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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
2018 - 4 Automobile Technologies
Image: courtesy of Venturi (www.venturi.fr)

Venturi Eclectic (Solar-Electric Technology)

In 2018, just ten years from now, what will the automobile look like for everyone? New technologies are already offered in some vehicles like the Toyota Prius gasoline-electric hybrid, and the similar Lexus LS, GS and RX hybrids. Gasoline-electic hybrids, one of the new technologies, use electric motor propulsion for slow speeds and gasoline propulsion for fast acceleration and medium to fast highway speeds. These hybrids also have regenerative braking that allows them to generate electricity and store it in onboard batteries using the transfer of generated electricity from the motor's reverse polarization during deceleration. The gasoline hybrids help reduce emissions, but they are not zero emissions vehicles. Regenerative braking technology will definitely be on most new cars sold in 2018 as it captures kinetic energy (energy of motion) that would otherwise be lost, and stores it.

But what is the real future for the automobile? Zero emissions will probably be the design requirement for all cars in the near future. Three other technologies are in development or early release at this moment that do produce zero emissions, and one of them will eventually become the most popular standard; it is believed that the other two will co-exist as well. The first of these zero emissions technologies is the Fuel Cell Vehicle, currently in final stages of development and entering some global showrooms on a limited basis in 2008 in Japan and California (see Honda Motor Company FCX Concept, theirEarth Motoring category). Fuel cell vehicles run on hydrogen stored in onboard tanks, and the fuel cell generates direct current electricity that powers the electric propulsion motor(s) or charges the onboard battery power. Regenerative braking is also used with fuel cell vehicles, just as it is with gasoline-electric hybrids. Some recent articles in newspapers have cast doubt on fuel cell technology, but one needs only to look at the Honda FCX Concept to see that fuel cell vehicles work very well now, and will be at an exceptionally refined level by 2010. In the future, the large family size vehicles will probably be fuel cell vehicles or full electrics, with solar recharging being an option in regions where the sun is consistently strong.

The Solar-Electric is the second zero emissions technology. This is a light weight commuter with solar panel electricity generation on all flat surfaces , and Lithium Ion or Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries for energy storage. The solar-electrics can be plugged in and charged off household current or be left in the sunlight on the driveway to charge. Venturi Automobiles, based in Monaco, currently has a solar-electric car, called the Eclectic, that is fully designed and functional using solar chaging capability and electic propulsion (see photo). The Eclectic even comes with a mountabale wind generator to add charging while the vehicle is stationary. When charged only by solar power or the wind, it is an absolute zero emissions vehicle, because the energy was created with no emissions as well. The Solars will be used in places like California, Arizona, Australia, Japan, the Middle East and Mexico wherever the sun is continually strong.

The third zero emissions technology is the Full Electric. There are currently a number of companies in the full electric arena like Tesla Motors, GEM (Chrysler), ZENN, and the list is growing daily (see theirEarth Motoring). The full electric is plugged in either at home, where you work, or in a parking lot. It is very good as a city commuter and will probably have a huge following by short distance commuters. The only current constraint on the full electric is the range of the vehicle and the charge time in between. But for someone who justs drives into a small town and back to do shopping, a vehicle like the GEM or ZENN is ideal. Battery technology will improve over the next five years so this distance constraint will probably go away.

2018 will probably see a significant decrease in the number of gasoline powered cars in global automobile showrooms. Fuel costs will probably be significantly higher than they are today and gasoline cars will be small economy micro-cars or electric-gas hybrids with the focus on electric. The U.S. and German car industries need to get their act together, because it will be the Japanese car manufacturers who have the showrooms full with these new technology vehicles otherwise. If the speed and performance of the Tesla Roadster is a current benchmark, nobody will be satisfied with the poor performance of a gasoline powered car in 2018. Technology always moves forward and this time in the interests of the environment.

 

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