With soaring oil prices 2011 was the year the electric vehicle hit the mainstream
Oil prices have risen dramatically over the last decade, with unleaded petrol rising 160% in the UK and 212% in the US since 2001. This year alone the price of petrol increased 4% in the UK, whilst it rose 15% in the US (The AA). As a result consumers are seeking cheaper alternatives, and car manufacturers are developing sustainable solutions that future-proof the industry.Hybrid reaches a peakIn 2011, we saw green transportation reach new levels of awareness and solidification, with US sales of Toyota Prius surpassing three million in April, and the Prius has been the top-selling vehicle in Japan since 2009 (Japan Automobile Dealers Association). But they are no longer alone in offering a hybrid model, with all three major US manufacturers (Ford, GM and Chrysler) all producing electric-gas hybrids. Additionally, biofuels and electric vehicles (EV) have gained momentum in the consumer market this past year and show no signs of slowing down in 2012. Leading the way is the UK, Canada, and France with biofuel consumption growing by 3-12 times, and the EV market is expected to reach over $650 billion within the next decade (Good Garage Guide).This year we saw the launch of EV’s like GM’s Volt and the Nissan Leaf, with the latter eclipsing 15,000 sales worldwide in October. To put that number into context Toyota Prius sales reached 20,000 by the end of its second year in 1998, and has now become a globally popular vehicle, helping Toyota become the largest car maker in the world.A new infrastructureThe hurdle to EVs continuing their growth lies with a lack of infrastructure. Drivers of EVs currently suffer from ‘range anxiety’, worried about losing power between charging stations. But as a result we saw a number of new services introduced this year that help overcome this problem. PlugShare is an app that allows users to find charging stations in their vicinity, provided by fellow EV drivers. Businesses are also installing charging stations as an attraction and retention tool, with KFC opening an eco-friendly restaurant in Indianapolis and Burger King one in Waghausel, Germany. The KFC is sustainably designed with parking preferences for hybrid vehicles, while the Burger King hopes to attract ecoconscious consumers with the inclusion of parking for electric vehicles, including a solar-powered vehicle charging station.Major cities are also building new charging networks, Source London, launched in May, will create 1,300 publicly accessible points across the city by 2013 (growing from just 250 at the beginning of 2011), meaning there will be more charging points than petrol stations in London – giving Londoners the confidence that they can charge their vehicle easily and more conveniently with charge points on residential streets, in supermarkets, public car parks and at shopping and leisure centers.With governments, energy suppliers and businesses alike building new charging stations we can expect EVs to continue to grow in popularity in the years to come.The future of transportationWe are also witnessing other innovations that look to cut energy usage. Volvo and the European Commission are working together on an initiative known as Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE). The initiative is forging new ways to move products such as road trains (or truck platoons), that hope to decrease congestion and by so doing reduce energy usage to get from A to B. Initial testing took place in July and suggests the energy saving from this technology could be 20% on fuel costs. With 855 billion tonnes of goods transported in France, Germany, Italy and the UK by road alone in 2010 these truck platoons may become the norm.In 2012 we will witness the continued growth of EVs and the surrounding infrastructure. Additionally, we will certainly see a number of innovations from car manufacturers to cut energy usage and make driving easier. With fuel costs of distribution a major expense we will surely observe a number of innovations to heavy goods vehicles, mirroring the new technologies being incorporated in consumer vehicles.
How we travel is set to change dramatically
Coinciding with rising incomes and improved technologies, the last sixty years have seen the biggest advancements in mankind's ability to travel – from moon landings, to high speed rail, to electric cars.
Audi recently unveiled a new line of bicycles that feature monocoque frames made of hardwood and embody the luxury and performance expected from the premium marque. These frames are lightweight, shock-absorbent and biodegradable, demonstrating Audi's commitment to sustainable resources and green transportation.
The bumpy road to a future of electric cars
The global electric vehicle (EV) market is expected to reach over $650 billion within the next decade (Good Garage Guide), with Europe seeing the highest demand. However, a major barrier to uptake of the electric vehicle is the infrastructure needed to keep them going on the road – specifically, accessible charging stations. Due to the limited range of the batteries, a strong infrastructure is key to consumer uptake of EV's, but who provides this structure is proving to be a difficult issue.
