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The Quest for the Car of the Future

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the zippy-go-fast dept.

Science 434

Lux writes "Where will the car of the future come from? It's unlikely to come from anywhere you'd expect it to. Wired's money is on the car of the future coming from NASA. 'New technology that promises to revolutionize the automobile as we know it is emerging from research institutions and startups — and these innovations won't set you back $100,000 like a Tesla will... One experiment involves small electric motors located in the wheels of the CityCar, a tiny, nimble and practically silent vehicle with wheels that turn 360 degrees, enabling it to slip neatly into tight urban parking spaces. Others are looking to revolutionize the automobile's engine, not replace it.'"

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434 comments

Heh (5, Funny)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570793)

wheels that turn 360 degrees

Indeed, that is a revolution.

Re:Heh (3, Funny)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570921)

Indeed, that is a revolution.

However, a trip of any useful length will require your tires to rotate significantly more than 360 degrees. Perhaps someday these research cars will be able to travel more than 47 inches.

Re:Heh (4, Funny)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571153)

Use your imagination!

Think of the old pennyfarthing bikes.
Make the wheels bigger, and one revolution will be enough.

"Dear, I need to go to the store"
"Ok, I will put on the store wheels"
"Thanks, dear!".

Re:Heh (2, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570959)

wheels that turn 360 degrees
Indeed, that is a revolution.
Nice pun.

But yeah, if wheels don't spin a full 360 degrees on their axle, how would they roll?

I think they meant that they could be turned to point in a direction within a 180-degree range (reverse gear gets you the other 180, unless you really do need to drive towards, say, your 8 o'clock position at 75 MPH).

That is, unless the wheels are spherical. Then there's no need to point them: just roll them the way you want to go. (Spinning them around an axis perpendicular to the road though would be a pointless exercise.)

Re:Heh (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571149)

Perhaps using a non-servo motor for drive is more efficient?

I (perhaps erroneously) assume the small motors inside the wheels are gear free.

Re:Heh (1)

CraniumDesigns (1113153) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571317)

i am thinking the wheels are all independant of each other, no axles between the 2 front and 2 back. they might all be on individual mounts that can turn 360 degrees. and then we'll just have normal wheels on those.

Re:Heh (2, Insightful)

Paperweight (865007) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571239)

Isn't 180 degrees enough?

Re:Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571309)

wheels that turn 360 degrees

Ahhhhhh, finally cars that even women can park!!!!

Re:Heh (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571403)

I think the submitter meant "4*pi steeradians".

water (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570803)

So are they finally going to get that car out that runs on water and produces no emissions other than water vapor? Or is that still an "urban legend"?

Re:water (4, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570855)

Yes, it's still an urban legend that you can violate the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:water (1, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570911)

Technically in a perfect world, even gas combusts into water vapor. But the world isn't perfect. To quote wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combustion [wikipedia.org] :

Combustion or burning is a complex sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat or both heat and light in the form of either a glow or flames.

In a complete combustion reaction, a compound reacts with an oxidizing element, such as oxygen or fluorine, and the products are compounds of each element in the fuel with the oxidizing element. For example:

CH4 + 2O2 CO2 + 2H2O + heat
CH2S + 6F2 CF4 + 2HF + SF6 + heat

A simpler example can be seen in the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen, which is a commonly used reaction in rocket engines:

2H2 + O2 2H2O + heat

The result is simply water vapor.

In the large majority of the real world uses of combustion, the oxygen (O2) oxidant is obtained from the ambient air and the resultant flue gas from the combustion will contain nitrogen:

CH4 + 2O2 + 7.52N2 CO2 + 2H2O + 7.52N2 + heat

As can be seen, when air is the source of the oxygen, nitrogen is by far the largest part of the resultant flue gas.

In reality, combustion processes are never perfect or complete. In flue gases from combustion of carbon (as in coal combustion) or carbon compounds (as in combustion of hydrocarbons, wood etc.) both unburned carbon (as soot) and carbon compounds (CO and others) will be present. Also, when air is the oxidant, some nitrogen will be oxidized to various, mostly harmful, nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Re:water (4, Informative)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571013)

No offense sir, but assuming you're saying "gasoline" when you say "gas", you're absolutely, 100% wrong and never should have been modded informative.

When the article says "perfect combustion", it's referring to oxygen and hydrogen and nothing else. As it points out, most combustion occurs with a component that involves carbon, which is why C02 is present in most combustion reactions. The truth of the matter is that "perfect" combustion only occurs with pure hydrogen, which doesn't exist in the real world because hydrogen is so reactive.

