In 10 years almost all vehicles manufactured will be electric, says Dan Sturges, independent mobility-system architect and vehicle designer – but what shape will they be and where will we able to use them?
It’s going to be an exciting 10 years, where we start to move away from the one-size-fits-all automobile and towards two different categories of transportation.
SUVs have been growing in popularity, and this is approaching breaking point. Some cities in Europe are starting to ban cars in the centre and we will start to see ‘capillary systems,’ with large car parks on the periphery of cities and internal transportation to bring people in.
Right now we’re in the early days of this and cities are trying to reduce cars but not really coming up with alternatives. Restricting the movement of people and goods is not going to be acceptable, so we need better vehicles, better solutions.
We will see the start of some early autonomous shuttle vehicles between the suburbs and subways of big cities. Paris, for instance, has a big congestion problem but a lot of it is suburban traffic, where people can’t easily get to metro lines.
Electric scooters out now are pretty rudimentary, but I expect to see some tiny shared vehicles that are electric, safer and maybe even more comfortable – like if Porsche built an enclosed motorised wheelchair, a teeny personal pod vehicle that you can steer and then it drives itself back to a location after your journey. I call them ‘motorised seatmobiles,’ little self-balancing micro-mobility vehicles.
A lot of historic city centres don’t have much charging, so we’re going to see some creative solutions to how users can charge their new electric cars. Further in the future, autonomous vehicles will charge in a very different way – we won’t want them charging in ‘premium’ spots. Instead vehicles will go to low-rent, industrial areas, or behind big buildings.
Tesla already offers autopilot, and it won’t be long until a lot of large automakers offer similar services or technology. While all the talk has been about autonomy being for shared applications, there are some indications that it might be for private cars for a while, but there’s going to be great concern of enhanced congestion because of that.
Ten years from now, pretty much almost every vehicle manufactured is going to be electric drive. Will it be battery or hydrogen fuel cell? They have different benefits, and there are very, very smart transportation experts that see hydrogen as a likely fuel source. Either way the internal-combustion engine is going to be history.
It’s a very complicated time. Looking at the implications of shared and autonomous mobility changes the whole landscape. It brings in urban planners, designers and architects, it becomes a much more complicated process of imagining what the future solution is. If you are an automotive engineer, you can’t just focus on how the car is made and what it does any more.
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