Auto shows are great for getting a glimpse into the future of the car market but, unfortunately, the coolest, most imaginative, most innovative concepts and designs often remain on the drawing board. Indeed, the automotive industry is a tough business and there’s only a small segment of the market willing or able to splurge on limited-production ultra-luxury cars. So, here are six futuristic concept cars we wish we could buy right now.
The ultimate litmus test for whether or not you’re living in the future is whether or not there are flying cars zipping through the skies. Well, here’s some good news: We’re getting really close. The TF-X from Terrafugia (pictured) will be a street legal plug-in hybrid car that has collapsible wings, retractable propellers, and is capable of driving and flying on its own in the event of an emergency.
Let’s face it: Electric cars are the future. There will, inevitably, be a time in which fossil fuels are too expensive and precious to waste on grocery store runs. In the meantime, however, super-efficient gas-powered vehicles will be a trend. And this is one trend that can’t catch on soon enough.
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Sure, steampunk has become a popular aesthetic amongst sci-fi aficionados, but could steam-powered cars really play a role in the future of transportation? It’s a long shot, but in a future where efficiency and fuel conservation are primary concerns, odd alternatives like steam could play a role.
Smartphone on Wheels
Increasingly, car companies are working to close the gap between the technology on the road and the technology in our pockets—but they still have a long way to go. Concepts like the Toyota Fun-Vii, however, show a glimmer of that interactive, intelligent, driving future.
Everyone loves the growl of a powerful super car, but we all have to admit that one design does not suit every application. Life in a city, or habitual short-trip driving demands a very different vehicle than, certainly, the race track. This growing use case presents different requirements, though, than even the majority of sedans. Microcars are a smart solution to these real-world problems.
If you took an Airbus A380, asked Al Gore to work on it and Michael Bay to show us the result, you might end up with the Sky Whale. Despite its large capacity, this conceptual aircraft boasts sleek features that include a solar roof and an unusual engine system.
Aviation enthusiast and Barcelona-based designer Oscar Viñals came up with the Sky Whale as a futuristic vision for greener air travel. According to his design description, he combined existing technology with concepts that don’t exist yet in order to maximize performance while minimizing the environmental impact. His design could reduce both air and noise pollution.
Sky Whale would seat 755 passengers on three floors. For comparison, an A380 can be configured to seat 853. But most striking is Viñals’ plan to power the aircraft. He calls for “a unique, hybrid turbo-electric propulsion system” consisting of four oversize electric-fuel engines that can each rotate up to 45 degrees for takeoff and landing. We’re clearly not there yet, but Viñals anticipates significant advances in battery technology.
In addition, Sky Whale’s design calls for a ceiling structure containing micro-solar cells arranged in a hexagonal pattern to help power passengers’ electronics and give the engines a boost, Dvice’s Colin Druce-McFadden pointed out. Other cool elements: active wings, carbon nanotubes, self-healing skin and virtual reality windows with adaptable opacity similar to these.
There are people who will look at Viñals’ beautiful design and scoff. They’re going to point to all the impossibilities, the giant leaps that haven’t been attempted yet. The airline industry isn’t known for moving quickly to change anything, either. But air travel is all about overcoming daunting challenges. Given our past, it’s worth listening to what this whale is saying about the future.
Image: A rendering of the giant conceptual Sky Whale aircraft. Credit: Oscar Viñals