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).
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.wordpress.com
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.