But for more perspective, and just to make sure that I’ve not been misunderstood, I am not down on car ownership at all. I’m down on having to buy a car just to get to regions of my city that are under-served by transit. And it looks like I’m going to have to buy a car. But, that’s another post.
Yet, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find recent re-imaginings of “the car of the future” to be intriguing. Like many aspects of our culture in the face of changing economies, visions for the future are particularly important. And some of them are downright cool, I have to say. So, I’ve decided to scour the Internet for how designers in various countries have envisioned what the car of the 21st century might look like, and present the list here.
I found lots of cool eco-friendly automobiles, alright. The question is: should I buy one? Let’s see …
1. Solas Zero-Emission Electric Solar Car
Made by Industrial design students at the Seoul National University of Technology, Korea.
Features solar cells and collectors inside of the car, where the sun’s rays can penetrate thanks to a transparent material used to fashion the vehicle’s body.
Sustainable because it runs entirely on electricity generated by solar collectors. No fossil fuel is required to run it. No gaseous emissions are created.
Should I buy one? Durability in a collision would be my main concern. Although the design was conceived with this in mind, I’d be interested to see some crash-testing first.
2. EVA (‘Electric Vehicle Africa’) Eco-car
Made by Cobus Marx, South Africa
Features hybrid fuel technology, an aerodynamic design, fuel efficiency (400Kms at top speed of 160 kms) and lightweight body
Sustainable because it is fuel efficient and uses aerodynamics as a design strategy for optimal speeds
Should I buy one? Well, I like the sleek, sexy design of course. But, storage might be a problem. So would getting my five year old into a car seat. So, in it’s present form, probably not.
3. Antro Solo Solar-Hybrid
Features lightweight carbon fiber body, 150 Mpg, human-powered inboard battery charger for ‘rainy days’, as the battery runs down. You pedal, the battery charges.
Sustainable because it utilizes solar power along with human power, and a small combustion engine that runs on ethanol.
Should I buy one? This is a short-range car, and I’m not sure about how roomy this thing would be. Also, it reminds me of the photon torpedo casing they shot Spock off in in Wrath of Khan.
4. Flexus Electric Car
Made by Raphael Morais, Portugal
Features a compact frame for intercity travel, and “tire-less” design, using “tweels” instead. Also – easy to park!
Sustainable because it runs on electricity, and anticipates more crowded highways and city centers of the future.
Should I buy one? Looks good, actually. I’d be interested to see how far I’d get on a single charge, though. Also, I’m not so sure about the assumption that highways with individual cars cramming up cities should be something to give in to, which is an underlying consideration in the design of this car. I’d rather see no-car zones, pedstrian-friendly city cores, and extensive public transit instead.
5. The Electric Mini
Made by BMW, Germany
Features a fast charging (2hrs, 30 min) battery, with high-performance engine that can get you from 0 to 60 in 8 seconds, and provides a generator that adds 20% efficiency as you drive. And it looks just like the classic Mini Cooper!
Sustainable because it is designed to be efficient in terms of consumption, running purely on electricity – no need for fossil fuel – and partially generates its own power.
Should I buy one? Wow, this one’s close! I’ve always loved the Mini. Right now, this design is being prototyped, and will be lent out to select users, and then tested afterwards for signs of stress. I’m not on the list. But, who knows? If the testing of this vehicle turns out, this could be a very feasible way of getting around the modern, 21st century city and suburb!
6. Four-Door Electric Sedan
Made by Renault-Nissan (for the Israelii market), Japan and France
Features a narrow design to allow for lighter, more efficient performance, while also being practical for carrying multiple passengers; four seats in each vehicle.
Sustainable because these cars are to be used in an international zero emissions pilot project in Tel Aviv, including 200 charge stations and other infrastructure in the city provided by California company Better Place. The results of this project could help to model similar projects in other cities. The cars will be on the road in Tel Aviv in 2011.
Should I buy one? In a city that allows for the use of electric cars, with ample charge stations – why not? But, I’d like to get one in navy blue, please.
7. Liv Inzio Electric Super Car
Features the highest performance in an electric vehicle, with top speeds up to 150 MPH on a 200 mile range. And you can order one online!
Sustainable because it runs on a high performance lithium ion rechargeable battery.
Should I buy one? Well, I wouldn’t exactly be thinking of car seats and kids if I did. And I get the feeling it may be a little out of my range. Still, for those out there with a look to sustainability while also feeling the need for speed, this one may fit the bill nicely.
So, there’s my list of 7 visions for the car of the future, some at the theoretical stages, and others currently available as prototypes. If you’re interested in finding out more about these individual automobiles, simply click the images which will take you to the sites which outline the cars in more detail.
I’ve presented these cars of the future in kind of a pithy manner here, I know. And I acknowledge that the business of hybrid cars, and electric cars raise as many questions as they do answers at this point in history. A lot of what makes these cars, and others like them, sustainable is not a case of black and white truth or falsehood. It must be acknowledged, for instance, that if an electric car can simply be plugged in, then we must assess where that power is coming from. We have to acknowledge that the way we power our cities, provinces, states, countries, must also be addressed. It’s all connected to the greater issue of consumption as a whole.
Also, there are a number of cultural considerations. For instance, many people here in North America like to transport their stuff in their cars along with passengers; skis, bikes, and kayaks. With a more streamlined and frankly smaller body we’ve seen in European cars (where much of the R&D on hybrids and electrics are being done), a more streamlined car not equipped to manage this kind of functionality is not really translatable to the North American market. This is true unless the expectations of the consumer changes, and the economy changes to meet new demand. This is of course not done overnight.
And there’s another thing. We North Americans tend to like cars the size of troop transports; SUVs, Hummers, and enormo-trucks in suburban streets are common. So, how do I make sure of my safety when driving my electric Mini when I can’t see around the Hummer that is across from me while I’m making my left turn at an intersection? It seems to me that technology and culture have to be on the same page for real change to become manifest in the mainstream in any practical way. We all have to buy into the new paradigm for it to really happen.
As you can see, there are lots of important questions to consider around this idea of the car of the future. The technology is certainly in place to make a green future on the road possible. The only thing that remains to be sorted out is our own cultural attitudes.