The Economist gives a surprisingly upbeat assessment of the future of electric cars in this week’s article The electrification of motoring. I hope they’re right. It seems clear enough that if the battery cost comes down, then a lot can be simplified out of a car. This is looking pretty far down the road, but consider this scenario. If you put the motor into the wheel itself (something that is possible with an electric motor), then you can remove the engine under the hood, the transmission, the drive shaft, the gas tank, and the emissions controls, muffler, and exhaust. Not only does that free up a lot of space, but, as the article points out, it changes the car so drastically that the competitive advantage of existing car companies is much diminished. As a result, we’re likely to see some new players in the automobile industry.
Michelin has already built such an in-wheel motor, dubbed the Active Wheel. It may be a while before it goes mainstream, but it already works in the lab. Check it out.