Driving from point A to point B is something that most of us take for granted. Cars are so embedded in our lives that it is almost a necessity for most families to have one or even two cars. However with the price of fuel getting ever more expensive, I believe that people are going to have to reduce their driving and start migrating towards either a different transport mechanism, or find different cars that do not rely on traditional fuel sources.
I suspect that people are too used to being able to transport themselves where ever that want to go to give that up. So I foresee a future of alternative vehicles starting to make up a larger percentage of the total vehicles on the road (within the next decade or so). At the moment there are a number of alternatives that are starting to make their way into the market place, but each one seems to have some form of limitation which is hindering large scale adoption of these different vehicles.
Future Car Technologies
There are plenty of different competing technologies in the future car space. These are just a few of them.
LNG fueled cars are actually reasonably common. These cars really took off back in 2008 when the price of fuel went ballistic and the price of gas was considerably cheaper. There is currently plenty of natural gas all over the world with new supply coming on almost everyday, but it is still a limited resource and so it may not prove to be a good alternative in the long run.
Electric cars aren’t a new idea, however the technology is making a resurgence as battery technology improves. The big sticking points are distance the car can travel on a single charge and the recharge time per battery. An option regarding recharge time is to have a swap and go battery system at service stations.
Electric cars would add significant load to existing power and transmission infrastructure.
Bio Fuel Cars
Bio fuels (Ethanol) is already used as a mixed blend option with traditional oil fuel. Harvesting enough bio fuels to transition entirely away from oil seems unlikely as things have to grow in order to produce this type of fuel, and existing engines cannot support any more than about a 10 to 15% blend.
Hydrogen cars were touted as the next big thing for quite a while, however the technology has thus far failed to live up to the hype.
Volkswagen’s Rudolf Krebs said in 2013 that “no matter how excellent you make the cars themselves, the laws of physics hinder their overall efficiency. The most efficient way to convert energy to mobility is electricity.” He elaborated: “Hydrogen mobility only makes sense if you use green energy”, but … you need to convert it first into hydrogen “with low efficiencies” where “you lose about 40 percent of the initial energy”. You then must compress the hydrogen and store it under high pressure in tanks, which uses more energy. “And then you have to convert the hydrogen back to electricity in a fuel cell with another efficiency loss”. Krebs continued: “in the end, from your original 100 percent of electric energy, you end up with 30 to 40 percent.
Compressed Air Cars
Compressed air cars are cars that use a motor powered by compressed air. The air is stored in a compressed tank and is refilled using a compressor.
Compressed Air Cars are not very energy efficient with all the conversion of energy from your power source to compressed air. They also have a number of limiting factors, particularly regarding distance a car can travel on air alone. The major benefit to air cars is that their only emission when driving is air, making it cleaner than most other fuels.
Solar Power Cars
Solar powered cars depend on cells that convert sunlight into electricity to drive electric motors. These cars are not widely available and are only really concept cars at this stage. There are many issues with solar cars, and most people only ever see them as a complementary technology to another alternative solution, rather than a standalone solution.
Perhaps none of the above technologies are going to come to much, and we might end up going back to steam cars? Let’s hope not.
There are plenty of reasons why each of these different technologies may not become mainstream and here are just a few of the big ones which I believe will continue to impede wide scale adoption.
Many of these alternative cars are REALLY expensive at the moment! This means that you will require a lot more money up front just to buy the car in the first place (when compared to a traditional hydrocarbon combustion engine car). This will mean you are more likely to require car finance in order to afford one of these cars. You may also need to go to specialist car financing companies like Get Approved who are more likely to understand the alternative car market and therefore more likely to approve your loan.
A major problem with adopting one of these alternate types of vehicles at this point in time is that there is a very real chance that a different alternate vehicle becomes the mainstream choice. The impact of this is that you may be left with something that becomes an abandoned legacy car – much like HD DVD’s are now after Blu-ray won the next generation media war.
Lack of Infrastructure
Infrastructure is another big concern should you want to buy an alternative car. Quite simply – there is a lack of infrastructure available to support these emerging car technologies. The entire system is setup to handle hydrocarbon vehicles and not much else.
Do you have an alternative car? Would you consider buying one? Is it too soon, too expensive, or are you just not interested?