It's a brave new world for the future of autos: Electric cars will finally take off and drive themselves -- but don't say good-bye quite yet to fossil fuels.
By Anne VanderMey, reporter
FORTUNE -- While we're not going to see flying cars for a long, long while, the global automobile industry is indeed undergoing an epic transformation. The rising price of gas, stricter mileage requirements, and concerns about global warming are causing carmakers to rethink how we travel. In the U.S. a newly found 70-year supply of natural gas could mean more trucks powered by this plentiful fuel. Natural gas can also drive power plants, providing cleaner juice for all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. And don't count out the highly efficient combustion engine. Here's a look at where we're headed and how we'll get there.
For more on the Wheels of Tomorrow, click on the links below
This story is from the April 9, 2012 issue of Fortune.
FORTUNE -- In March, the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would have provided billions of dollars in tax credits to boost deployment of natural-gas-powered vehicles. That won't stop billionaire energy magnate T. Boone Pickens, who championed the plan. He still believes natural gas is the best way to help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil. Some 112,000 natural-gas vehicles -- mostly trucks and buses -- already occupy MOREApr 2, 2012 5:00 AM ET
FORTUNE -- Despite rising gas prices, all-electric cars haven't sold as well as manufacturers had hoped. Range anxiety, a scarcity of charging stations, and the high cost of lithium-ion batteries have turned off many consumers. Says Mike Omotoso, a senior manager at the research firm LMC Automotive: "When families look at the big picture, gas-powered cars are still a lot cheaper than electric ones."
But the landscape is changing. The number MOREApr 2, 2012 5:00 AM ET
FORTUNE -- The global auto market is huge -- some 1 billion vehicles ply the roads today. Electrics and hybrids constitute only a small fraction of the total, and it will be decades -- if ever -- before they become a dominant technology. In the meantime, engineers are boosting the efficiency of gasoline and diesel engines to meet increasingly strict mileage standards. In the U.S. an automaker's fleet must average MOREApr 2, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Both of the green autos have been on the market for almost a year now, but only one will stay on the road.
By Alex Taylor III, senior-editor-at-large
FORTUNE -- Americans love a rivalry, whether it is Dunkin' Donuts vs. Starbucks, or the Yankees vs. the Red Sox. So it is not surprising that the simultaneous launch of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf late last year built anticipation for a MORESep 15, 2011 5:00 AM ET
By Brian Dumaine, assistant managing editor
Chinese automakers have yet to crack the American market -- the quality and safety of their gasoline cars (never mind their electrics) don't pass muster in the U.S. One American entrepreneur, however, sees an opportunity to cash in on China's expertise in lithium-ion batteries and cheap manufacturing. Kevin Czinger, the CEO of startup Coda Automotive and a former VC and Goldman Sachs (GS) banker, has MOREOct 19, 2010 3:00 AM ET
By Brian Dumaine, assistant managing editor
Faced with scarce oil supplies and polluted cities, Beijing has ordered its booming auto industry to make a great leap forward in technology.
If you want to get a sense of just how car-crazy China is today, visit Chengdu, a booming city of 5.3 million in the southwestern part of the country. On a crisp Saturday recently, tens of thousands of eager new auto MOREOct 19, 2010 3:00 AM ET
The electric car is finally about to move from idea to reality. Currently there are barely more than 2,000 on the road in the world's two largest car markets (China and the U.S.) combined. But that number is about to soar. Beijing has demanded that its fast-growing auto industry put at least 5 million all-electric cars on the road by 2020. Will the U.S. keep up?Oct 19, 2010 3:00 AM ET
Hybrid vehicles are quiet ... a little too quiet for some. That's why there's a plan to give them a little volume.
When hybrid cars first appeared on the scene, manufacturers touted their silent engines. But soon it was clear that cyclists and pedestrians -- especially the visually impaired -- relied on car sounds to help them navigate streets and intersections. So U.S. lawmakers are mulling the automotive equivalent of adding MOREJul 1, 2010 11:12 AM ET
Electrical aeronautics promises to revolutionize aircraft design.
GM has earned high praise this summer – and deservedly so – for its announcement that the forthcoming Chevy Volt electric car will get as much as much as 230 miles per gallon for in-town driving.
But while Detroit was stealing headlines on the ground, a little-known Chinese company was doing something even more incredible in the skies.Jeffrey M. O'Brien - Aug 24, 2009 6:59 AM ET
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