Tom and Ray on PBS' NOVA

What are your thoughts on the Car of the Future? Should it be ethanol, biodiesel, electric— all of the above, none of the above… or nothing at all?

Share your ideas here-- and thanks!

The car of the future should be no car at all.

Bikes, feet, maglev trains, - stuff like that.

Though, I must admit that once I get some money together (or have time to search for a grant) I am going to do an electric conversion of an old subcompact of some kind and build a solar charging station for it.

I would get an EV1 from GM and just build the charging station - but, oh - well, they seem to have destroyed them all.

Private passenger cars will become very small and lightweight and will be powered by several different energy sources, depending on how the vehicle will be used and what you can afford… Since private vehicles are more status symbol than they are transportation, wealth will of course continue to display itself with big, heavy gas hogs, like the Hummer fans do today…The coming energy crisis (for real this time) will change the way we live from the top down…

The fuel should be whichever requires the lowest amount of energy per unit, at the lowest cost (in money and environmental affects) per energy unit, to produce and get to the user. The efficiency of the user mobile, is another part of the equation.

We (the general public) don’t have that knowledge. So, when we do have that knowledge, we can decide on which energy sources, and what mix.

I believe you need to define FUTURE. If you are talking 25 years, I believe we will still be depending on gasoline to power cars. However, I believe alternate fuels such as bio-diesel, methanol, and batteries will become more prominent.

If you are talking 50 years, I believe the car as a personal mover in some form will still be around, but I don’t believe it will be powered by anything like we have today. I believe that car will rely on some sort of electric motor. By thie time, I also believe that we will have likely diminished our commuting needs. We will have less need to commute to work centers because for many of us, our work will enable us to telework either from home or from remote telework centers. I expect that cold fusion will be developed by then, to the point of being able to provide direct power or to use in extracting hydrogen from sea water, for use in powering some sort or battery for these personal cars and other power needs.

Beyone 50 years, we will be using power generating technology that is not even in our vocublary yet.

Transportation of the future should consist of an electric grocery getter for the weekend and mass transit for commuting and other normal travel. I have also seen enclosed mopeds/scooters that are used overseas. I would love to own one of those to get to the train/subway station on rainy days.

We are now seeing that ethanol production is negatively affecting the food industry. Ethanol isn’t the answer until we learn to make it without cutting into food farm production. Biodiesel has the same problems.

Bikes, feet, maglev trains, - stuff like that.

IMPOSSIBLE…Unless the US becomes just ONE BIG CITY with no suburban areas. It’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to take any mass transit on a regular basis. Real tough to walk or bike 45 miles to work…ESPECIALLY IN SNOW.

As for the future…It’s very tough to say. I don’t envision the personal transport vehicle ever going away. I think electric vehicles that have a range of 200 miles and can recharge in minutes is within my lifetime. Hydrogen vehicles are also within my lifetime. But for the near future we’ll still have the internal combustion engine. The source for the fuel is the question. Diesel from Coal is very very doable right now.

Of necessity we will have a mix of vehicles. As posted by others, city and short distance commuter cars can be electric or plug-in hybrids. Highway vehicles will be hybrid gas or diesel, or later on fuel cells powered by hydrogen, or natural gas in the interim.

Electricity will come from a mix of sources; hydro, clean coal, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal and combined cycle gas power.

The fuel on board in the interim will likely be a selection of gasoline, diesel, ethanol from algea or cellulose, compressed natural gas (synthesized from coal or LNG from overseas), and hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

In other words, the car of the future will not look all that different, but the “gas” stations will have plug-ins, ethanol, gasahol, diesel, hydrogen, and compressed natural gas.

Tom & Ray, we will need a variety of energy sources and the vehicles will also have a variety of propulsion sytems and fuels. I believe all in ternal combustion engine-powered vehicles will be hybrids in the future.

Energy independence will still be an issue, since the US consumes far more energy than it produces. Turning the vast US coal reserves into clean energy will go a long way.

I was very dismayed by the talk of biodiesel/ethanol as a means of powering our vehicles ever since the news about all the land being converted to it’s production. Taking agricultural land out of food production is very unwise. We have just this week seen the price of food skyrocket because of it. It is one thing to use a benign source such as switchgrass on marginal land, but to use land that was once used to grow rice, wheat, and corn for fuel is folly. Food riots are already here!

IMPOSSIBLE…Unless the US becomes just ONE BIG CITY with no suburban areas. It’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to take any mass transit on a regular basis. Real tough to walk or bike 45 miles to work…ESPECIALLY IN SNOW.

What a skeptic!

When the US economy shifted from an agricultural-based economy to a manufacturing-based economy, there was a mass exodus from the farms to the cities. Then when the economy shifted from a manufacturing-based economy to a consumer-based economy, urban sprawl happened. So why is it impossible for the population to shift back to the cities?

When gas is $10 a gallon, you might be forced to move to a city to find a job. The jobs will go where they can be filled and the people will follow, just like during the Industrial Age.

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

I think the car of the future will look and function much like todays cars, only a lot more efficiently. The size of a car doesn’t seem to have changed all that much since the early days. Compare a model A to a 55 Chevy to a new Malibu. The Malibu is faster and gets much better gas mileage than the 55 Belair, and the Belair was faster and got better mileage that the Model A (but not much better).

