Auto Technology- The Car of Tomorrow

Auto Technology

Despite the loss of image and environmental aspects: the car is the ultimate means of transportation for people - and will remain so for a long time. Even if in a different form.

And if it depends on the car manufacturer, the driver will soon no longer drive the car, but the car itself. Whether in the US, Japan, Sweden, or Germany - engineers around the world work for self-driving cars.

How far we are from driving such robotic cars is still unclear. The technology is ready, they say.

However, the issue of liability has not yet been resolved. Is the driver or the manufacturer responsible if something happens? And who pays when two self-propelled cars collide?

Vehicles that are almost fully parked are already on the market. The driver is engaged in reverse and must accelerate carefully.

The parking assistant rotates around the steering wheel. An audible signal indicates the distance to objects in front of and behind the car. There are now some manufacturers that offer fully automatic parking assistants.

What comes after gasoline?

Engineers are also working on new propulsion technologies. Both economically and for environmental reasons, fossil fuels have no future. That is why tomorrow's car should no longer depend on gasoline. But which system will prevail?

A question that can not yet be definitively answered. One thing is certain, however: private transport will continue to play an important role in the future, and not just in areas with underdeveloped public transport.

Hybrid: a mixture of gasoline and electric motor

A transition from the old to the new car is the hybrid drive, which combines an internal combustion engine with an electric drive.

Here, the energy generated during braking and stopping, for example when you do not depress the clutch and let the engine brake while driving downhill, is used to charge an electric battery.

The petrol engine shuts off completely when driving slowly or at a standstill; when accelerating, both systems work together to achieve the same performance as a smaller combustion engine. This way, fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 40%.

However, to charge the battery, you often have to brake and start. A hybrid is, therefore, more suitable for city traffic than for long trips. Hybrid cars are becoming more popular with drivers, despite the higher cost of purchase and repair.

Electric cars: electricity at the gas station

If you believe car manufacturers and transport politicians, the future belongs to clean electric motors. In fact, electric cars are becoming more and more popular. At the beginning of 2012, there were only 4,500 electric cars on the roads of Germany, at the beginning of 2019, there were already almost 83,000 electric cars.

Electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engines. About 90 percent of the energy used can be used.

Noise pollution is much lower due to quiet engines and no emissions such as fine dust or carbon dioxide are emitted from the unit. However, the carbon footprint of an electric car is not automatically better than that of a gasoline engine.

If most of the electricity used for propulsion is generated in coal-fired power plants, the rest is about the same. To make a significant difference, an electric car must run on electricity from renewable sources.

Operating costs are low compared to petrol and diesel, but can vary significantly depending on the electricity provider, charging time, and charging capacity. To drive 100 kilometers you have to "charge" with electricity between five and 25-kilowatt hours.

One advantage of electric cars, however, is that you can do without many of the unpleasant habits of today's car traffic. Oil changes and special exhaust tests are a thing of the past and there is no need to change gears.

And in the matter of refueling, researchers are working on a contactless charging system that works in a similar way to an electric toothbrush: Charging is done using induction fields installed on the floor, for example at traffic lights. The driver does not even have to leave.

Holding point: battery

But before that happens, engineers have to solve a big problem with which the success of the electric car stands and falls: the battery is inferior to a full tank of gasoline in many ways.

For a long time, the range was a maximum of 200 km on a single charge. However, some newer models already offer a range of over 400 km on a single charge.

And unlike the gasoline engine, the "refueling" does not last minutes, but several hours. Charging takes about 15 minutes at the few fast-charging stations.

Besides, the life of a battery is only about ten years. Despite many further developments, the devices are still relatively large and heavy, and disposal is also problematic.

After testing many different systems, most developers had hoped for lighter and more durable lithium-ion batteries, such as those used in mobile phones and laptops.

It will still be a few years before internal combustion engines are replaced on a large scale worldwide with them. Initially, the federal government had planned that one million electric cars should be on German roads by 2022.  But there is still much to do before that.

Other alternatives: hydrogen, biogas, natural gas

Experiments with fuel cell vehicles have been going on since the late 1980s. However, it was not until 2008 that Honda created the first car ready for series production.

Hydrogen has been established as an energy supplier, which is transported to the vehicle in pressurized tanks and converted into electricity along with oxygen in the air.

Range, driving behavior, and top speed are comparable to petrol vehicles, emissions consist of only non-problematic water vapor.

However, fuel storage is still problematic: the tanks are large and significantly reduce the usable space of the vehicle. Also, it will have to build several hundred, possibly over 1000, hydrogen filling stations for a national grid.

Carbon dioxide neutral biogas, which is produced when biomass is fermented, can also be used as fuel in fuel cells. However, developments in this area lag far behind the operation of hydrogen.

With gas, the balance of pollutants looks better than with gasoline-powered cars - though not as good as with electric units or fuel cell engines. However, natural gas has the same disadvantage as oil: As a fossil fuel, it is only available in limited quantities. Researchers estimate that gas supplies will be depleted this century.

Traffic experts, therefore, do not see a great future in cars that run on natural gas or so-called LPG.

The car is shared

Apart from the type of drive, something decisive will change in the car of the future - ownership. Sociologists have noticed a trend since the beginning of this millennium: the car is becoming less and less important to young people living in big cities. Gone are the days when the car was pagan as a symbol of status and was not disputed.

Due to the lack of parking spaces, the high cost of acquisition and operation, and the environmental aspects, more and more people can imagine life without their vehicle. Cars will be announced more and more often in the future. Or between acquaintances and friends, who transfer the principle of joint accommodation in the car. Or in the form of professionally organized models of car rental and sharing.

photo credit: Google Images

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