Predicting the future is something many experts avoid like the plague, but for Professor Neville Jackson, head of technology and innovation at 100-year-old Ricardo plc, there’s no hiding place.
Ricardo is a consultancy: it makes its money spotting transport trends and demands ahead of others, then coming up with the solutions it believes big manufacturers will need for a happy future.
This entails having a pretty accurate idea what customers will want from their cars in the next two to three model cycles, say between now and 2030, a tall order when you consider how much cars have changed in the recent past. Who’d have expected a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre Ford Mondeo? But when I spent an hour with Jackson at Ricardo’s Shoreham HQ recently, he described the future with a willingness and clarity I simply hadn’t heard before.
In 2020, says Jackson, we won’t see much change compared with the cars we know now. Things will be better done; cars will keep getting cleaner. There will still be plenty of diesels about, though they’ll gradually move to power bigger cars.
We can expect more electric functionality in cars and more downsizing of engines, but battery costs and weight will still dominate hybrid projects.