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PHOTO CAPTION: Chevy Volt is seen as bridge technology that is still dependent on petroleum.

Innovation Is the Engine of Tomorrow's Cars

New ownership models, along with connectivity and electrification are part of the evolving future of the automobile, writes Jerome Hansen.

Published: 04-Feb-2009

Fear and desperation have always been powerful engines of innovation for the auto industry. Given the current state of the car business, you can bet we’re entering a golden age of innovation.

It will ultimately—and inexorably—lead to electrification. To be sure, bio-fuels, clean diesels, natural gas, fuel cells, and various hybrid technologies will play ever greater roles as we motor willy-nilly into the future. But electricity provides the most durable, affordable, and practical way of reducing the world’s dependence on oil, while reducing greenhouse gases. "The electrification of the car is the future and it should have been the present," says Chris Paine, screenwriter and director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" (He’s currently immersed in its sequel, "Revenge of the Electric Car"). "Major advances in power electronics in the 1990s made plug-in vehicles superior in both performance and efficiency to the internal combustion engine."

As for emissions, "It’s easier to regulate the power grid than to regulate 260 million individual vehicles," says Bruce M. Belzowski, assistant research scientist and associate director at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. And with that analogy, Belzowski paints with broad brush the future of the car. Use your cell phone as a guide.

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