Betting on the next big thing in cars.

By Gokulanand.P (B.E Mechanical, 2016-2020)

When we met Marty McFly in the movie ‘Back to the Future 2′ in 1989, he was travelling into the future (2015) with Doc Brown and Jennifer in their makeshift DeLorean Time Machine. The movie’s portrayal of a revolutionary 2015 with plentiful mind-blowing high-tech gizmos is sure to have given you a hearty laugh. The most sagacious feature of the film was the depiction of a widespread network of flying cars, all swooshing around the flying DeLorean DMC-12. Predictions apart, we all know how that year ended! Sorry Marty, the cars of today are still grounded and probably will be for years to come.

The Flying DMC-12 from Back to the Future-2

In fact, not much has changed in the auto industry for a long time, apart from minor tweaks. One company is striving to alter the very definition of the automobile. Yes, it is Elon Musk’s Tesla! Even Robert Langdon drives a Tesla Model X in the “Origin” by Dan Brown. However, did you know that the concept of an all-electric car was introduced by Ferdinand Porsche way back in 1898?

One fine day, good friends Edison and Ford came to discussing on energy sources that would drive the future of automobiles. Edison bet on electricity and Ford bet on gasoline. Now we all know Ford’s bet made gasoline dominate the industry. However, cars are changing. With increasing environmental concerns, electrification is undeniably the way to go and the visions of Edison and Porsche are finally about to become reality! When we talk about futuristic cars, the first thing that comes to our mind is a Tesla. Here’s look at some of the unique cars that you may have never heard of.

  1. Techrules: (Micro Turbine Technology)

Techrules is a Chinese Automotive Research company that is doing what no one else has dared to do.

Concept: Imagine taking the jet engine from an aircraft, scaling it down (microturbines) and making it drive a car. This is what Techrules calls TREV (Turbine Recharging Electric Vehicle). This microturbine runs an electric generator that in turn runs the motors.

This may sound preposterous until you look at the specifications.

  • 6 electric motors producing 1030bhp (In context, a Suzuki Swift produces 83bhp)
  • Top speed of 350 km/h
  • 0 to 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds
  • Fuel: Diesel/Kerosene

These numbers usually suggest that the car be a gas-guzzler. But this is where Techrules shocked the entire industry. With an efficiency of over 90%, this car has a range of 2000 km at a fuel economy of 667 kilometers per litre. You can travel from Coimbatore to Bangalore and back with a single liter of fuel! Though this technology is far from commercial implementation, it could be the game changer in the years to come.

Models: GT-86 and Ren

The Techrules Ren Concept
  1. Nanoflowcell: (Flow cell Technology)

The name seems to have jumped right off a Marvel comic! NanoFlowcell is an energy research and development company from Switzerland that also has its footprints on the aerospace and shipping industries.

Concept: The energy for running the cars comes from Flow cells or Flow Batteries. The flow cell is quite similar to the fuel cell. The flow cell consists of two oppositely charged electrolytes separated by a membrane. When the electrolytes pass through the membrane, their chemical energy is converted to electricity that drives the motors.

The composition of the electrolytes remains classified but the company says that it will be as harmless to the environment as common salt water. Imagine taking the most advanced battery ever built and making it run a car that is achingly beautiful; you are likely to end up with this one.

Specifications:

  • 4 electric motors producing 760bhp
  • Battery capacity 300kwh at just 48 volts
  • Top speed 300 km/h
  • 0-100km/h – 2.4 s
  • Range >1000 km on a single tank
  • Zero emissions
  • Fuel: Ionic fluid

Models: Quant FE and Quantino

The Quant FE 48 volt
  1. Toyota Mirai: (Hydrogen fuel cell technology)

When we hear the name Toyota, the first car that comes to our mind is the Innova. Toyota is only a small player in the Indian market but they constantly place themselves among the top 3 car manufacturers globally. In terms of green car technology, Toyota is the king. Their Prius is the first commercially successful hybrid car. The Toyota Mirai is a first in a list of forthcoming commercial hydrogen fuel cell based vehicles with the only contemporary rival being the Honda Clarity.

To watch a video about the Mirai, click here

Concept: As we all know, Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe accounting for 75% of all known matter. A Hydrogen fuel cell works on the concept of the most basic chemical equation:

2H2 + O2      2H2O + Energy

The Hydrogen fuel cell consists of Polymer Exchange membrane fuel cell that splits the hydrogen atom into an electron and a proton. The electron becomes the source of electricity, while the proton combines with oxygen to produce water.

Therefore, the only waste product is water (if you can call it a waste!). Michio Kaku himself introduced the Toyota Mirai at the Consumer Electronics Show, 2015. While many consider hydrogen to be the best viable alternative to electric cars, Elon Musk has accused the technology of being “extremely silly”.

Specifications:

  • 153 HP
  • 2 carbon fiber reinforced hydrogen storage tanks
  • Fuel: Compressed hydrogen gas
  • Range 502 km
  • Top Speed 178 km/h
  • Price -$57,500
The Toyota Mirai

Some other innovative cars are the BMW i-8 (seen in the Author’s picture below) and the BMW i-3 that use the standard 4-stroke engines. The engines in these cars do not directly drive the wheels. Instead, the engine here acts a generator and transfers power to the motors that run the wheels.

Notice that all the above are electric cars (series hybrids to be exact) but they produce electricity in very different ways. We cannot dismiss these concepts because they are too far into the future. It is worth remembering that we have neither perfected gasoline nor electric vehicles-both of which had their inception in the 1890’s. Therefore, the auto industry has a conundrum to solve. The companies have the responsibility to place their bets on the most efficient technology, just as Edison and Ford did about 90 years ago.

GOKULANAND.P (B.E MECHANICAL, 2016-2020) is a car enthusiast and an ardent quizzer. He loves to read and is intrigued by the social issues. Movies and art are his areas of interests

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