With rising temperatures and rising gas prices, cars need to become greener fast. And superficially, the large car manufacturers seem to work hard to improve the fuel efficiency of their products. But are they really? The technology to make cars much more fuel efficient already exists for decades, but it never makes it to the showroom. Why do we have to wait so long for fuel efficient vehicles?
The Race for the Car of the Future
According to Vijay Vaitheeswaran, reporter for The Economist and author of Zoom, the global race for the fuel of the future, the large manufacturers lack the power of real innovation. A lot of money is spend of development of new models, but very little is spend on real research on new fuels and new ways to propel the car of the future. Meanwhile, the large car manufacturers are lobbying hard to block regulation on fuel efficiency.
But innovation is happening in the car industry. Several small companies are working hard on cars that are much more fuel efficient, or that work on other fuels than gas. Some of those compete in the X-prize, a new initiative which will result in a race for the most fuel efficient car next year. Competitors include electric cars, hybrid cars and even a car that runs on compressed air. All of these competitors create cars that will be ready for production soon, and that will create a real threat to the large manufacturers.
Companies like Tesla Motors, where Silicon Valley entrepeneurs who made large fortunes with innovative internet companies, are stepping up to the challenge. Why are they changing their focus from the internet to the productionof cars? And do they have what it takes to compete with Volkswagen, GM or Ford? Their first production car, the all electric Tesla Roadster, is received well by both analysts and consumers.
The technology is there and the consumers are looking for more fuel efficiency. Why then, does it take so long before we can buy these cars and drive around cheap and environmentally friendly?