Re:water (1)

49152 (690909) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571475)

He might have been talking about gaseous fuels, perhaps he's not a native English speaker. To us the use of the word 'gas' for a liquid like gasoline always seemed a bit silly ;-)

Another thing, unless you plan to bring tanks of liquid oxygen along for the ride with that perfect hydrogen/oxygen combustion engine the results will be far from clean. Atmospheric air contains all kinds of gases in addition to oxygen that would be involved in the process, yielding results like all flavors of nitrogen oxides (there is quite a few), ozone, monoatomic hydrogen and oxygen and all kinds of other weird kinds of results from trace elements in the air.

The amount of unwanted wastes and by products may be very small but far from zero.

Re:water (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571017)

Maybe he was thinking of the reaction

n H2O -> (n-1) H2O + 17 GeV

Re:water (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571105)

Technically in a perfect world, even gas combusts into water vapor.
Uhm, not quite. Gasoline is made of various hydrocarbons (like octane C8H18). The carbon has to go somewhere even in a perfect world. A complete combustion of gasoline consists of CO2 and H20, which is what ultra-low emission vehicles are shooting for (and get pretty close to).

Re:water (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571155)

Gasoline is mostly hydrocarbons, so while some of it will indeed form H2O when burned (oxygen combining with the hydrogen part of the hydrocarbon), a goodly chunk of it will form CO and CO2. Gotta get rid of that carbon somehow.

Chemistry is like everything else. What comes in on one side must be accounted for on the other side.

Re:water (1)

nbert (785663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571463)

They are not going to get the car that runs on water. They are rather suggesting another battery powered design which will be mostly charged by coal and gas plants at a degree of efficiency so modest that it's not even worth hitting the calculator. Another design without exhaust which actually wastes way more energy that any car driving on gasoline or diesel. The other projects mentioned in TFA are quite optimistic IMO. The combustion engine we all know is quite efficient (at least compared to anything which delivers electrical energy over wires). Using computers to control valves isn't really a new concept. Toyota and Bosch among others developed such systems in the 80's and they are in wide use nowadays. Ironically added weight mostly made up the savings in fuel...

Simple (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570837)

Take a modern TDI engine from Europe and add it to a plug in hybrid.
Run it on biodiesel when available and put solar cells on the roof of it.
Ok the solar cells may just be for cute factor but my car sits in my office parking lot all day in Florida. It might give me enough power to run the AC on the trip home.

Re:Simple (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571015)

Biodiesel's not a viable alternative to fossil fuels. We can't grow enough to both feed and fuel or society.

Cutting power usage, as you suggested by driving European-style cars (which, I'll add, are also way easier to drive/park than stereotypical US pickup with an automatic gearbox) and make effecient use of our remaining fossil fuel would cover our lifetimes. By then we'd have hopefully worked out how to generate solar energy effectively.

Re:Simple (4, Insightful)

Eagleartoo (849045) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571175)

The crops we use for Biodiesel are not viable alternatives to fossil fuels - we should begin growing hemp - it's much more suited to that kind of application seeing as how you can get 4 crop cycles to every 1 crop cycle of corn. HempCar [hempcar.org]

Am I a looney who wants them to legalize marijuana? Sure! But there's greater uses than smoking it.

Re:Simple (2, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571429)

Soybeans can be converted to biodiesel, and the "waste" product of protein/carb cake can be used as foodstuff for livestock. fairly win/win there.
-nB

Re:Simple (1)

nbert (785663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571189)

Because of Europe's hunger for diesel fuel, refineries are already doing everything they can to raise the percentage of diesel which leaves their facilities. There is a limit on diesel produced per unit of oil and we are already extremely close to it. Biodiesel might compensate high demand for a while, but keep in mind that higher demand for products able to form biodiesel might have severe consequences on prices in the supermarket.

Coming from Germany I like TDI engines, but IMO they won't solve any environmental problems. They are - just like diesel engines in general - cheaper in some countries if you drive a lot.

Re:Simple (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571205)

I will buy that car from the first manufacturer to make one. Toyota? Volkswagen?

BTW, you may find this interesting:

http://www.solarelectricalvehicles.com/ [solarelect...hicles.com]

Re:Simple (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571341)

If they could add something like that to the Tesla roadster I think you would have a winner. A plug in vehicle than can go 250 miles on a single charge. It takes 3 hours to charge but if its a sunny day the sun will charge the as you're out and about thus eliminating the 3 hours. You could then probably got cross country with the car if you wanted not depending on solar power because you have 250 miles of battery power available. It would at least be easy out here in the south west.

Re:Simple (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571251)

Ok the solar cells may just be for cute factor but my car sits in my office parking lot all day in Florida. It might give me enough power to run the AC on the trip home.

The AC on an average passenger car can consume as much as 5HP and is horribly unlikely to consume less than 3. that's 2.2 to 3.7 kilowatts.

You're going to need at least a couple kWh for one hour of using the A/C, and almost certainly more...

Re:Simple (2, Insightful)

donglekey (124433) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571357)

Imagine everyone fighting for the roof spots in a parking garage.

