Travel to almost any major city in the world and you’ll find a familiar sight: a sheen of brown haze that hovers over the city called smog. Much of this smog comes from cars, SUVs and pickup trucks — that mechanical gasoline or diesel powered things most of us drive every day.
Along with the smog comes carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that scientists say is a primary cause of climate change. Added to this calamity is urban growth that is becoming the new way of life, and with it challenges to transportation. In America, city streets are already clogged, and the once “rush hour” traffic now starts at 5:00 a.m. and ends at 7:00 p.m.
But things could be on the verge of getting better. A new wave of innovation led by carmakers and automotive-tech companies promises to transform the driving experience. Don’t worry, the car won’t disappear, it will just be powered by different energies, and in some cases, take on new shapes.
Concept cars are how manufacturers work out ideas for the future. In an attempt to solve the issues of pollution and crowded streets their ideas of cars of the future are they will be smarter, nimbler and safer. They also will be self-driving, monitor the person behind the steering wheel and even communicate between themselves to avoid collisions.
Here are seven concept cars that could quite well be what we’ll be driving in 2025. There’s even one car that is currently in a vehicle sharing pilot program, and one that doesn’t have wheels and tires, but is shaped like a very large tire.
Catch a ride in a future car.
1. Volkswagen NILS
The Volkswagen NILS — an electric commuter car for the urban world of the future — was designed and engineered to offer a dynamic driving experience, while generating neither emissions nor noise. The blueprint followed a Formula 1 car with a driver in the middle. A lightweight 20-horsepower electric motor is slung out back driving the rear wheels, and the design features four freestanding 17-inch tires and wheels.
That blueprint may not qualify the NILS as a performance machine, but it is lightweight. Assembled from aluminum, polycarbonate and other lightweight materials, the car weighs just 1,015 pounds. A minimalist cabin features a seven-inch TFT display that indicates speed, range, and energy flow. A second display, which is snapped into the A-pillar, is a portable navigation and entertainment unit.
Thanks to a 40-mile range and a top speed of 80 mph, the NILS would be the ideal vehicle for most commuters, and a reflection of a new era.
2. Chevrolet EN-V 2.0
Chevrolet’s second generation EN-V 2.0 (Electric Networked-Vehicle) may look like designers crossed a ladybug with a Transformer robot, but the two-seat electric vehicle can scoot around cities at up to 25 mph for around 25 miles with energy from a lithium-ion battery. The prototype car was developed to show the possibilities for alleviating concerns surrounding traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability for tomorrow’s cities.
While the diminutive EN-V 2.0 has a standard steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal, it also contains a full complement of cameras, lidar sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2X) technology to make many or all of the driving decisions while the driver rides hands-free. Further, it has features that consumers demand such as climate control and personal storage space.
In 2015 the EN-V 2.0 began a vehicle sharing pilot program launched by General Motors and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Sixteen cars are in the program, and if you visit Shanghai before the end of this year, share a ride. The EN-V 2.0 opens up an exciting future vision of multi-modal transport.
3. Mercedes-Benz F 125!
While it’s difficult to predict what the automotive landscape will look like in 2025, this much is nearly certain: Mercedes will still be building luxury cars for those fortunate enough to afford them.
Designed to represent what a luxury four-passenger car could look like in 2025, the F 125! is an F-Cell plug-in hybrid. Electric power for the four motors, one in each wheel, is generated on board by the F-Cell fuel cell. The research vehicle conceptually employs a 10 kWh lithium-sulfur battery pack that can be inductively charged. Combined, the motors produce 231 horsepower and deliver all-wheel-drive traction that Mercedes is calling e4Matic.
With the use of lightweight fiber-reinforced plastic, carbon fiber, aluminum and high-strength steel, weight is kept to a minimum. The car has autonomous features, can automatically change lanes and navigate traffic jams without driver involvement. Mercedes says the F 125! can travel up to 31 miles on battery power alone, before switching to power from the fuel cell. Then the car can travel an additional 590 miles on hydrogen power before refueling is necessary.
4. Nissan PIVO 3
As you might have guessed, Nissan’s PIVO 3 concept follows PIVO 1 and 2. But unlike its forbearers, the automaker would like to produce this pint-size urban electric vehicle that seats three. The PIVO 3 may not be able to “crab walk” like its immediate predecessor, but it has some slick tricks of its own.