Technology is enabling intelligent transportation
After decades of research, intelligence transportation systems (ITS) have started to emerge, and promise to radically change our road experience by increasing vehicle mobility, reducing travel time, providing infotainment services in the car, increasing safety and reducing fuel emission pollution, particularly that produced by idle urban traffic.
Using the new opportunity of space afforded by the A380, Korean Air has outfitted one with a physical duty-free shop. The store has a dedicated, full-time sales assistant, and will open throughout the flight – offering everything from perfumes to alcohol. The space was designed by L'Oreal, and replaces 13 seats in the aircraft, showing that the airline believes it will be a highly profitable part of their service to passengers.
Staying ahead of the competition with innovation
Flying is no longer about getting from A to B – after the rush for cheap, no-frills budget air flights of the last decade, consumers are now looking at making their journeys more comfortable and experiential. With the air travel industry being highly competitive, airlines are increasingly looking at innovative services and products to capture consumers and make them loyal to the brand.
How is in-flight entertainment reacting to our needs?
In flight entertainment is changing – consumers are demanding more variety and convenience from their airline. They want their devices to stay charged up, be in control of what media they consume and continue to stay connected, even when in the air.
Malaysia airlines have recently launched a new Facebook application, called MHbuddy, that allows travellers to search, book and pay for flights directly through Facebook.
The Scent of Departure is a new fragrance collection that captures the essence of a city in a bottle. Each perfume explores a city, giving a scented memento that evokes memories of trips to that location. As sense of smell is such a strong device for recollection, this is something that could help travellers remember their trips as much as photographs.
A vision of the future city filled with connectedness and smart embedding
Connectivity is no longer sci-fi or a utopian dream but is on our doorsteps, in our pockets, and even in the fibers of our clothing.
Thought-controlled technologies are highly aspirational for human-machine interactions. They present the potential to radically change our world in the distant future, and will potentially have multiple applications across different industries.
It is not only for physical health that we are being monitored. Volkswagen's new Passat monitors driver behavior closely, noting any erratic steering wheel movements and lane deviations. If this fatigue detection system detects that the driver is tiring it will alert via visual displays on the dashboard accompanied with a warning sound.
Fast, easy and convenient retail experiences
Retailers are ushering in a new world of self-service buy-and-pay applications, with consumers increasingly using self-checkout stations at grocery stores, paying for travel through airport check-in kiosks, renting movies from self-service DVD rental kiosks, and motorists are refueling their vehicles at pay-at-pump gas stations. Restaurant diners can even order from touch-screens at fast-food chains and use hand-held, pay-at-table devices at sit-down restaurants.
At the end of last year personal mobility was a large theme at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The morning commute of the future
The morning commute has changed considerably for the populations of many countries across the world in the last 50 years, in terms of the distance and the means of travel.
Sense the road, other road users, and even you
Sensors have been built into cars since the early seventies, with systems such as anti-lock brakes, traction control, and parking sensors. Over the last thirty years these sensors have become increasingly sophisticated, and over the next few years we can expect to see the number of sensors in cars rapidly multiply as new technologies increasingly help improve safety and the driving experience.
As the economy recovers pragmatic luxury will be the growing trend
As the economic climate begins to improve we will likely observe growth of luxury, indulgence, and brand names. It is unlikely that luxury will return to the same extent, but it is predicted that we will see smaller, regular indulgences in both mass and premium channels. Luxury is constantly being redefined and is now within reach of a much larger consumer segment.
Increasing demand for luxury in developing nations
With the future of the global economy still uncertain, more brands are looking to developing markets, specifically to the Chinese consumer – who might be able to lift the global economy out of recession.
McLaren’s eagerly awaited new road car, the MP4-12C was launched this month, with production due to begin next year. Costing about £150,000 McLaren hopes it will be seen as the motor industry’s equivalent of an expensive Swiss watch.
The growth of a new market segment - Eco prestige
We are witnessing an increased desire from upmarket consumers for green products as it becomes increasingly ‘cool’ to be seen as green – being green brings cachet.
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Last month FlyNano was officially launched. The single-seat flyers require minimal red-tape, and by definition is not a full aircraft and therefore does not require a pilot's license – all you need to learn are the basic principles of air flight.
BMW's Connected Drive Group already deliver vehicle systems to connect drivers with their cars and the environment. BMW keys can already be customized giving the driver their favourite radio stations, and rear-parking sensors were an early indicator of how sensors can be used to improve driver awareness.