According to recent estimates, the number of cars in circulation worldwide could more than double within the next forty years, so a serious commitment to environmental issues is vital to prevent harmful emissions from spiralling out of control. Carmakers have significantly stepped up their efforts in this field, proposing “ecological” solutions that will be available in the short to mid term.

The recent Frankfurt motor show confirmed this, with all the prototypes exhibited either conceived for or already equipped with alternative powertrains to the conventional internal combustion engine, offering reduced fuel consumption and emissions. While there were plenty of hybrid and dual fuel solutions, most of the attention was focused on electric power which, with lithium ion batteries, is finally beginning to overcome its greatest hurdle: range.

It was also interesting to note how this major evolutionary breakthrough has been put to use. For example, some manufacturers installed electric powertrains in vehicles originally conceived for an internal combustion engine, to offer the user a reassuring solution, with new technology inside a familiar looking package. Examples of this are the electric Hyundai i10, Mini E and, to a lesser degree, the Smart fortwo electric drive – which was actually originally conceived to be offered as an electric variant alongside the conventional internal combustion versions.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 179

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