With the arrival of Chevrolet’s new Volt plug-in hybrid for model year 2011, Detroit finally entered the modern age of motoring. Unable to keep pace with the quality and styling of foreign imports since 1973, Detroit’s big three automakers began a steady decline that culminated in the government bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors in 2008, and began a firestorm of name-calling and finger-pointing among politicians, automakers and taxpayers trying to determine who was at fault.
Tesla Motors, the manufacturer unwittingly pushing Detroit automakers further and further into the realm of electric cars has many consumers pointing to the small California-based automaker and saying to Detroit, “If they can do it, why can’t you?” The answer to the question may well have come from Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself when he said in March 2011 at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco that he would “bet on supercapacitors, not batteries, to deliver an important breakthrough in electric vehicle range.” It’s all about betting on new technology.
Next Generation Technology
Supercapacitors and alternative fuel hybrids could well revolutionize electric cars. All this has to do with efficiency, however. What about cars that can drive themselves? What about flying cars? Weren’t we promised flying cars?
The Car of the Future
While the real car of the future isn’t likely to be capable of flying any time soon, at least in a literal sense, the possibility of a self-driving car which travels faster than an airplane may not be so far off as you would imagine. One hundred years ago the average automobile speed was between 25-30 miles per hour. Fast forward one hundred years, and the world’s fastest production car is capable of top speeds nearing 300 miles per hour.
Advanced technology implemented into existing product lines could mean that just a few years from now an average family sedan might be capable of making the trip from New York to Los Angeles in as little as ten hours while the family naps or plays games. Flying, indeed. Perhaps the big three are unwittingly on to something by holding off on completely gutting their existing product lines in favor of smaller, lighter cars. The question is, will the future come too late?
The speed with which technology is changing could leave American automakers already in a strong position to offer consumers exactly what they want: new cars as big and luxurious as their old cars, but which use less energy and still offer the option of being able to pull their boat to the lake on Saturday morning. Whether technology catches back up with American automakers before it’s too late, however, is anyone’s guess.