The Car You Will Be Driving in 2040: Top 10 Predictions
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The Car You Will Be Driving in 2040: Top 10 Predictions

Mass market electric cars are poised to disrupt car production, supply chains and the energy industry to an extent not seen since 1913, when consumers first dismounted their horses and jumped behind the wheel of a Ford Model T.

Henry Ford's assembly line production of cars boosted efficiency by over 8 times and had one Ford Model T rolling out of his factory every 15 minutes.

However, as the founder of mass production quickly discovered, it was the supply chain that proved to be the ultimate bottleneck. A lack of fast drying colored paint threatened to slow vehicle production, leading Ford to famously declare "a customer can have a car painted in any color they want as long as it's black."

Fast forward to 2018, what are the supply chain barriers faced by today's global car manufactures and consumers who are ready to join the electric revolution?

Drivers for Industry Change

With an increasing push towards environmentally friendly transport, the analysts believe government legislation including targets, fines, subsidies and infrastructure investment, will be the biggest drivers for the adoption of electric cars in the near term.

In the longer term, advances in technology, and the ability of manufacturers to scale up will alleviate many of the supply chain limitations and bring down battery costs to the extent that by 2022, the total cost of owning an electric vehicle will be lower in Europe than running a traditional petrol or diesel car.

Winners and Losers

Car companies that adapt to electrification trends, the global manufactures of batteries, battery materials and semiconductors alongside metal and mining firms should benefit from the electrification trend. As electric vehicles become more commonplace, and the fuel efficiency of current petrol engines increases, pressure will be placed on gasoline demand. In addition, self-driving vehicles could fundamentally change our relationship with car ownership to an extent that the used car market may also be adversely impacted.

Battery Is Best

Transportation currently accounts for 14 percent of global CO2 emissions, having more than doubled in the last 40 years. To prevent run-away global warming, emissions will need to be halved by 2050 and limited to less than 20 percent of current levels by 2100. Battery cars represent a viable lower carbon alternative to the combustion engine and can achieve lower CO2 emissions, better efficiency and lower costs than other alternative technologies like fuel cells and natural gas vehicles.

Regional Differences

A slower shift to electric vehicles is forecast in the USA compared with Europe because of lower gasoline prices and less demanding CO2 targets for car manufacturers. Asia seems to be in the lead when it comes to supporting switching from traditional to e-cars. For example, in China, worsening air pollution and traffic conditions, as well as tightening petroleum resources, had led government bodies to push for the adoption of electric vehicles. The Japanese auto market probably boasts the best fleet average CO2 emission levels at present, which may be attributed to an exceptionally high ratio of mini-vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. Indian government offers incentives at significant ~30 percent of the price on pure battery operated vehicles. Finally, in Korea the government set out its major roadmap to bolster the expansion of new energy vehicles in December 2015 to keep up with the shifting focus of the global automotive industry towards an eco-friendly driving environment.

Who's Behind the Wheel?

In addition to the electric revolution, the impact of automation on the industry cannot be ignored. Driverless cars may actually usher in a new era of car sharing. By 2030, the analysts estimate that all vehicles produced will have some form of automation with early adopters including tech based rail hailing companies like Uber which can further automate their service and drive cost efficiencies. In fact, Uber has already placed an order for 24,000 Volvo XC90s between 2019 and 2021 which it is using as a design base for its self-driving fleet, while Google have been operating autonomous minivans on a 100 square mile area of public roads in Arizona without a safety driver since mid-October 2017. Driverless cars could improve the economic viability of car sharing/ride hailing to such an extent that it would reduce the economic rationale of private car ownership.

Top 10 predictions about your future car by 2040:

  • 1 in 4 cars will be Powered by Batteries: 1/3 of production and 1/4 of cars on the road will be electric by 2040. Europe to power up faster than the US.
  • Electric cars will be the most cost savvy option: You will save about 100 dollars a year buying and using full battery vehicles compared to gasoline cars by 2040.
  • Electric vehicles provide a roadmap for lower CO2: average new cars will have around 60gCO2/km emissions – 1/3 of today's average output. This should lower annual CO2 emissions by >1Gt – meaning car emissions are on track to limit runaway global warming.
  • You will use your car like a mobile phone: 90 percent of charging will be done in the office or at home overnight. This will consume 1,000TWh of electricity which equals 2.5 percent of global demand.
  • Hands-free an option if you can afford it: Self-driving cars will make up about 14 percent of car production letting you kick back and enjoy the journey. However, this will add around $1,000 dollars per car electronic content and require insurance for both owning and using autonomous vehicles.
  • No need to look under the hood: Batteries become the heart of your electric car – we will require 3.7TWh of batteries per year which will need circa 100 Tesla sized Gigafactories (already the biggest building on earth) and around 3 million tons of lithium carbonate.
  • Think sustainable chemistry not German engineering: battery specs will differentiate vehicle performance, this will require careful chemistry choices to avoid production bottlenecks for metals like cobalt in the supply chain.
  • Electricity the new gasoline: gas consumption will be down 30 percent by 2040 to 280 billion gallons per year replaced by electricity generated from renewable sources.
  • Don't be tempted to wait for fuel cell cars as they don't make carbon sense: Using hydrogen to power cars produces water at the tailpipe but hydrogen comes from natural gas which means CO2 emissions are similar to gasoline cars in total.
  • ...and definitely don't wait around for flying cars – scientists are working hard on trapping anti-matter to figure out if it will "fall up" giving us the ability to create a flying car. CERN managed it with 309 anti-hydrogens for 1000 seconds. Unfortunately, just 1 kilogram of this material would contain the equivalent energy 700 million gallons of gasoline and is highly unstable – so don't hold your breath.