Top 5 technologies that could power the car of tomorrow

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 11:20
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The new VW Golf is due in 2019

No one has invented the Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor yet…

A new report by Autocar gives an insight into how the cars of the next decade will be some of the most economically mainstream ever built, thanks to an explosion of innovation and cutting-edge technologies.

Autocar have used the new VW Golf model, due for release in 2019, to speculate on the five new technologies that it hopes will propel the average family car to achieve CO2 output figures of well under 90g/km and fuel efficiency levels of more than 300mpg – this is in comparison to the average family car achieving just 132g/km of CO2 in 2012.

These top five fuel-saving technologies include:

  • Flywheels
    Deceptively titled, the British-designed flywheel system is used to drive the rear wheels of a front-wheel-drive car. The technology is currently in testing and it’s thought flywheels could become far more familiar on mainstream cars in the next decade because they can store waste energy and then release it, much like an electric motor and battery. Flywheel systems also benefit from being about a quarter of the cost of a hybrid set-up, far less complex and much lighter. So sadly, no you still won’t be able to fly your car.
  • Variable Compression Ratio Engines
    Although details of how this will be executed have not been revealed, the principle has long been an important goal for engine designers. Being able to vary an engine’s compression ratio depending on the demands being placed on it will lead to significant advances in efficiency.
  • Coasting
    Coasting technology is something that is certain to be used on future models and will most likely be rolled out in three stages. The first stage, coasting at speed, is already a feature on some manufacturer models fitted with dual-clutch automatic gearboxes. The next version is expected to function when a car is travelling below 4mph. The ultimate version will allow transmission decoupling and engine shut-down when cruising at speed, travelling downhill or approaching traffic lights that are about to turn red.
  • Electric Turbochargers
    Manufacturers have already begun to preview their own versions of electric turbocharging. Audi have demonstrated one model that uses a powerful fan in the engine’s induction system – this blows air through the turbo when the engine is decelerating in order to spin the turbo fan up to speed so that full boost is available as soon as the driver gets back on the accelerator. Such a system is especially useful for smaller-capacity downsized engines, which generate little exhaust gas energy, especially at low speed.
  • Enclosed Wheel Wells
    Large steps forward in aerodynamics are difficult to achieve with mid-sized family cars but it is believed that wheel wells might yield big reductions in drag. Some manufacturers are already directing air across the face of the front wheels to achieve this and the next natural step is to enclose the wheel housing so airflow doesn’t get trapped as it travels under the car.

The European Union has set stringent regulations regulations that require all car makers to meet a rigorous set of average CO2 emissions standards across their entire fleet of vehicles from 2020, and the Autocar report illustrates how these technologies will shape the way the mid-market saloons and hatchbacks will be built to meet those standards.

Autocar editor-in-chief Chas Hallett said: “This is an exciting time for the car industry because the standards being set are demanding that the pace of innovation and clever technology is being maintained, if not accelerated,” he said. “But car makers will have to be careful – the advance of ‘green’ technology could prove devastating for companies already surviving on a very slim profit margin.”

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