Huge penis failure (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19570851)

In your pants! [goatse.cz]

Google? (5, Informative)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570857)

A clean energy update [blogspot.com]
Google pushes 100-mpg car [cnn.com]
Google plugs in and goes green [ft.com]

Frankly, I'm surprised this hasn't made it to a /. article yet.

Re:Google? (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571059)

The founders of Google also have money invested in Tesla.

Re:Google? (5, Insightful)

AGC(AW) (791814) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571143)

I clicked on the link in the google 100 mpg car for the 13 most fuel effecient vehicles. I had to laugh. I bought a chevy 3 cylinder metro 10 years ago. It got me about 44 hiway/38 city new. Has about 100,000 miles on it now and the gas mileage has drppoed somewhat. I'm getting the same or better than mos of these "fuel effecient" cars. My friends laughed at me. I laughed right back when they discovered their monthly gas costs would last me 3-4 months. Don't turn on the AC though.

The real car of the future (5, Interesting)

the_kanzure (1100087) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570867)

The real car of the future may in fact be no car at all. Might it be possible that there are methods of living that do not require us to live distantly from useful and necessary services? Looks like we can get services to our computer fairly well, right?

Re:The real car of the future (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19570937)

The real car of the future may in fact be no car at all. Might it be possible that there are methods of living that do not require us to live distantly from useful and necessary services? Looks like we can get services to our computer fairly well, right?


If you refer to the practice of living in your parents' basement, then yes, I can confirm that it does indeed obviate much of the need for transportation.

Re:The real car of the future (2)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570981)

Yeah, they're called "tall buildings" and "train systems". (UK: TEE-YOOB)

See: any city that experienced significant growth before the advent of the automobile.

Re:The real car of the future (4, Funny)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571061)

we can get services to our computer fairly well
If by services you mean sexual services, then yes, I suppose the supply is adequate for the average slashdotter's needs.

Re:The real car of the future (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571115)

Don't people have to get to work somehow? Many live far away, so we'd need awesome public transportation.

Fast trains to get to other cities would be nice, too. But... that would cost money, money people would rather give to our rich-ass school district that has so much money to burn they actually built a water park with some of it T_T

Don't forget the roads (4, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571267)

Fast trains to get to other cities would be nice, too. But... that would cost money, money people would rather give to our rich-ass school district

Or money that people would rather use to build roads instead of to subsidize train systems. A lot of people who are against subsidizing public transportation seem to conveniently ignore the fact that we are already subsidizing private transportation. (I am not lumping you into this category.)

Re:Don't forget the roads (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571343)

A very good point! I personally would be happy to have some of my taxes go towards a high-tech train system in our city, connecting distant parts of town as well as other cities.

Re:The real car of the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571141)

That's a bell-ringer. The car of the future is the Bi-Ped. When all those wide-loads that drive around for 15 minutes looking for that holy grail parking space 10 feet closer to the entrance of the store finally have to walk those few extra feet, then humankind will truly have progressed. But I don't think that encouraging people to lard around at home via computer services is the answer. But maybe that's where we're heading. I remember a sci-fi story where the ultimate retirement was plugging you in to a terminal with a feeding tube for your you physical body and letting you live out the rest of your life like that, plugged into your ultimate fantasy. I'll bet a good percentage of people would like that easy life.

Re:The real car of the future (4, Insightful)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571157)

> Might it be possible that there are methods of living that do not require us to live distantly from useful and necessary services?

Possible, but improbable, especially in the US. The most significant problem is couples who want to live together, but who don't necessarily work in the same place, combined with the fact that, with dispersed land-use patterns for housing, mass transit has no hope of keeping up, because the population is widely spread out at a low density. So, if half of every working couple can't live near where they work (because if they moved there, their other half would have the same problem), and if these people can't use efficient, high-capacity transit (because they want to live in a low-density residential environment), you're left with figuring out a way to move a lot of individuals to dispersed destinations. And that's *before* you take into account transportation for shopping or recreation.

Maybe both you and your (future?) partner can both live and work near public transportation, for both of your entire careers. That's great, but it's not typical.

Magic 8-ball says (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571193)

You will die unhappy.

Even people in cities will take a taxi or drive a car before waiting for a train or bus.

People will always want on-demand travel.

Some form of car will be around forever.

Re:Magic 8-ball says (1)

donglekey (124433) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571451)

That is far from the truth in Vancouver. In my experience Boston and Seattle as well.

today's car seen from 30 years ago (2, Interesting)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571407)

Summer 1977 Probably you weren't born yet or were an infant.

In any event your parents were sneaking a few tokes on a joint in the parking lot of the theater (and a few gulps of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill) that was showing Star Wars, Saturday Night Fever, Marathon Man ('is it safe?'), or Black Sunday (' Zere ahr no accidents!' Martha Keller and Ahhnold - jeez what a team!)

