Segment 2 of the MBD CIAS Awards 2017 - the third post of the series - is primarily dedicated to future technology. What's there to look forward to in the future? We'll start with the most obvious general trends, and work towards the more obscure, but exceptionally exciting technologies of the 2017 Canadian International Auto Show.
We start with a glaringly obvious trend - one which we can't possibly skip. Carbon fiber is everywhere. It festoons everything from the SUVs to the hot hatches, exotics and race cars. It seemed like the only cars that didn't have some form of carbon fiber were the "budget race cars" - where budget regulations matter a lot more than shaving a few tenths of a kilogram per inch.
As a car enthusiast, I love the presence of carbon fiber, but, when I was growing up, I had long considered carbon fiber to be a bit of a myth - far too expensive to be worthy of the average human. But, with an increase in demand, the production processes are becoming increasingly efficient, meaning that the interwoven locks of the sixth element should continue to become more and more accessible. In fact, entire cars are being made from the material now. Here's a gallery slideshow of cars made entirely from carbon fibre - using a carbon fibre monocoque, that is.
The carbon fibre is everywhere. Those 5 photos in the slideshow, again, only represent cars made entirely out of the space age material. The list of cars merely just using carbon fiber partially? It's much, much longer; have another slideshow!
And, carbon fibre is okay. But, it seems like carbon or kevlar fibre weaves are being used in place of more traditional methods of weight reduction, like reducing the size or complexity of cars. Cars like the Subaru Viziv Hybrid concept were simply too big. No amount of carbon fibre will help reduce the weight of a car that big. The effort of even bothering to put carbon fibre on such a car in the first place seems like a waste. I'm not surprised, that I didn't see carbon fibre on it, for that exact reason - cars are simply getting too big. The gradually sudden onslaught of carbon fibre - the one we predicted, and imagined, but didn't believe was coming - these years seems to be coming from a complaint that the cars of the average enthusiasts are getting too heavy. Fighting a problem with a band-aid solution instead of really fighting the cause was a big problem. That's one of the things that really makes the Alfa Romeo 4C such a classic of the CIAS 2017... If we were to have an award for best implementation of carbon fibre, it'd have to be the Alfa Romeo 4C. You would never know nor suspect that the entire car is actually made from carbon fibre from merely looking at it. It doesn't use the carbon fibre to hide its blemishing size, forever scarred by its own dimensions, but rather remains nimble and agile by being small, and sorta happens to be made out of carbon fibre. The simple concept of exaggerated weight reduction to such an extreme of the Alfa Romeo 4C really strikes well into the heart of the automotive status quo; just the way an Alfa Romeo should. It's an emotional question, asking "why do you use carbon fibre to barely reduce the weight of a very large, heavy vehicle by a small percentage, when you can drastically reduce the weight (as a percentage of the chassis weight) of a small, light vehicle by a huge percentage. The result is a desirable car - it's exactly what it should be. It's a lightweight, nimble, agile car with modern amenities, luxuries, and still a stiff frame and anything else you could need. Honourary award winner of an award we didn't even plan to give out? Way to go, Alfa Romeo 4C!
This might be the absolutely most utterly boring way to shift gears in a car, but, for the average consumer who sees a car as nothing more than mere transportation, this clever little idea here - which removes the necessity of any shift lever - does certainly make the Nissan Leaf feel more spacious.
Given that little rant about how the Alfa Romeo 4C is a huge step forward in the evolution of the car, by going back to basics on its size, I would be hypocritical not to mention the Nissan Leaf's gear selector. This well-designed tool gives back a surprisingly noticeable amount of cabin space back to the driver and passengers of the car. This clever packaging [not specifically limited to the gear selector, but certainly including it] makes the Nissan Leaf - a reasonably small-to-mid sized car by today's proportions - feel larger than it is on the inside. We love manual transmissions, but, if you're going to have a direct drive electric gearbox, this is how to package it. Other car manufacturers, take note. P.S., put flappy paddles on more automatic cars that you don't offer with manual, and please continue to offer manual on at least most of your offerings. The commuters want these tidy little shift levers, and that's fine, but the manual transmission needs to stay around, too.
The charge time this brand of Nissan Leaf charger offers is impressive. At 480V, this can fully charge the Nissan Leaf in about 4 hours. The idea of making longer journeys - and the range anxiety associated with it - is nowhere near as terrifying with it. The problem? You can't take it with you to your destination. Sure, you can quick-charge at home or at work, where you would have one of these installed, but, the idea of going from Windsor to Ottawa is now fairly terrifying in an electric car. A single day journey could now be several days, given the range and the charge time of the average charger. It's great to see chargers moving forward, but the availability of these quick chargers is not cool.
The Nissan Leaf does have some subtly cool features and the entire package comes together as a striking idea. This car lays the groundwork for what the average person's EV will be like. If Tesla and Fisker Karma set the standard of the jet-set EVs, the Nissan Leaf is the Tesla of the average person.
The Nissan Leaf was definitely a top consideration, given its powertrain's environmentally friendly approach to motoring for the average people. The shape and design of the headlight is intentional to produce an aerodynamic flow that lowers its coefficient of drag. Clever. And with the blue accents inside the headlight, it looks good. It's a tough decision.
Photos simply cannot do it justice. The lighting was pretty cool on the Subaru VIZIV Hybrid concept, if not slightly jarring due to its futuristic design. It looked ahead of its time in a very polarizing way. Opinions were split. Whether Subaru could use these lighting innovations to improve safety or not remains to be seen, but it's worth looking at.
What do you get, when you mix a car that senses your driving style, with a built in wi-fi connection and a clever designer and engineering team who value the safety of their roads? Several cars from the Chevrolet lineup actually give monthly reports about the safety of that month's driving. Bad drivers beware, your habits are being noted by the car, and the car will give you suggestions to make your drive safer. Safety is definitely a paramount concern. Congrats, GM!