The car of the future is the car of today
To reach the 2025 fuel-economy standards of
55 mpg 40 mpg, automakers will have to deploy new technology, but consumers are unlikely to notice, NRDC's Hwang said.
The path-breaking Prius was a status symbol for eco-conscious consumers, but increasingly hybrid engines are being built and marketed for the average car buyer. (Case in point: the Lexus CT 200h "darker side of green" marketing campaign.) And, Hwang said, the hybrid engine Toyota pioneered is getting a significant upgrade in some new models made by other carmakers, like Hyundai, VW and Nissan, that will utilize "parallel two-clutch systems." (The 2011 Hyundai Sonata hybrid, pictured here, uses P2 technology, as it's called.)
You have no idea what that means. Exactly the point. It means the transmissions will be "less complex, and therefore cheaper," in Hwang's words. Repeat: Cheaper.
"You won't think about it being a hybrid, I-want-to-be-super-cool car," Hwang said. "I'm just thinking, I'm buying a 55-mpg car and it just so happens it has electric batteries."
Who knows what advances in pure electric vehicles we'll see by 2025; the first hybrids hit the road about 10 years ago, and the first EVs will be about 15 years old in 2025. But whatever the changes in the engine, the consumer should see relatively minor changes to the exterior and driving experience, according to Edmunds.com's O'Dell.
"They may get more futuristic and styly. When you don't have a big huge transmission to deal with you can do things with the body shape that you can't do today," O'Dell said. "But we're not going to have hover crafts. We're probably not going to have big glass bubbles that float on maglev tracks."