    Honda is losing all their credibilty on a piece-of-shit CVCC engine. Mazda is blowing their wad on a Wankel. Toyota is toying around with the uglyest cars ever made. GM gives us the Vega, Ford the Pinto, and AMC brings up the rear with the Pacer. And the only pants that we could buy a bell-bottoms. No wonder we needed to get stoned and right now if not sooner.

    If you could predict a car for 30 years in the future that you would want to buy you could have done worse than a Hyundai Accent with a ten year warranty or a Prius. Hell you could have just kept your BFAC (Big F*ucking American Car, with the emphasis on Big), your Monte Carlo or Riviera.

    So the car that I want 30 years from now. Small, for good mileage. Cheap. everyone's going to be poor with the coming Peak Oil and Global Warming situations manifesting. Big Tires for driving on really bad roads. Safe, with serious air bags. Durable; something that will last a long time. Bulletproof safe, because the Peak Oil and Global Warming situations are going knock a lot people out of the middle class and they're going to looking to fuck with someone just like me for no other reason than I have a car and have the ability to make enough money to not have to live with people like them. Vandal-proof,with special coating on the exterior so that spraypainted gang symbols just wash off. Theft-proof, with a tracking device so if the shitpeople actually do manage tosteal it then I can get it back quickly.

    Are you looking for a career with a real future? Make cars like the one described above. I'll buy it and so will millions of other people.

Re:today's car seen from 30 years ago (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571457)

...In any event your parents were sneaking a few tokes on a joint in the parking lot of the theater (and a few gulps of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill) that was showing Star Wars...

Luke... I am your parents.

Re:The real car of the future (1)

popejeremy (878903) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571517)

My car of the future is my bike. I ride it everywhere I go. Aside from the environmentalism aspects of biking and the lack of a need to buy gasoline, it's a lot more fun than being stuck in a box on wheels for an hour a day.

Re:The real car of the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571563)

You can order all the goods and services you want with your computer, but eventually someone's going to have to drive that stuff over to your house, which will be pretty hard to do with "no car at all."

Doesn't this already exist in Europe? (2, Informative)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570879)

I think that's called the Smart car. It may still run on gas, but can park backing up to a curb. And I guess if you want more style, you can go with a Mini.

Re:Doesn't this already exist in Europe? (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571305)

I think that's called the Smart car. It may still run on gas, but can park backing up to a curb. And I guess if you want more style, you can go with a Mini

I can't find a cite. But I understand that the US version of the Mini Cooper is about 40% larger than the British one for US highway safety standards. I don't know why motorcycles are exempt - Gov regs I guess.

I would love to have those really small cars but I'm not sure our Nann...er... Government would allow us to drive them on our roads.

Re:Doesn't this already exist in Europe? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571347)

I think that's called the Smart car. It may still run on gas, but can park backing up to a curb.

That's nice, but even if your car fits, this is illegal pretty much everywhere in the US AFAIK. Only motorcycles are to be backed to the curb.

That didn't take long (0, Offtopic)

SheldonLinker (231134) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570895)

That didn't take long -- My boss was dinking around on that when I was there in 1971.

Crash tested? (5, Insightful)

jammo (981940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570913)

Love to see the stills of a simple 20 mile per hour crash, let alone higher. A four wheel drive would literally drive right through it without slowing at a guess.

Re:Crash tested? (4, Interesting)

DavidpFitz (136265) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571161)

Love to see the stills of a simple 20 mile per hour crash, let alone higher. A four wheel drive would literally drive right through it without slowing at a guess.
Then we should get the 4x4s off the road.

Or, just get a huge JCB/Lorry/Truck/Juggernaut type vehicle to crush the SUVs. Bigger is better, eh?

D.

Re:Crash tested? (2, Insightful)

jammo (981940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571359)

Don't get me wrong, I don't own a 4x4 myself; but I really wouldn't feel safe in a car that has aparently no "crumple zone", whatever hits you will not have any of its kinetic energy absorbed before hitting body parts. I'm all for the environmental issue as well, but don't see that the choice of car can really impact when for example China is building 2 coal fired power stations per week, just one of which will produce the emissions equivalent of 2 million cars. I'll continue to buy based on looks, performance and safety.

Re:Crash tested? (4, Insightful)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571171)

A four wheel drive would literally drive right through it without slowing at a guess.

Which is why every sensible driver should engage in the SUV arms race. As a nice side effect, we'll run out of oil much faster, and we'll actually have to start thinking about alternative energy sources.

Re:Crash tested? (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571261)

The problem is never the small car smashing into something; it's trivial to reinforce a car against the g-forces generated by it smashing into a solid object, because both sides of the equation are known, and the amount of energy can be calculated.

