The bright future of high-tech cars

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, set the tone for last week’s Advanced Clean Cars Symposium when she emphasized the “need to use every tool that is available” to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars.

The two-day event in Diamond Bar, California, was held to assess the current state of vehicle technology in meeting fuel efficiency and climate goals, while also evaluating prospects for the future.

The conference brought together engineers from automakers including GM, Toyota, Mazda and others, while also featuring many other experts on vehicle emissions, electric vehicle batteries and more. Together, they painted a rosy picture of the remarkable technical accomplishments in vehicle technologies that have put the industry ahead of regulatory targets for emissions, all while acknowledging the challenges the industry faces in continuing on this impressive trajectory.

Some of these accomplishments include:

  • A significant reduction in the cost of production for EV batteries, bringing us closer to the reality of mass-market electric cars that meet consumers’ needs.
  • A rapidly growing infrastructure for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, allowing for the deployment of highly efficient and minimally polluting cars.
  • Conventional vehicle engine designs that take advantage of advanced computing to precisely engineer small four-cylinder engines. These can achieve the same, or even greater, power and torque capabilities as large V-8 engines with significantly less fuel.

Meeting aggressive targets for emissions reductions and fuel efficiency will continue to be challenging, but as this symposium showed, the auto industry has many tools at its disposal that can not only advance these goals, but benefit drivers.