Futurists have predicted the end of the internal combustion engine over the next few decades. But this type of engine is still found in most vehicles on Earth today.
Jose Bravo: In the next few decades, I don’t see it going away at all. I think it will still be very relevant and probably still the major source of mobility.
Jose Bravo is a Chief Scientist at Shell. He’s one of Shell’s experts on the fuels that power these engines. He spoke to EarthSky about future trends in fuels and mobility.
Jose Bravo: Better engines, better fuels, better lubricants, lighter cars, power recovery systems like the hybrids. I don’t think you will see a substantial change in the functionality of the car because that is something that society has dictated and gotten used to. But I think you will see a significant change in the efficiency and the amount of fuels that the cars require.
Bravo said to expect lower emissions from cars.
Jose Bravo: Reducing the consumption of fuel is the best way to manage emissions. And efficiency then becomes your number one priority.
Overall, Bravo said, we should expect tomorrow’s cars to be smaller – use less fuel and different kinds of fuels – and create fewer emissions.
Bravo pointed out that – as fuel and vehicle efficiency increases – demand for vehicles around the world is also increasing.
Jose Bravo: Even though efficiency is going to improve on a global basis, the demand curve is probably going to go up, just because of the numbers of vehicles and the development of nations that don’t yet have very many vehicles. So the gains in efficiency will give you the room at least to deal with that extra demand.
He said emissions are on everyone’s mind.
Jose Bravo: Everybody is concerned that fuels need to be cleaner. They’re already a lot cleaner than they used to be, but I think there are still some other things that can happen in the future that make the fuels even cleaner – all the way to the use of blended components of renewable sources like biodiesel or bioethanol. You have the whole area of helping the vehicles be more efficient by better lubrication – increasing the efficiency the car by reduced friction.
He pointed out that new materials will make cars of the future more efficient with respect to fuel.
Jose Bravo: New materials are going to be a key contributor to the higher efficiency of cars, particularly on the weight side. If you can reduce weight with materials – keep the car safe but make it lighter – that’s a great gain.
This podcast was made possible in part by Shell – encouraging dialog on the energy challenge.
Jorge Salazar has conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists in the process of creating science content for EarthSky. He also helps host the 90-second EarthSky podcasts. Jorge has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For EarthSky, he has explored subjects as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. His penetrating research style, poetic writing, and ability to track down and speak with Nobel prize-winning laureates, all make him a huge asset to EarthSky.