We talk about the future a lot, but the future is already here, if we look at all the electric vehicles(EVs) around, a market arguably created by Tesla. In an SUV-crazy world, the Tesla Model X SUV was the automaker’s first car of this type, later complemented by the smaller Model Y. We don’t know which other technologies will take off and which won’t, so we’re excitedly watching developments in autonomous cars and fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), to see how things pan out. Let’s explore what the future has in store and how we should change our thinking on personal mobility tech.
New for 2021
There is a lot to be excited about in 2021 and some of the most hotly anticipated new models have already reached us in the USA or are due to be launched imminently. Amongst these are the following:
- Porsche 911 GT3
- Acura MDX
- Polestar 2
- McLaren Artura
- Lucid Air
- Maserati MC20
- Karma GS-6
- Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV
- Jeep Grand Cherokee L
Among these cars, we see the future today. The Porsche 911 GT3 represents the pinnacle of what a naturally aspirated internal-combustion engine (ICE) can achieve with over 500 horsepower out of a 4-liter, and the Maserati MC20 is at the forefront of forced-induction ICE engines with over 600 hp from just three liters. Five of these, the Polestar, Lucid, Karma, and two Bolts, are EVs. Next year’s EV list will be far longer.
Farther out, there’s even more excitement. The US market will get a host of very eagerly awaited new vehicles during the course of the next few months:
- Bollinger B1 SUV and B2 Pickup
- GMC Hummer EV SUV and Pickup
- Mazda MX-30 crossover
- Volkswagen Taos crossover
- Aston Martin Valhalla hypercar
- Jeep Grand Wagoneer SUV
- Tesla Cybertruk pickup
Of these, the Bollingers, the Hummers, the Aston Martin, and the Tesla have hybrid assistance or are EVs. The EV revolution has begun and the signs are all around us. There hasn’t been such a disruption of the motoring landscape in decades.
Cars of the future
Some future technologies were popularized in the recent past and are starting to gain critical mass now, like over-the-air updates and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology. However, people will still see these as future technologies until every normal, affordable car offers them. Others are still farther out, such as fully autonomous cars. Selecting a car won’t just be about its cargo space, performance, mpg figures, and features anymore. It will have to prove what personal mobility tech it packs during that test drive. Let’s review some of this technology.
Cars are connected to the internet today via wireless local area networks. But it goes far beyond that. Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) will become widely available soon, ensuring faster, real-time connectivity for even more advanced features, such as real-time satellite-navigation mapping. With integrated vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, cars plug into a common network with each other, roadside DSRC stations, traffic structures (such as traffic lights), and more, to warn each other of road hazards and avoid collisions, and offering integrated financial transactions related to transport, like toll collection, parking payment, and rental car fees.
The coming of age of EVs
The expansion of EV technology has meant that there have been growing pains, and bottlenecks occur. High-volume battery manufacturing has to be scaled up and public-charging infrastructure should be everywhere, reliable, and fast – a network that is growing in the USA as we speak. While there are already EVs with more than 400 miles of range, they are expensive – adding range pushes up the MSRP dramatically. Most people don’t need more than 50 miles per day, and short-range EVs are far cheaper and fine for most; it really depends on how much daily range you require. Before the EV future truly arrives, people will drive short-range EVs daily while waiting for long-range hybrids for road trips that require extended mileage.
There’s a massive push to get self-driving cars on the road. Ford has committed billions to it, GM and Microsoft are joining forces to develop it, and even Apple and Amazon are in on it. Tesla has committed to launching a pay-as-you-go self-driving subscription package by mid 2021, which will include:
- Navigation on Autopilot
- Auto Lane Change
- Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control
- Auto Lane Change
The matter of whether lidar is required (Tesla says no, the rest says yes) and when legislation will catch up with the unique requirements of vehicles driving themselves are still open to question. True autonomy is still some time away, with many important discussions still needed before it can become the norm.
The question of hydrogen
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) have an onboard plant making electricity from hydrogen and oxygen. It generates power from the fuel cell and not a battery, and emits nothing but water and heat as byproducts. Advantageously, it takes just as long to replenish your hydrogen tank as it does to fill up with gas – if you can find a pump. And therein lies the rub. As promising as this technology is in comparison to battery EVs and to eliminate range anxiety and reduce refilling times, a massive effort will be required to set up the infrastructure to make this viable. Nevertheless, Toyota, Hyundai, GM, and Honda, among others, still believe in its potential. Time will tell if they were right.
The future is exciting
There is certainly a lot to look forward to and we are privileged to be alive at a time to see all these new advancements reach the market. It will be interesting to see what the future holds and how the motoring landscape will change. It was already changed forever and for the better personal mobility tech by one plucky company that went the distance and succeeded in disrupting the entire industry – Tesla.