The Future Of Cars

What is the future of cars? Many and varied is the answer delivered by IDTechEx.

Will China flood the planet with basic cheapo electric cars?

Will private cars be banned from cities in favour of driverless, taxis and rentals?

Will sunny countries want solar-powered cars?

Will Japan go for hydrogen-powered cars which can be used as power sources when earthquakes hit?

And then there’s the thorny Q of cars powered by fuel cells or is it fool cells?

Will electricity for cars be generated by the tyres?

Is under-road charging the answer to electric cars’ range problems?

Are flying cars the answer? Do drones offer the base technology for personalised air transport?

Governments around the world, including ours, are avid to promote methods of personal transport which avoid the costs of road building, oil and accidents and diminish pollution.

When they promote driverless cars they seem to forget that technologists predict that driverless cars are 10-20 years in the future, while there is varied and substantial disagreement about the technical routes to realising them.



  1. First Comment Here – be gentle. I’m an electronic engineer and had made some mental arithmetic and back of an envelope type calculations based on what I could take as truth from what I’d read, the gridwatch templar site and my own engineer’s common sense on these things, such as electric cars. I also met a guy at my judo club who is currently doing research on the ‘smart grid’ idea as a PHD. When talking to him, it became painfully clear that his work and my quick analysis had led to exactly the same results, namely that we couldn’t even remotely cope with an influx of electric cars, as we don’t have anywhere near enough capacity. If *everyone* had solar on their roof, or we had a bountiful supply of wind turbines with no NIMBYism, significant chunks of it would be wasted and not match demand. The real problem for electric cars, renewables and the whole basis of a smart grid, is storage. We need a mythical new battery technology that can charge and discharge fast and slow over and over and not blow up under adverse conditions, with high energy density. We don’t have enough space for significant pumped hydro here either. IMO we’d do more for electric cars and clean air/renewables by investing in battery research, not in these things themselves really. The guy who cracks it will be rich as Croesus. In the meantime despite the well meaning intentions of wind and solar, we’ll have to accept gas and nuclear if we want the lights on (and the cars running I guess).

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      There is at least one British company working on responsive load, as they call it, to handle exactly the problems of supply vs. demand you mention above. Have you looked into this?

      • Hi SEPAM. I’m sort of aware of the concept, like economy 7 but on steroids and actually forcing changes in energy usage to match generation rather than incentivising. I suspect it’s a helpful neat trick for wringing out every last drop of possibility from what there is available. I’d envisage electric car chargers that you tell it when you need it charged by and it does not charge full pelt until it’s charged, rather a widespread management system coordinates who gets power when in order to meet all car’s needs, with reduced price if you allow a longer charge window for your own car. But if cars charge at night, it removes a huge chunk of traditional off peak usage time, where demand would traditionally have been lower.

        However, ultimately, if there’s *Xmillion* or even hundreds of thousands of electric cars, all needing to be charged, the vast majority within an 8hr bracket or so overnight, you still come up against the basic capacity problem, even if you can smooth out some peaks and troughs of demand to match supply. And even if load can be tamed and made relatively predictable, it is only one piece of the jigsaw if renewables are to become more widespread. Having said all that I’m in the traffic infrastructure industry but certainly not in the middle of this sort of thing, so I stand to be surprised..

        • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

          Well, part of the idea of responsive load is to accept that supply is unpredictable. There have been crazy situations where the prices of electricity went into the negative due to wind turbine oversupply.

          One idea (of many) is to charge the car to, say, 70 % and then wait. If the price drops a lot you charge the remaining 30 %. This can be at night but also during daytime or any time the car is parked. Normally 70% (or lower) will be enough but you get to scoop up the cheap crumbles, saving you the same 30% next day.

          The same trick can be played with fridges, freezers, hot water tanks and more.

        • The idea of smart metering goes back 30 years. A meter was developed whereby the rate could be set from the old Droitwich transmitter. Never kicked off here but the guys I knew took it to India where they now have a range of smart tariff meters, set by radio or telephone, as appropriate. Most important for a rural economy, a version can be installed that displays the rate in use.

          • A similar system is still use in continental Europe, where the EFR longwave transmitter broadcasts specific switching commands for load management and street lighting

          • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

            I have a smart meter installed here in my house, have had it for about 10 years. It is reports readings over the power grid to a central and also has the functionality to receive commands from the same central to temporarily turn off the hot water tank in case of overload on the net. It has been tried but is no longer implemented.

            I often see people discuss problems for which solutions have already been made but not yet implemented. Adoption of solutions take a surprisingly long time.

  2. Well there’s Otto, NSMO,

  3. The thing I don’t get about electric cars is just where is all the electricity going to come from?

    A look at an interesting website: shows the UK is currently using 46GW and it’s in the warning area of the dial.
    1000 charging stations of the new 350KW type represents nearly 1% more, and I am sure that is not enough for a country with as many cars as we have. Plus all the 1000s of cars plugged in at home drawing 3KW or more for a long time to charge up their 100KW/Hr batteries.

    Hopefully this doesn’t come from land based wind turbines plaguing the lovely countryside.
    Next excuse for being late to work? Sorry I could not get to work today as it wasn’t windy enough to charge my car?
    Fusion is and always has been 25 years away and can we afford more fission Nuclear?
    Solar on rooftops is OK during the summer, we can get 30KW/hr from my setup on a good summer day, so 4 days to charge a Tesla. And one day last week we got 0.5KW/hr!
    More questions than answers.

  4. Some interesting options there. What has always puzzled me is what is the future for lorries, particularly HGVs? Given recent bad publicity for diesel engines and lorry drivers preoccupied with mobile phones (not to mention those HGV drivers who throw themselves out into middle lanes on motorways) why hasn’t there been a push for technologies for driverless lorries, and/or even single driver control of HGV ‘trains’ on motorways?

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