The Car of the Future (is here today!)

The Car of the Future (is here today!)

October 22, 2006

Given my interest in city design, the environment, peak oil, and so forth, I have of late (over the past two years or so) been given to dreaming of my Car of the Future. Here is my wish list:

Light: Below 1500 lbs. The original Volkswagen Beetle weighed about 1500 lbs. The Toyota Prius weighs 2900 lbs. Certainly it should be possible, after sixty years of technological improvement, to build something lighter than the original Beetle, no? They didn’t even have nylon in those days. Since you were asking, the Hummer H2 weighs 6400 lbs.

Low Power: The original Beetle had 28 horsepower. The Prius has 110. But then, the Beetle only had to move 1500 lbs. If a Prius can get 55 mpg with 110hp and moving 2900 lbs, then what kind of mileage can you get today moving 1500 lbs with 28hp, like the original Beetle?

Super High Mileage: How about 100+ mpg? Is this so difficult? I expect $10 gas in the future, within the lifetime of cars purchased today.

Sexy: Car design is just bent metal. Why not bend it in an attractive shape, instead of one that says “little economy shitbox”? Car companies have some sort of mental block here.

Seats four: Two-seaters just aren’t going to sell a lot. The rear seats can be small, good for kids or adults in a pinch. Even the original Rover Mini had four seats. I’ve ridden in the back of one and it was fine.

Cheap: Below $20,000. The Prius sells for $23K.

Now, this sort of vision might be considered “unrealistic,” but people have a very limited view of reality. Who cares what they think. As it turns out, a European company is making a car exactly like this, and it may be available in the US in as little as two years.

Here are the specs:

Light: It’s not 1500 lbs, it’s 1000 lbs. Wow!

Low Power: 20hp two-cylinder turbodiesel (you can use biodiesel presumably). The horsepower/weight ratio is about the same as the original Beetle.

Super High Mileage: 1.5 liters per 100km. My calculator works that out to 146 mpg. Yes, 146 mpg.

Sexy: Look at the pictures yourself.

Seats four (in a pinch): Check.

Cheap: <11,000 euros, or below $15,000

Here’s the link:

Sell your SUV while you still can! So, are all our problems solved? Hardly. Indeed, I have been in something like the Jim Kunstler camp, hoping for a total collapse so we can clear away the disaster that is industrial life today. In my dream of the future you won’t need a car at all because you’ll be able to walk around town and take public transportation. This is normal in many places. You can have a car, but use it primarily for trips on weekends. If anything, the availability of super-high-mileage cars would likely prolong the tragedy of suburban development. I suppose there’s always a tradeoff.