The problem is always something else smashing into the small car. The aforementioned SUV is a good example. And this is always going to be a problem with efficient cars, as long as the disincentives to driving a large, heavy, fuel-inneficient monster are too low. Fuel prices will eventually put an end to those for all but the most wealthy.

When it hits a point where all cars are comparable in mass, then that sort of thing will cease to be an issue.

Re:Crash tested? (5, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571293)

Love to see the stills of a simple 20 mile per hour crash, let alone higher. A four wheel drive would literally drive right through it without slowing at a guess.

I don't know about any of the rest of these but the SMART car is supposed to be quite excellent in a crash and not that it's on this list but VW alleges their new ~230 mpg concept is safer than an F1 racer (it's built on some of the same principles and provides an enclosed cockpit, unlike an F1 car.)

There is nothing inherently uncrashworthy about a small car, although it IS likely to be substantially more expensive for the same level of safety.

Re:Crash tested? (1)

Kotukunui (410332) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571465)

A four wheel drive would literally drive right through it without slowing at a guess.
That is why the companion legislation to the introduction of these cars will need to tax 4wd/SUV vehicles off the roads.
Declare minimum fuel/emission standards and tax the bejeezus out of any vehicle that does not comply.
Force people to adopt the new technology through economic blackmail.

You may not like it, but it is coming to a legislature near you, real soon.

Other highlights.

Any vehicle with more than two seats gets taxed with a "mostly unused transport capacity levy" to make up for the time when it travels with a single occupant.

A change in the definition of "truck" so that pick-ups no longer qualify for commercial vehicle tax breaks.

Any vehicle with only two seats and IC engine over a certain capacity/power limit gets hit with an "excessive conspicuous consumption" tax.

I'm pulling all of this out of my ass^H^H^H^H^H^H thin air, but we'll see who is laughing five years from now.

Screw NASA (4, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570915)

From Silicon Valley, that's where, and it's almost here.

... the TESLA Electric Roadster. [gizmodo.com]

Re:Screw NASA (2, Insightful)

The0retical (307064) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571213)

The Tesla is great and all but if you read the article you would see that the 100k price tag is a bit of a roadblock that developers are trying to overcome.

For example, I buy a 50k Lotus Elise which the TESLA chassis is based on. It gets 25ish mpg and has a 5 second 0-60 and is fun as hell to drive. Though I get crappy gas mileage compared to the TESLA it will be a long time before I hit that extra 50k that I would need to spend to just start to have the TESLA pay for itself. Then you factor in maintenance (Special facility only for the TESLA since it is all electric) and figure the batteries last 10 years maybe (you cannot avoid some sort of wear and tear on the batteries and they are not 100% efficient) then factor in the electricity cost.

Starts to add up after a while eh? Over time the TESLA is not more cost effective to have around and will probably cost quite a bit more than an fairly high end sports car in the first place.

Now buying something like a SMART which gets 50+ mpg and costs around 15k (loaded) then you have a car that will be economical and good for the environment as well.

As a side note most of the idiots in office here in the US have managed to convince the general public that nuclear obviously means bomb not a more efficient cleaner fuel so we are still stuck with dirty power in most regions of the country. If there were some alternatives like wind, geothermal, or tidal in the US it would be great but what do we have instead? Fossil fueled electrical plants! Just displace those emissions from a car to the power plant can't be a foul if you don't see it coming out of your tailpipe right?

Re:Screw NASA (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571455)

"Starts to add up after a while eh?"

And $4.21 per gallon gas doesn't? :)

Gas/diesel will only continue to increase in price. The points about the Tesla you make are valid, but if you plot the two curves, with those points being ticked off one by one against the rise in fuel, my money says the two will cross soon enough.

"...can't be a foul if you don't see it coming out of your tailpipe right?"

I'm guessing that is a rhetorical question, but... I'm ASE certified auto and heavy truck - journeyman. There are two basic forms of bad emissions surrounding gas & diesel. Unburned and poorly burned. That soot you may see coming out of a diesel exhaust, as an example, is made up of unburned particulates. They happen to be the least worrisome in terms of strict pollution. Poorly burned is another issue and the main one. So, just because you see something trailing a vehicle in motion, doesn't necessarily mean it is the biggest problem :)

Re:Screw NASA (1)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571371)

Slashdot Reader of the Future: Saves time by not only ignoring TFA, but the Summary as well by only reading the headline.

I don't think that the general populous is willing to drop 100k on a roadster.

Re:Screw NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571383)

Nice attempted slam.

Except NASA has a rather large office *IN* Silicon Valley. Mt View, CA. NASA AMES. They've got a big wind tunnel and everything.

Maybe I will finally get THE FLYING CAR I was promised 20 years ago.

Computer control (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570931)

It would be nice to have full automatic computer control, at least on highway. It will greatly increase throughput and allow to spend time during daily commute more productively.

