $100,000. Factor into this the fact that you will need to top up your fuel cell, or replace it, every 300 miles, hydrogen powered cars become a massive expense.
When will we see it?
Clearly companies are developing the technology, but until the price of these vehicles lower, don’t expect anything too widespread. Currently in central Europe there are numerous rental schemes for the vehicles where you only ‘rent’ the fuel cells, taking them back to the manufacturer for a replacement. More excitingly, the state of California recently announced that by 2016 they hope to have over 60 hydrogen fuel cell stations built throughout the state. So whilst it may still be a few years, by the end of this decade hydrogen fuel cells could be the new hybrid.
Hybrid and Electric Plug In Technology
Speaking of hybrids, there’s some exciting things in store around the corner. As mentioned before, the Porsche 918 Spyder has proven to the world that hybrid cars can still perform, whilst reducing emissions. This shows that the future holds a greater range of models, perhaps even sportier cars! Whilst it may not be future technology, the developments we hope to see revolve much more around the infrastructure for hybrids than the engineering itself.
This will be a recurring theme of the article, as more governments and companies take up the green mantle, the road systems are also going to be in need of development, making it an affordable and preferable choice to ‘go green’ than remain with their fossil fuel guzzling ancestors.
Electric Charging stations looks set to be the next immediate game changer to green technology, seen in the US here and over in the UK , more and more charging station are setting up, looking to help provide some extra juice to the electric car batteries. This is a big step away from traditional automobile fuel usage, with the movement to using mains electricity rather than petrol or diesel.
How they work is mostly implied by the name. You plug them in, and they charge the hybrid battery. For an electric car this will be a must on a day to day basis, and you can have a charging station easily installed in your garage charging a vehicle from the mains. For hybrids, this can be an excellent way to shave off a few extra petrol or diesel miles, reducing a carbon footprint and saving money too. With this practical and efficient new technology are other new developments, such as the growing number of crossover cars. The Porsche Panamera comes to mind, doing away with the traditional idea of clunky ecowagons and replacing it with a green, clean and sleek new generation.
When can we expect to see this technology?
Almost immediately. The Panamera is out now and more and more charging stations are popping up across the world. With the road tax benefits offered from an eco car, combined with the promise of fuel savings, they’re becoming the go to choice for people’s next cars. Companies such as Jaguar and Audi are also taking up this plug in technology. With the promise of environmentally friendly realistic steps and saving on road costs, expect to see more and more hybrid and plug in technology.
With the growing number of hybrid and plug in cars on the road today, it’s clear that people are steering away from fossil fuels. Whilst the infrastructure to support this new technology is developing, it still leaves the problem that the production of mains powered electricity used to charge the vehicles still uses non renewable energy.
With this in mind, a lot of companies are looking towards ways to top up the cars power from renewable energy sources. For an American market it’s clear to see that solar panel technology is really going to play a big role. There are two ways this is happening, and may just change the market. First is the attachment of solar panels to the cars themselves. As a car sits on a driveway or car park, it’ll be soaking up rays from the sun and charging the battery ready for the journey home. The car can also charge whilst on the drive, allowing for an incredibly efficient ride.
The pioneer of this technology comes from Ford, with their newly unveiled Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept which promises to give families an extra boost to help them save fuel on the roads.
The second development is the application of solar panels to car parks, charging stations and potentially even residential homes. The surface area of a car just doesn’t provide a substantial enough space to truly utilise solar power, so by shopping centres installing car parks with solar panels they can provide shade to drivers cars whilst also helping them to charge up on renewable energy. By placing larger solar panels on house roofs or even on the drive way the plan is the create an energy storage throughout the day which will then go to charging up those hybrid and electric car batteries upon returning from work.
When to expect this
In the next few years. The technology for solar panels already exists and is being used for domestic purposes such as water heating and even residential power, but this is yet to make a genuine conversion to car power. The jury is out on solar panelled cars, and it remains to be seen whether it is purely a green gimmick or eye-sore and one that will actually take off. There’s no denying that solar technology is a cheap and immediate solution to further carbon emission reductions.
As you can see, the market for green technology is rapidly expanding. In the next decade expect to see a lot more hybrid models being released as well as more and more other types of fuel powered auto-motives. The more the infrastructure of countries develops to this new way of road life, so too will the cars.
This blog was written by Jennifer Smith on behalf of Evans Halshaw, the UK’s leading car and van retailer.