William Hertling, a science fiction author looks at the future of transportation at venturebeat.

We have several key trends converging on the late 2020s: fully electric fleets, cheap electricity, autonomous vehicles, and flying cars.

Transportation will look very different by 2030. We’re likely to have many autonomous, personal-use vehicles. Since car sharing services are even more useful when the cars drive themselves to you, we may have much less personal ownership of the vehicles. Airline travel is likely to change as well, as self-piloting fast personal vehicles will compete for shorter trips, while the reduction in fuel costs may change the value structure for airlines.

And yes, we’ll finally have our flying cars.

Self-driving or “driverless” cars continue to make the news. The Guardian posted driverless cars are coming and they want to be your friends and tells us how auto manufacturers are partnering with high tech companies like Google and chip-maker Nvidia to enhance your driving experience and create “self-aware” vehicles. See also, The Journal, The cars of the near future will be seriously kitted out. Yahoo tells us self-driving cars will make up 9% of global auto sales in 2035 and Wards Auto writes about the rise of advanced driver assistance systems (such as blindspot warnings, emergency braking systems and lane-keeping assist). CBS Detroit informs us that the US state of Michigan has joined the growing list of jurisdictions where driverless cars are now legal. Automakers and upfitters can now test automated motor vehicles on Michigan roads. From SigularityHUB we find Ford has joined Tesla, Volvo, Nissan, BMW and Mercedes in the race to driverless cars.

Biofuels are more cost-effective than electric vehicles for fighting climate change according to Click Green. A new study from Element Energy finds increasing the use of biofuels could be a less expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than EVs in the near term. “The Role of Biofuels Beyond 2020” found biofuels offer a more cost effective way to reduce emissions over the next 17 years, with a fuel premium of £336 million in 2030 against the £1.2 billion it would cost in customer incentives to achieve the same CO2 savings with plug-in EVs. The continued development of biofuels will much depend on the ability of producers to further develop cellulosic varieties which have improved carbon reduction advantages over first generation biofuels.

The German city of Hamburg will be free of cars in its city centre by 2034. ecomento says Germany’s second largest city intends to remove all cars from the city’s center over the next two decades and put commuters on bicycles and public transportation. The city would add new thoroughfares specifically designed to give bikers and pedestrians direct access to the city center. These pathways would become the main arteries for traffic moving into and out of Hamburg. Of course, traditional public transport will also move people in and out of the city. The pathways would stretch from the city center to the outskirts and be unprecedented in urban transportation policy.

A German suburban development called Vauban has managed to eliminate cars on a small scale, and Copenhagen is working on a network of “bicycle superhighways” but no large city has tried to completely eliminate cars.

Electric vehicles depreciate faster than cars powered by internal combustion engines according to the Dallas News.  A report by Kelley Blue Book has found that electric vehicles tend to lose significantly more of their value in the first five years of ownership than conventional gasoline or diesel-powered cars do. A new Chevrolet Spark EV will only be worth 28% of its $28,300 sticker price after five years. That compares with a 40% residual value for the gasoline-powered Spark after five years. An electric-powered Ford Focus will be worth 20% of its $36,000 sticker price after five years, while the gasoline-powered version will retain 36% of its original price. An important aspect is the electric battery. An electric vehicle’s battery pack, which can weaken after 100,000 miles, can cost thousands of dollars to replace.

Alaska Dispatch says electric buses are getting tested in Finland’s cold climate. Several bus manufacture are testing their vehicles in freezing conditions in Espoo, Finland. Until recently, the cold has proved surprisingly challenging for electric vehicles. A bus that runs in 23 degrees Fahrenheit, for instance, may not work at 5 degrees. Recent developments to overome this include improvements to keeping the battery warm while charging as well as better bus heating.

ecomento discusses who has the advantage in cold weather: gasoline or EVs. (with infographic)

The same source tells us only 1,500 new electric and hybrids vehicles were sold in Sweden in 2013 out of a total of 270,000 new car sales in the Nordic country.

Inside EVs notes in 2013 17,600 EV units were sold in China, which included 14,604 pure electric vehicles and 3,038 plug-in hybrids. These figures compare with the 21,984,100 vehicles sold in the Asian country last year.  In 2012 China’s State Council set the target of selling half a million pure electrics by the end of 2015 and over 5 million by 2020. Most analysts now consider these goals unreachable.

The US state of North Carolina has joined a growing list of states that are taxing electric cars to pay for road transportation maintenance. Gas2 reports the North Carolina tax is $100 per year. Historically, taxes on petrol are used to build new road and bridges and to repair and maintain old ones. However, with more green cars on the road that do not use gasoline or diesel, governments are trying to find ways to collect taxes from those drivers. Currently the states of Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington tax electric vehicles, while Oregon is considering doing the same. The debate has generally been to choose between a flat fee per year versus a tax amount tied to the number of miles driven each year on state roads. See also, ecomento, Electric car drivers in North Carolina hit with $100 fee. Is your state next? and GasBuddy, More states scheme to tax hybrids to recover lost tax revenue.

HybridCars reveals the top 6 countries for plug-in EVs. Together, these countries account for over 353,000 commercial vehicles and passenger cars out of the total pure electric vehicles in the world or 93% of the plug-in electrified vehicles on the road. Here are the top 6 by volume of sales: United States (172,000), Japan (68,000), China (38,592), Netherlands (28,673), France (28,560), and Norway (20,486).




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