The future of cars

Germany, 1886. Karl Benz unveils his new invention. He calls it the Benz Patent Motor Car: a carriage with a one-liter, one-cylinder engine that can produce 0.75 horsepower and move the vehicle at speeds of up to 10 mph. This is the first car.

In 2023, engines can be up to 16 cylinders, and can produce thousands of horsepowers. On March 3, 2020, hypercar brand Koenigsegg released the Jesko: a sleek car with an aerodynamic body and huge boomerang rear wing. The Jesko’s speed focused variant, the Absolut, has improved aerodynamics and no rear wing, and can hit a top speed of 330 mph, making it the fastest car in the world. It’s powered by a 5.1 liter twin-turbo V8 engine that can produce 1603 horsepower on E85 fuel. In comparison, a 2023 Honda Odyssey has a 3.5 liter naturally aspirated V6 that produces only a mere 280 horsepower.

The Jesko, Benz and Odyssey are gas powered, making them expensive, limited to fuel and toxic to the environment. A good alternative to gas power in cars may be electricity; vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries are starting to become more popular, with brands such as Tesla and Rivian exclusively producing electric vehicles. Since last year, global electric vehicle sales have risen to from 14% to 18%, with over 10 million cars being sold. However, this shift has only reduced gas consumption in cars by around 0.5%.

Electric cars are starting to come down in price to match normal car prices. Tesla released its new vehicle, the Cybertruck, which produces 800 horsepower, at a $50,000 starting price. As a result, Ford lowered the price on its electric F-150 Lightning, which produces 452 horsepower, to compete.

The common misconception that electric cars produce more carbon emissions than gas-powered ones continues to be disproven. While the batteries in electric cars produce seven tons of CO2 during production, which is around a ton more than a gas car, it isn’t nearly as much as what a gas car produces in its lifetime. A typical gas car produces 350 grams of CO2 per mile, or 4.2 tons a year, while the average electric car produces just 200 grams of CO2 per mile, or 1.5 tons per year.

Even though electric cars are better for the environment, many car lovers still don’t like them. For them, part of the fun in cars is the engine. From how much power they produce to the noises they make, enthusiasts love engines. Mark IV Toyota Supras can sell for over $200,000, even though they haven’t been produced since 2002. This is partly because of the twin-turbo 2JZ engine under the hood that is designed to withstand over 1000 horsepower.

The hydrogen alternative allows for an engine that car geeks admire. While it’s expensive, hydrogen is a promising replacement if the prices decrease. Hydrogen based engines work by compressing hydrogen into a fuel cell, then its chemical energy is converted to gas energy when it needs to be used. This fuel is also less energy efficient than gasoline, being 40-60% efficient, while gas is 92% efficient. Hydrogen fuel only produces water, so it’s clean, but it probably won’t be widely used because of the reduced efficiency. 

As cars advance and become more of a science, car manufacturers are starting to lack individuality and becoming less “fun.” Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi used to make cars such as the Lancer Evolution, which was essentially a rally car designed for off-road racing, and the 3000 GT, which pioneered the American tuner car scene where owners modify cars and engines for performance. Now Mitsubishi exclusively makes SUVs, and even released a SUV version of the Eclipse, which used to be a 2-door sports coupe.

Most SUVs look extremely similar from their side profile. It’s hard to tell a Porsche Cayenne, a Lamborghini Urus and a Honda CRV apart. These SUVs are some of the least fuel efficient cars in production, controlling over half of the market. Trucks come in second and are also extremely inefficient. 

SUVs are popular because they provide more space than a typical sedan. They are also taller, being raised up on a higher suspension, which can make them flip easier in some situations. These cars are marketed by their spacious interiors, but they typically get 2-3 less miles per gallon than sedans.

Particularly in America, trucks are starting to become less practical on all fronts. In the 90s the Ford F-150 had around 40% of its body dedicated to housing the driver and passenger, and the other 60% dedicated to storage space in the bed. Now an F-150 dedicates about 60% of its body to driver and passengers, including rear seats, with 40% being the usable bed space.

Trucks are also getting taller, making them more dangerous. An F150 from 1995 is around 71 inches tall, while a 2023 F150 is almost 80 inches. The taller truck reduces the view of the road in front of the truck, reducing practicality because of the bed because it is higher up and harder to reach. People also like to raise their trucks up even further, making it even harder to see people, especially children and animals that might accidentally run into the road.

Electric cars are starting to become more mainstream as the demand and market increases. The switch from gas to electric certainly has potential to be a positive shift, but resource limitations may become a problem in the future. The batteries use Lithium, which is not in an infinite supply and could start to run out, but science is always improving and may lead to alternatives.

Ellis Garrett

Sophomore Ellis Garrett is a staff writer for Cedar BluePrints. Garrett isn’t sure what he wants to major in, but for now he participates in rifle and plays cards. Garrett appreciates the time he gets to spend with his friends in journalism.

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