Why do they akways look Dorky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19570941)

Why do the developers of these fancy futuristic cars always make them look so dorky? do they even want people to want to buy them?

yawn. (1)

bcdm (1031268) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570949)

We've been promised that cars like this will be coming in the future for many years now. So far, nothing's come of it. Wake me when one of these is actually being mass-produced and is affordable for the average person.

NASA won't have the car of the future (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19570957)

Their design requires you jettison your gas tanks once you get up to speed and occasionally the vehicle explodes on the way home (even worse than the Pinto).

Re:NASA won't have the car of the future (1)

trb (8509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571363)

their vehicle will six and be the size of a semi trailer truck and will cost you a billion dollars to make a 500 mile round trip. good acceleration though.

For any EE's or CE's that know about batteries (1)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#19570997)

It's my very humble and limited understanding that the big reason we don't see electric cars is the battery technology. Not that the basic technology isn't there, but it's my understanding that a battery specific to autmotive applications still isn't on the market. Didn't the Tesla just string a bunch of NiMH or lithium ion batteries together from laptops?

Re:For any EE's or CE's that know about batteries (4, Informative)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571139)

Quite true - present battery technology is pitiful for bulk energy storage. Compared to any combustion fuel, batteries are at least an order of magnitude worse in terms of watts per kilo or watts per unit volume. The Tesla used a giant array of lithium polymer batteries, which is the best we can do right now. Consider this: An electric car like the Tesla has a battery pack several times larger and heavier than a normal car's full gas tank. The drive system and the vehicle as a whole are much more thermodynamically efficient (miles per watt of input). Yet, the vehicle's range is at most a third of a normal car's. Until electrical energy storage makes at least an order of magnitude improvement in density, electric vehicles will remain highly inconvenient compared to combustion engines.

Re:For any EE's or CE's that know about batteries (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571199)

The Tesla's range is 250 miles on a full charge which takes 3 hours. That's not that bad. It would suck for cross country going 250 miles then have to stop for 3 hours to charge up. Around the city though it would be more than sufficient, even enough to take it to the desert for some track racing.

Battery technology is definitely the limiting factor, I think at this point it's specifically the charging end of the equation though.

Re:For any EE's or CE's that know about batteries (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571255)

Yeah, too bad that's it's impossible to make an effective electric car now. Or even, say, eight years ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1 [wikipedia.org]

Re:For any EE's or CE's that know about batteries (1)

businessnerd (1009815) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571441)

Didn't the Tesla just string a bunch of NiMH or lithium ion batteries together from laptops?
Yes they did, but with pretty decent results. The Tesla Roadster can go 200 miles on a single charge. That will almost get you from New York City to Boston (technically 217 miles, so maybe do a quick charge when you stop for lunch). It also goes from completely dead to fully charged in just under 4 hours. So essentially you get 50 miles per hour of charging. Not too bad. Tesla is also heavily investing in improving the battery technology, so their best is yet to come. According to their web site, they are now sourcing their battery technology to other companies. While the cross-country road trip (and trucking) is out of the question (for now) an electric car is a reality for the daily commute.

Tesla Motors [teslamotors.com]

A car that blows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571035)

The compressed air powered car from India has been getting a lot of coverage lately. It looks like they've created an entirely new kind of engine to run off of compressed air.

Instead of a whole new kind of engine, why not use the compressed air to power turbines that would generate electricity to run an electric motor? Electric motors are probably more reliable and more advanced than their air powered engine.

Re:A car that blows (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571547)

The compressed air car is much better suited to India than most of Europe and the USA. It gets "free" AC, but needs extra hardware (and energy) to heat. An electric version would at least take care of a lot of the extra hardware.

But you are assuming spinning a turbing to charge a small battery and then run off the battery, or to setup controls to always spin the turbine at exactly the right speed to not need a battery is more efficient than spinning the wheels more directly.

Doomed to repeat it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571057)

Designed to stack like supermarket carts when not in use, the cars could be parked strategically in front of subway stations and office buildings, where people could grab one as needed for short-term, one-way rentals, says Ryan Chin, one of the MIT researchers.
The Yellow Bicycle folks found out that this model doesn't work. It just results in folks getting stranded when the car they took for the one way trip from the train station to the office gets used by someone else who takes it back to the train station and leave it there.

Wired gets overly wowed by space travel (1, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571087)

No mass-market innovation will EVER come out of the government. Superficially, the Internet appears to be an exception to his rule, but in fact it was only once the NSF dropped the AUP and gave up policing interconnection policies that it became a commercial success. I give this "car of the future" exactly zero chance of being anything in anybody's driveway. The real question is, why is NASA wasting dime one on research and development that GM, Ford, and Chrysler should be doing?

