This article is part of the ‘Think Further’ series, sponsored by Fred Alger Management, Inc. For more ‘Think Further’ content and videos, visit thinkfurtheralger.com.
Fifty years ago, automotive designers tried to envision what the cars of the early 21st century would look like. What we got were all manner of bubbletop, turbine-powered, and sometimes even nuclear automobiles.
While none of these innovations ever made it off the concept car circuit, other ideas, such as electronic fuel injection and airbags, have become commonplace in today’s vehicles. So what might the cars of 2064 look like? Probably a lot like the cars of today, but what they’re built of and what drives them forward will be a different story entirely.
Advancements in aerodynamics and active suspension systems will lead to the development of smaller and sleeker cars that ride lower to the ground and slip through using a lot less power than the cars of today. Automakers from every nation are also exploring ways to cut down on the curb weight of their vehicles, and often times the answer is the use of aluminum and high-strength, low-weight steel. In larger trucks this can translate into a 700-lb weight savings, but even in smaller family sedans, engineers can shave 10% or more off the curb weight of the average car.
Sourcing this steel and aluminum will need to become greener though if cars are to achieve a more environmentally-friendly identity, and in the video Donald Sadoway discusses how we might get greener steel. Steel production is actually the largest industrial emitter of carbon dioxide, causing as much as 5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. But a new process developed by MIT called molten oxide electrolysis, which was originally used to create oxygen from iron oxide found in lunar soil.
The byproduct was steel, and researchers have replaced the expensive iridium anode with a cheaper chromium-iron alloy, which makes steel production not only greener, but produces a higher-quality product at a lower price. By powering smelting plans with sustainable green energy, we could eliminate steel production’s massive contributions to the global emissions epidemic. This new form of smelting can also be applied to other metals like nickel and titanium.
By 2064, advancements to electric cars should make them the predominant mode of transportation, and by building new vehicles out of green steel and aluminum, the cars of the future will be environmentally friendly and ferociously fun to drive in a way the car designers of 50 years ago could never have dreamed.