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What fuel will power 100 million new cars each year?

City car of the future
City car of the future
Hiriko Consortium

As society and industry is striving for always better alternative transportation, it may be helpful to reflect on the past — even attempt to look into the future.

We do that every time when talking about “out of the ordinary ways of moving goods and people” — just another term for sustainable mobility, which is nothing other than our ever-present alternative transportation commentaries.

The total number of vehicles driving around the streets of our planet had already exceeded one billion in 2010, not counting vehicles which operate off-road. It would not be difficult to imagine how city traffic would choke the streets and the air if we exclusively continued using petroleum products, when predictions are for 2.5 billion vehicles by the year 2050.

Can we learn from the past? — We must!

A century ago it seemed so much easier to use the fuel of the future — petroleum — rather than lite a fire to heat the water in the boiler of a steam car, or to re-charge the cumbersome accumulator of the electric vehicle overnight; — Petroleum is the reason we are where we are today.

How soon will we run out of oil and all the many products we derive from it? — Electricity will always be available, soon to be generated by many renewable natural resources.

We have learned from the mistakes of the past —great, if that were also true for armed conflicts! — And now we return to the age of the electric vehicle.

Already, more than half of the world’s population live in cities, and the UN predicts that 9 billion people will live in cities 25 years from now – more the earth’s inhabitants at this time.

For the last three quarters of a century, the opposite has been the case in North America. Low density suburbs were constructed, new factories and large box stores with huge parking lots even further away from city centers made cars an absolute need to make a living.

This brought prosperity to North America, and other countries followed the example, or are in the process to become motorized. Everybody wants wheels and the freedom to travel; advance from a bicycle to a motorized two-wheeler, then add a roof and two more wheels.

That progression has lead the “developed” countries to the predicament we find ourselves in.

A major automobile magazine recently invited 250 leaders of government and industry to a congress "The Future Of Mobility'. The keynote speaker from a large carmaker observed that in the past cities were built to accommodate the automobile, but from now on we must build cars to conform to the city.

City cars, such as Daimler’s smart are a new sight in North America, but already seem “normal” again now (after the bubble cars of the post-war era) in cramped European communities. Japanese Kei cars have been around for more than half a century, but grew in engine size over the years.

A new version of micro cars for the future is now under development everywhere. General Motors, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and a Spanish consortium developed the Hiriko; many carmakers are working on similar concepts of future mobility.

Hiriko comes from the Basque word for "urban" or "from the city".

Read the Forbes magazine story for an overview of Hiriko, then follow the vehicle’s launch in Spain, and be amazed by the Hiriko driving around (video) in Berlin.

Mobility is essential for society to function, but with billions of new vehicles to be added in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and elsewhere, the elimination of emission is a matter of survival for civilization.

Peak Oil is one event forcing us to change now, will Peak Cars be the next?

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