The world of sustainable technologies is not a stagnant one. In fact, the automotive industry – which has pushed forward so many technological advancements – is one arena in which green technology is thriving. Over the past several years, this industry has made significant strides towards more effective and environmentally-friendly electric and hybrid cars.
Why? It’s become simpler to pair smart cars with the Internet of Things. It’s also more in vogue to pursue vehicular automation. As these connections and ambitions become normalities instead of luxuries, a normalisation of environmentally-conscious vehicles seems imminent.
What technologies, specifically, are set to take the automotive industry by storm in the next few years, though? How, too, will these technologies benefit the environment where behavioural changes can’t?
Battery Body Panels
Electric cars in 2019 struggle with a number of factors, the foremost being drive time. Without additional places to store energy, electric cars’ functionality is significantly reduced. They serve as excellent city cars, yes, but it remains difficult to get an electric car from one side of the country to the other.
Thus, auto manufacturers have been working to find new areas to store the energy an electric car would need to make such a trip. At the moment, energy-storing body panels seem to be the way to go. By utilising polymer fibre and carbon resin to both reduce a vehicle’s weight and to collective energy from regenerative braking, manufacturers intend to prolong an electric car’s battery life.
These panels are also set to retain energy pumped into an electric car during its standard charge time. Combine that extra fuel with the lightened body, and electric car drivers may be set to take the motorways by storm.
Tyres serve a two-fold purpose, when it comes to the sustainability movement. On one hand, increased tyre functionality will allow for electric cars to generate more of their own power while on the road. On the other hand, rubber is difficult and unsustainable to produce, on an environmental level and on a labour one.
The automotive industry has also always been fascinated with the ways rubber tyres can be converted into something more environmentally-friendly. Right now, Goodyear is leading the charge towards what may be the first photosynthetic tyre.
Rubber tyres, to start, are broken down via a vulcanisation process – one which, through exposure of the rubber to sulphur, hardens the tyre and makes it functional. By forgoing the vulcanisation process in favour of a planet-friendly alternative, environmentally conscious manufacturers can lessen their carbon footprint.
The current, proposed solution involves the cultivation of living moss inside operational tyres. This moss, without compromising the integrity of the tyre, will absorb water from the road and consume the carbon dioxide that the car produces. While cradled in tyres made from rubber powder, this moss will pull double-duty to keep the tyres inflated and lessen their vehicle’s overall toxic output.
Even though this technology is a few years off from production, the idea of it becoming mainstream is fascinating and promises to bring a revolutionary change to the way drivers think about their tyres.
IoT, V2V, and V2I Technologies
That said, not all environmental solutions are physical ones. The Internet of Things – a connective network which exists between systems of Internet-compatible devices – offers new ways for vehicles to communicate with each other and with their surroundings. With this communication comes improved vehicular functionality, and a greener future.
At the moment, there are two types of vehicular communication being researched: vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure:
- Vehicle-to-vehicle communication would allow cars or fleets to communicate with one another while on the road, assessing proximity and speed.
- Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication would allow vehicles to communicate with IoT compatible elements of infrastructure such as stop lights, side rails, and buildings to better assess proximity and weather conditions, among other safety factors.
The integration of these types of communication into cars is said to reduce the number of car accidents the UK sees a year by up to 81%. However, there are also environmental benefits to these forms of communication.
By communication with the road, vehicles can more effectively adjust their driver’s driving styles to conserve energy. They’ll be able to lessen the amount of fuel that individual trips require, and as a result, lower petrol consumption on a national level.
It may seem as though such green automotive technologies exist in a Jetson-friendly future. That future is closer than you think, however. As the automotive industry interweaves sustainable ethics into its functionality, the motorways of Europe and beyond will become greener – as will drivers’ wallets.