Re:Wired gets overly wowed by space travel (1)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571307)

I'm sure glad that the GPS system was privately funded.

Oh wait...

What's old is new again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571097)

Motors in the wheels? Porsche did this years ago with his racing designs. How they hell is this a new idea?

If anything, these "future" cars harken back to far earlier designs.

Motors in the wheels (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571109)

Motors in the wheels are okay when you're moving at low speeds and/or over extremely regular pavement. So they're fine for city-only cars that will never go over 35 mph. But while you might be okay going up and down the hills in SF, get on the freeway to scoot across town and you're fucked.

Why is that? It's because one of the greatest enemies to handling is unsprung mass. The "sprung" mass is everything sitting on top of the springs, hence the name. But the unsprung mass is the weight that's not sprung, which in practice means directly or indirectly attached to the wheel and moving up and down with it.

Thus, the problem is one of inertia. When the road sends the wheel upwards, the tire deforms more and it takes longer for it to rise, when there is more mass to move. When the wheel returns, the spring has to push against the greater inertia of the more massive suspension member, so it takes longer to make the first part of its motion, but the spring conspires with gravity (which has more to work on with more mass) to push the wheel back down. The falling wheel has more inertia than it would if you had a lighter unsprung mass, so it comes down harder, compressing the tire more (again). All this excessive compression of the tire makes handling inconsistent.

This will actually negatively affect handling even in most cities, when cornering quickly. And it is often necessary to do so, or be stuck behind long rows of people.

Re:Motors in the wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571453)

Yup.
Depends alot on how heavy the relative components are though.
Also, Bose active suspension (http://www.wired.com/cars/energy/news/2005/11/696 92) would pretty much cancel all of your concerns.

OTOH having 360 degree wheels pretty well screws up any conceivable suspension arrangement.

Re:Motors in the wheels (1)

bundaegi (705619) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571561)

Come again?

Motors in the wheels are okay when you're moving at low speeds and/or over extremely regular pavement. So they're fine for city-only cars that will never go over 35 mph. But while you might be okay going up and down the hills in SF, get on the freeway to scoot across town and you're fucked.
Ever heard of the Eliica [wikipedia.org] ? To quote wikipedia:

The car has eight wheels enabling it to be closer to the ground for better traction. Each of the wheels has a 60 kW (80 hp) electric motor, giving a 480 kW (640 hp) eight wheel drive which can tackle all kinds of road surfaces.
Top speed... 370Km/h

Years back (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571121)

Years back I saw a video of a company (from one of the Scandinavian countries), using electric motor "inside out" as wheels.
They built buses with these electric motors, put a small Volkswagen car engine (it may have been diesel) under the hood, running always on the most optimal rpm to generate electricity. It seemed like a perfect, cheap, immediately available hybrid solution - I always wondered why we don't see these "3/4 green" buses on the city roads.

Re:Years back (2, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571185)

You do, diesel-electrics like that are exceedingly common.

Almost all "big equipment" runs on the same principle. Ships, trains, construction stuff (bulldozers, etc).

It is simply not all that fuel efficient on smaller scales. You waste a lot of energy converting the chemical energy to mechanical energy (diesel to spinnign crankshaft), to electricity, back to mechanical energy.

It is, however, the best way to supply a METRIC ASSLOAD of power to a drivewheel that needs the METRIC ASSLOAD of torque that only electricity can deliver.

Cars Are For (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571127)


Automotive manufactures and the OIL [whitehouse.org] industry.

Wake up and try public transportation, lamers.

Damn commies! lefty NASA wimps! (2, Funny)

fantomas (94850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571133)

Damn commies! everybody knows the true American Patriotic Car of the Future is an eight wheel, 6 ton, armour plated X-SUV (Extreme Sports Utility Vehicle) with night vision, aircon to chill a Canadian winter, bull bars to win any collision with anything short of a tank, 12 seats, and a beer cooler, doing two miles to the gallon (US not the dirty supersized British one). It's my Right as an American citizen!

Re:Damn commies! lefty NASA wimps! (1)

AGC(AW) (791814) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571225)

You must be a tree hugger. My version will get 2 gallons to the mile!

Re:Damn commies! lefty NASA wimps! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19571401)

That would never work. Too many mpg. On top gear I believe when they tested a HUMMER and floored it, it got only 1 mpg.

Re:Damn commies! lefty NASA wimps! (1)

rvw14 (733613) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571539)

Can you say "Canyonairo"?

Hybrid to electric is probably the route... (2, Insightful)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571203)

Electric cars are looking like the best bet for a clean car. The big issue, of course, is the batteries, but those problems are being solved very quickly.

