As we approach the 24 September entry deadline for our Drivers of Change competition, held in partnership with executive search specialists Ennis & Co, we asked our technology expert Jesse Crosse to predict what kinds of technical innovation the automotive industry could experience over the coming years.
What are the likely trends in automotive technology, digital and retail over the next few decades? In the mid-term at least, battery EVs looks set to dominate, but nobody really knows how sustainable propulsion will pan out in the long term.
A lot depends on what happens on a wider scale than just automotive. For example, if hydrogen is adopted widely for domestic and industrial heating and as a fuel for larger vehicles, aviation, trains and shipping powered by fuel cells or hydrogen internal combustion engines, it’s hard to imagine it won’t, as has long been predicted, end up in cars as well.
Many engineers and scientists think not, though, on the basis that too much conversion is involved from electricity to hydrogen and back again, whereas electricity can be pumped directly into a battery. Whatever happens, we can be confident that sustainable electrification of the powertrain is here to stay, and it is set to be the focus of attention in automotive technology over the next couple of decades. Manufacturers will probably become more closely linked to the development of charging systems and the use of energy, especially if vehicle-to-grid balancing takes off.
Whether or not internal combustion engines survive is likely to depend on the availability of alternatives to fossil fuel and how far manufacturers are prepared to go in committing to pure EVs by switching investment entirely to battery technology and electric powertrains.
What is almost certain now is that battery technology will at least extend to solid state, or have solid-state properties, along the lines of half the weight, twice the capacity.