First, its two doors slide open like a minivan’s to allow ingress and egress in tight parking spaces. The futuristic cabin places the driver’s seat forward and to the center, flanked by two passenger seats. Power is provided by individual in-wheel electric motors, with energy provided by a Nissan Leaf-inspired lithium-ion battery pack. Rear-wheel steering allows the PIVO to practically spin on its axis, and Nissan says the roughly 10-foot-long EV can make a U-turn on a road only 13 feet wide.
But the PIVO 3’s biggest trick comes from its electronic gizmos. Drivers can call into play what Nissan calls an Automatic Valet Parking (AVP) system. The system not only finds a parking space, but the car drives off on its own to park and charges itself, and then returns when called by a smartphone. The downside is this only happens in AVP-parking lots of the future, say 2025.
5. Toyota Fun Vii
Toyota’s Fun Vii is unlike any futuristic concept car we’ve ever seen. The exterior is made of touch-screen panels that can be changed, based on the owner’s preferences, with a simple download of a smartphone app or by uploading an image to Facebook. When introduced to the media, Toyota president Akio Toyoda said, “A car must appeal to our emotions. If it’s not fun, it’s not a car.”
The fun continues inside the 13-foot long, three passenger Fun Vii, which stands for “Vehicle Interactive Internet.” Like the exterior, whatever visuals you would like to see on the inside can be wirelessly painted in real time. Then there’s the holographic “navigation concierge” lady with a cute little hat that pops out of the dashboard. She can guide you around the vehicle’s features or help find your way from one place to another. Since the car is networked with all the other cars on the road it drives itself. And if all that is not enough fun, the Fun Vii can instantly convert into a video game.
Toyota has no intention of building a production version just yet, but says the Fun Vii is an example of technologies that it could incorporate into vehicles in the future.
6. Immortus Solar Car
“Inspired by the world portrayed in post-apocalyptic movies,” the Immortus is a solar-electric concept car from Australia’s EVX Ventures, a collaboration between the electric vehicle research group at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and a group of Australian engineers who have designed and produced award-winning solar racing cars. No word as to why the car is named after a Marvel Comic’s villain.
Electricity to power the car is generated from 75 square feet of silicon photovoltaic cells on the roof. On a sunny day traveling at about 50 mph, the Immortus can be driven more than 340 miles. Drop the speed to a constant 37 mph and the range is effectively to infinity on solar power alone. The car also features a plug-in powertrain with a 10 kWh lithium-ion battery that can supply enough juice for an additional 250 miles of emissions-free driving.
The Immortus is not a small car — slightly longer and wider than a BMW 6 Series Coupe — with interior space for a driver and passenger with modest luggage capacity. However, it weighs in at just 1,212 pounds. That means the power-to-weight ratio and acceleration time are comparable to a Mazda MX-5 Miata.
The idea of a car that can run on its own power forever sounds crazy. Stay tuned.
7. Volkswagen Hover Car
Automobile companies aren’t the only folks that can design concept cars to work out ideas for the future. Volkswagen, which translates to “people’s car” in English, launched The People’s Car Project in China, which invited Chinese consumers to submit ideas for cars of the future. One of the three design winners was Wang Jia, a student and resident of Chengdu in the country’s Sichuan province. She envisioned a tall, narrow, easy-to-park, emission free two-seater shaped like a very large tire.
Jia’s inspiration for a propulsion system came from The Shanghai Maglev Train, which can hover along special rails using electromagnetic suspension. Volkswagen brought the idea to life in a short video. In the video, Jia’s parents take the tire-shaped hover car out for a spin through Chengdu. The narrator points out a number of the imaginary car’s features, including a joystick controller, autopilot, and a collision-avoidance sensor. Simon Loasby, head of design at Volkswagen Group China commented, “It was the ultimate in dreaming because a full-scale version of the car doesn’t exist.”
The Volkswagen Hover Car isn’t as farfetched as it might seem. The technology to produce the car and road infrastructure is available today. And after watching the video — you did watch it, didn’t you? — who wouldn’t want to take a spin in Jia’s Hover Car?
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