I think the route to all electric cars will be traveled using better and better hybrid technology to wean people off of gasoline. Right now, my hybrid car uses it's batteries about 20-25% of the time. Next generation plug-in hybrids will at least double that, so you'll only use the gasoline engine 50% of the time. After that, you're looking at cars like the Chevy Volt where the power train is 100% electric and the gas engine is only used to power a generator. Concurrent with that, you'll see batteries evolve to the point where they're cheap and powerful enough to run a car around town for a day or two on a single charge.

Batteries aren't improving much at all (4, Insightful)

Ogemaniac (841129) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571559)

They are improving only a few percent a year, with no signs of any acceleration in this trend. If anything, it is slowing. The reason is that batteries are actually pretty simple devices. Even the first ones over a hundred years ago weren't all that bad. Like the internal combustion engine, the simplicity of the device led to even the earliest designs being reasonably functional...and leaving little room for improvement.

One can never say never, but within the limits of our knowledge, it is unlikely that batteries as we know them will ever improve two-fold.

Your CityCar, But is it mine? (4, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571235)

My requirements for an urban commuter are 75 miles in a Buffalo, New York, winter. Ice and snow. Brutal cold and wind.

I can't help thinking that all of these futurist projects assume near damn near ideal conditions of road, weather, distance and terrain.

The Future Is... Now? (2, Interesting)

Ignatius D'Lusional (1010911) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571241)

I am so sick of reading about how the "car of the future" is going to run on hydrogen and be extra-sleek and this and that. We've heard it all before, for the last 15 years or more. What I REALLY want to know is this... when will the car of the future be the car of the PRESENT? Tell me when they will be on the market and be affordable for the common consumer. What good does it do us to say what's coming if it NEVER GETS HERE?

Sheesh, that's a no brainer (1)

vorlich (972710) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571311)

Toyota will make the car and Honda will make the driver. Just as soon as he's finished learning how to carry a tray of coffee cups upstairs.

City Car (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571387)

Because One-Size-Fits-All everytime.

Because Somebody loves to live in suburb, while working in a big city and has to commute 20-60 miles each way.

Because Someone thinks everyone should drive the same damn thing.

Because Someone hates SUVs because they can't afford one.

Because Someone Can't parallel park.

----

Seriously. I'm sick of people who suggest "the City Car" (or other super small, single or dual seater) as a perfect car for most everyone.

I drive a van (Aerostar) seats seven. I live in a small town having grown up in Los Angeles. I use maybe 25 gallons of gas a month, most months. I haul computers around in it. I can parallel park. And I don't fit in most subcompacts at all (6'5" or 1.95m and 270lbs or 122.5kg).

So please stop projecting your tiny little self in your tiny little world onto the rest of us who live outside the city and actually practice conservation. Thank you

Since I am 1 year into a 4 year car loan (2, Funny)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571469)

I am already driving the car of *my* future

terrible idea (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571481)

>> Others are looking to revolutionize the automobile's engine, not replace it.'"

The only justification for this is that it benefits the car and oil companies.
There are massive disadvantages to internal combustion technology over pure electrical cars, such as pollution, maintenance & running costs and overall performance.

Check this if you don't believe me about performance (electric car eating a ferrari and a porche alive):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2DGfisAndI&search= ariel%20atom [youtube.com]

Yes this particular car costs $100k but its a one off. obviously if the same tech. got put into mass production it would be much less due to scales of economy.

Practically Silent = Damn Dangerous! (1)

burnttoy (754394) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571511)

I _know_ many will think I'm over-reacting but... I'm a child of the 70s when cars went VRROOOMMM! In the early 80s when I was about 10 or so I meet my first very quiet car. I was crossing a road on one of those stereotypical winding English country lanes. Well, I didn't get hit (that time) but it was pretty close. Obviously the car driver hadn't seen me and was cruising at a steady 30MPH. I certainly hadn't heard them. We stopped a meter apart and looked equally terrified (yes, I looked both ways... but if you don't know an english country road then... err.. they're scary!)

Well... All I'm saying is that a silent car cuts off one form of input to the human mind to us pedestrians trying to avoid them. Of course a silent car makes living near a big road (like Archway, London) a bit nicer... the choice is "ours" to make.

I guess (1)

lordvalrole (886029) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571523)

we are gonna need a smart car for people like meadow soprano. =)

It's ok, she is hot so she gets a pass from me.

That's not parking (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571535)

That's not parking.

Now that's [youtube.com] parking.

But will it have Tensegrity? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 7 years ago | (#19571551)

I think (or perhaps hope) that the motoring public is a little more willing to accept innovation today, now that costs are such a driver (sorry).

R.Buckminster Fuller developed an interesting teardrop-shaped car back in the square-fender days -- think it used a Ford Model A engine -- that had wheels that could pivot 90 deg. or better to allow parallel parking with a couple inches clearance. Got up to speeds of 100mph fairly easily. It was called the "Dymaxion Car" and a good place to start is here http://www.washedashore.com/projects/dymax/ [washedashore.com]

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