Four fu­ture driv­ing pre­dic­tions

Tech­nol­ogy and trans­port ex­perts de­bate what ’20 holds


THE 2020s will be an ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing decade for the car, mo­bil­ity and how we per­ceive the world around us.

The progress of the sus­tain­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will cause a revo­lu­tion in both the en­ergy sys­tem and the use of cars.

By 2020, al­most all cars sold will be elec­tric and car­bon fi­bre will be­gin its large scale in­tro­duc­tion

Elec­tric cars use their en­ergy more ef­fi­ciently than fuel cars and are there­fore cheaper to drive.

Con­sid­er­ing that the world will switch to mainly so­lar PV, elec­tric cars re­quire only a small area of so­lar pan­els com­pared to the size needed by in­ef­fi­cient en­ergy car­ri­ers like hy­dro­gen, petrol and ar­ti­fi­cially pro­duced fu­els. They there­fore have the high­est so-called “sun-to-wheel” ef­fi­ciency.

The elec­tric cars’ main prob­lem to­day (range) will be solved be­fore 2020.

Ex­po­nen­tially de­creas­ing bat­tery price trends in­di­cate that by 2020 elec­tric cars will have a 400 km range for the same af­ford­able price as its com­bus­tion coun­ter­parts.

Watch for th­ese devel­op­ments in the next five years

1. Mas­sive shift to elec­tric cars around 2020

Since the pow­er­train of the elec­tric car is su­pe­rior to that of an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine on al­most all fronts (such as ef­fi­ciency, per­for­mance, com­fort, noise and sus­tain­abil­ity), fix­ing the last hur­dles (price and range) will cause a mas­sive shift to elec­tric cars.

2. Elec­tric cars will be very cheap

Elec­tric cars will con­tinue to get cheaper af­ter 2020 be­cause of its sim­ple me­chan­ics (less com­po­nents = less com­plex­ity).

Bat­ter­ies will be­come smaller in size but also in ca­pac­ity, as devel­op­ments in elec­tric cars will con­tinue to fo­cus on lower en­ergy consumption.

3. En­ergy consumption of cars will de­crease with the in­tro­duc­tion of car­bon fi­bre

The en­ergy consumption will de­crease mainly be­cause of the in­tro­duc­tion of car­bon fi­bre. Prices of CFRP (car­bon fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tics) have been de­clin­ing even faster than bat­ter­ies and can re­sult in a car’s weight re­duc­tion of 30 to 50%. It will also lead to a down­wards pos­i­tive spi­ral since the com­po­nents of a light car re­quire smaller load re­quire­ments: if the car gets lighter, then the mo­tor and brakes can be smaller and there­fore lighter, which makes the car lighter, etc.

In other words, at a cer­tain point it be­comes cheaper to in­vest in car­bon fi­bre for cars in­stead of more bat­tery ca­pac­ity. Both help to in­crease the range and af­ter 2020 it will be cheaper to use car­bon fi­bre to do so.

4. Driv­ing speeds can in­crease be­cause of in­creased ve­hi­cle safety and cheaper en­ergy (elec­tric­ity).

Ve­hi­cle to ve­hi­cle com­mu­ni­ca­tion can dras­ti­cally im­prove the safety and sta­bil­ity of strings of cars which can en­able cars to drive faster and closer to each other.

Driv­ing faster will re­quire cars to be more aero­dy­namic to keep en­ergy consumption low and there­fore range high, since aero­dy­namic drag is pro­por­tional to the square of driv­ing speed.


1. A busi­ness case for charg­ing points is dif­fi­cult

The busi­ness case for car charg­ers will get worse when more prac­ti­cal­ity is de­sired. More prac­ti­cal­ity means that you can leave your car at the charg­ing point the whole (work­ing) day.

This means ev­ery car will need a sep­a­rate charg­ing point in­stead of the mul­ti­ple cars per charger as we are cur­rently used to. Cur­rent busi­ness cases are fo­cused on rel­a­tively low num­bers of EVs on the road. Even­tu­ally we would like to get rid of the gaso­line car and have a 100% EV fleet in the world. The cur­rent busi­ness cases gen­er­ally do not hold for high num­bers of elec­tric cars and the quest is there­fore to find a sus­tain­able busi­ness case for high vol­umes of EVs.

2. The grid can­not cope with a high num­ber of charg­ing elec­tric cars

The coun­try as a whole can cope with the elec­tric­ity de­mand of all the elec­tric cars charg­ing.

But one charg­ing elec­tric car can use as much power as 240 house­holds (Tesla Su­per­charg­ing) and the grid at street level was not de­signed for this.

Even slowly charg­ing mul­ti­ple cars in one street is prob­lem­atic.

The big­gest prob­lems are at the out­skirts of the elec­tric­ity grid since the vari­abil­ity of the elec­tric­ity de­mand is large at street and house level (un­ex­pected charg­ing of mul­ti­ple cars at once).

Big­ger pic­ture:

The en­ergy chain will start with elec­tric­ity in­stead of fu­els. Light trans­port will ben­e­fit hugely from en­ergy tran­si­tion

Whereas elec­tric­ity is mostly a de­riv­a­tive of fuel at the mo­ment (coal, gas or oil con­verted to elec­tric­ity) it is likely that fuel will be a de­riv­a­tive of elec­tric­ity in the fu­ture.

Be­cause of low elec­tric­ity prices, fuel can be gen­er­ated at lower prices than it can be ex­tracted from the ground.

How­ever, be­cause of the ef­fi­ciency that is lost in the con­ver­sion process, liq­uid fu­els will be more ex­pen­sive per kWh of en­ergy than elec­tric­ity. That’s the op­po­site of what it is to­day.

An im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tion of this is that ve­hi­cles that can di­rectly utilise elec­tric­ity with­out the need for (liq­uid) fu­els will have huge cost ad­van­tages.

In other words, ve­hi­cles that can be equipped with bat­tery will ben­e­fit the most from the en­ergy tran­si­tion.

At the mo­ment, heavy ve­hi­cles like trucks, ships and planes can­not yet be equipped with large enough bat­ter­ies to meet their de­mands.

Sup­pose this sit­u­a­tion will con­tinue in the near fu­ture, th­ese heavy forms of trans­port will have a rel­a­tive dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to light­weight trans­port.

This means that driv­ing a car might be a lot cheaper in the fu­ture than a trip by air­plane. • Ex­tracts from a guest­blog by Roy Cobbenhagen and Lex Hoefsloot of the Eind­hoven Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy. • stein­buch.word­


A com­mit­ted team of 21 stu­dents from Eind­hoven Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in the Nether­lands have proven a four seater fam­ily car can run for over 1000 km on bat­ter­ies pow­ered by sunpower alone in this, the Stella Lux.

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