I’ve been finding that my 50 minute commute into work tends to be prime time for brainstorming wild ideas, and with a lot of that time spent with eyeing my fuel economy gauge more than my spedometer, my thoughts are quite often focused on very car-y topics. Today’s morning stream of consciousness was a look back at my earlier thoughts about why modern hybrids suck, but instead of trying to poke more holes in Tesla’s roadmap, I decided to concoct a better way. I present to you my humble plan for the car of the future.
Note, I said car. Not hybrid. I very much doubt that cars of the future will have a single source of energy because there is simply no other way to make the most of your energy than to combine mechanical energy recapture with an electrical drive system and a generic power source. “Car” will be synonymous with “hybrid” (I like Audi’s latest winning Le Mans race car, if you couldn’t guess).
The car of the future will not be measured in engine displacement or horsepower. At least not in the conventional sense. It will be measured in peak and sustained horsepower. It will have an electric motor (or series of smaller motors) capable of punching out bursts of extreme torque with a simple, if not non-existant mechanical transmission, as well as a lower sustainable output level for highway driving. A capacitor bank or high-amperage battery will store sufficient power to handle the acceleration needs of everyday driving, while a combustion engine or fuel cell produces a steady stream of power to keep everything else topped off. And if you wanted to consistently drive more aggressively, imagine hitting a big red ‘boost’ button to tell your car’s generator to stay at a higher output level while you poured power to the electric motors with zero lag.
You could get the performance of a high-end sports car.. or at least a V6 sedan, to the masses without destroying the environment. You would get modularity because of how decoupled the power systems are. Want more acceleration? Buy a larger capacitor bank. Want to use your boost more liberally? Get a better motor cooling system. Driving will feel like you’re in a video game, upgrade your car, wait for your boost to charge,
shoot lasers at slow drivers.
In the future, you won’t have to compromise between 0-60 time and MPG. Electricity enables you to do both. As things are now, you can’t make a V8 sip gas daintily (even with cylinder deactivation), you can’t make a V4 punch you down the left lane while gesturing rudely to a slow [insert race, age, gender here] driver (even with VTEC, turbocharging, etc). Unless you make use of “waste” energy, you’re going to have to cut corners and compromise on performance in a feeble attempt to claw back efficiency.
Useful engineering breakthroughs would be: super-capacitors, in-wheel electric motors, and an engine control system smart enough to keep up with the needs of an impulsive driver. City drivers may have to keep using ICE’s for their responsiveness, while highway drivers might be able to use gas turbines as a power source (efficient at constant RPMs).
(Zomg, imagine being able to kit up your car depending on your day’s driving profile!)
*I only really put this babbling out here on the off chance it becomes reality so I can say I told you so.