I think in the near future, you will see a computer controlled valve event engine, that is the valves will be opened by a solenoid or a hydraulic system controlled by the computer, not a cam. That would give cars the kind of boost that fuel injection gave over carburetors.

Later, I think that fuel cells will be the next solution. But for that, we will need nuclear power plants that can be used to make hydrogen during off peak hours. Wind farms may also be able to provide some of the hydrogen also during off peak hours. Ultimately I would hope that we develop fusion power generators to replace the fission powered generators of today, but thats another topic.

I don’t expect cars of the future to go much faster than todays cars, I think we have hit the human speed limit on the ground. Our eyes have a flicker rate of about 30 times/sec which limits our reaction speed. Maybe some automated drive system might allow higher speeds, but if we are in control, speeds will be about the same.

I’m in favor of the giant wind up rubberband. Seriously, whatever became of engine that stored kinetic energy through a spinning flywheel?? I thought that was so cool when I read about it in Popular Science magazine back in the seventies.

Two answers as one answer will not cover it.

First:  There should be far less dependence on cars in the future.  That likely will mean fewer cars and less use of the cars that are there.  Living closer to the job, shopping and work as well as public transportation should be a part of the changes.

Second, There is no answer yet to the second question.  We are still in an experimental stage sort of like early in the car history when we had gasoline internal combustion, steam and electric.  In time changes in technology and public acceptance settled on internal combustion.  

I consider Bio, electric hybrid are all in the experimental stage.  There is possible promise in all of them, but none of them are fully developed and the winner may be something we have not yet thought of yet.

In the event of an accident, or just wear and tear, imagine a 100 pound flywheel spinning at 60,000 rpm getting out of its cage. Even worse, this happens in a high density urban environment with all cars having one of these, the first one hits a couple others and uncaging them, and they in turn knock a couple more loose and so on.

There is another issue with flywheel power. Get a cheap gyroscope from the toy store if they still sell them, and play with that sucker. High rpm flywheels resist mightily being turned, period. That is why they traditionally used gyroscopes for airplane navigation.

The flywheel would need to be mounted so it can turn in all three dimensions, while still connected to the drive train. It can be done, of course, but the efficiency goes down fast as the drive train increases in complexity.

Most of these proposed solutions imply an extremely totalitarian government,with the same wonderful folks who gave us CAFE and 9/11 telling us how and where to live. No, thanks.

Note also that public transit was known 100 years ago as unacceptable to higher social classes; higher than working class, with a few individual exceptions of no statistical significance.

Trains are much more energy efficient than trucks for cargo. We can make dramatic reductions in energy consumption by merely rebuilding our rail system, and not try to force everyone to move to cities like rats.

In general, to maintain our prized freedoms, it makes a lot more sense to let people figure out how to live within the economic parameters they face. Too many people want to sit around and make decisions telling millions of people how to live. Those millions can make much better decisions without their ‘masters’ decreeing everything.

Also, so much of our decision making seems to involve hoaxes and junk science as perpetrated and perpetuated by main stream media. Examples: the R-12 hoax. The Global Warming hoax. The CO2 hoax. Repeat the lie over and over and if anyone knows it is a hoax, call them every name in the book and try to get them fired from their job, better yet sent to an insane asylum ala Stalin.

Does everyone here know that natural gas really is natural, that is is part of a planet based on a carbon based solar system, and is produced within the bowels of the earth in nearly unlimited quantities?

SIVA should be the name of that future car, please.

The flywheel uses an electric motor/generator to get energy into and out of it. The flywheel and motor/generator would be mounted in a three axis gimbal, but I’d still be concerned with something that heavy spinning that fast.

I remember the discussion on flywheels as energy storage devices some 30 odd years ago. Two points:

  1. Flywheels would always be installed in counterrotating pairs, so that there is no net gyroscopic effect.

  2. Flywheels would be made of fiber composities, so in a crash (or material failure) they would shred themselves into fluff rather than chunks of steel shrapnel.

I think we’re going to see a gradual evolution from straight gasoline-powered to hybrids to plug-in hybrids–then possibly to electric and MAYBE fuel cell. Why? because this allows for slow change in our habits with the least new infrastructure. People don’t like change and just about refuse to build new infrastructures unless absolutely forced to.
Ethanol and biodiesel? If someone can show me it can be mass-produced in an economically viable and energy-efficient way that doesn’t leave us starving for the lack of cropland. Even if we managed to produce biodiesel in a practical manner, we’d need the stuff to transport our goods–diesel right now is very expensive–I’m guessing for the reason that we need it to get our stuff from here to there.
Petroleum is going to be around for the foreseeable future. “Alternative” sources such as tar sands, oil shale, and coal liquefaction are going to take a bigger market share in the future as the price of the liquid stuff goes up. Bad for us, by the way, as that’s just going to put more CO2 in the air, but that’s what is going to happen.
As for where we’re going to get the electricity to power those plug-in hybrids and electrics: Nuclear and solar, to my mind, are the best bets for supplementing fossil fuels, because they are available off the shelf now.