We’re banning petrol & diesel cars from 2040. Better be ready!
Movies are plagued with inaccuracies, errors and fantastical ideas of what might be to come. Futuristic and sci-fi genres invite us to imagine how humanity may progress (often following an extreme utopian or dystopian path). Each of these paths commonly involves the evolution of technology at its core – characters populate a future version of the world where technology is so advanced that it is simply an extension of real life, or alternatively a world where technology has been brought back-to-basics, and the Earth’s inhabitants are bartering for basic essentials to survive.
Doug Liman’s 2014 epic The Edge of Tomorrow is no different. Set in 2020, the human race battles in an attempt to survive against a hoard of invading aliens (yada yada)… the plot isn’t really that important in the context of this blog. Whilst killer aliens resembling an adult version of a spinning top are probably a little far fetched, the sense of reality has also been reinforced – for example, we can see quite clearly in the film that Heathrow airport is still over-crowded (didn’t see a third runway actually…)
Soldiers in this particular film fight with what should be an added technological advantage – electric-powered exoskeletons – which turn even the most weedy cannon fodder into a super-human mean machine. But the key to this is that word – electric. No matter how many times I watch Tom Cruise attempt to defeat his adversaries in an almost endless adult version of Groundhog Day, I cannot help but think – how far has this fictional future really come in the advancement of battery technology?
Mr Cruise’s character realises a problem (a little too far into his ordeal, to be completely honest) – in that the single battery unit he’s been given to power his suit doesn’t get him too far. OK, so clearly Elon Musk’s mad genius has enabled a significant reduction in the size of battery storage in this near-term future, but the issue plaguing the minds of many petrol heads and long-range commuters still bugs me: electric vehicles (or exoskeletons, I might add) have limited range.
Following this week’s announcement of a major shake-up in the motoring industry, Michael Gove presses ahead with plans to remove petrol and diesel cars from manufacture in the UK by 2040. The door of incentive creaks open a little bit more for car designers, lithium ion technology fanatics and infrastructure investment funds. Environmentalists both praise the decision, but at the same time grow tireless over what some call too little, too late as our children breathe in the fumes on the streets of London.
Evolving our world towards plug-in vehicles is, clearly, a huge challenge. According to the National Grid, the post-rush-hour plug in session could cause a 50% increase in demand for electricity, requiring the equivalent of 10 x Hinkley Points. Battery technology, whilst improving, provides limited range for commuters, sweating at the thought of their children being forced to rely on the public transport system. Innovative solutions for charging such as lamp-post plugs for those parking their cars in cramped streets will be a necessity rather than a novel idea.
But enough about the Government, and back to the world of blood sucking monsters (ho ho ho), and Mr Cruise realises that short range is a big issue when the world’s continued existence is at stake. After a few hundred attempts, he eventually decides to take an extra battery. Ultimately, this still isn’t enough of a help, and in a similar (potential) fashion to the future commuter, he dumps his exoskeleton half way to his destination and decides to rely on a fossil-fuel powered helicopter to finish the job. Well, after all, nobody’s banning those – yet.
But seriously. I for one am excited about watching the evolution of instant-torque electric cars, particularly when driven (excuse the pun) at least in some way by legislation. Let’s just hope we can pack an extra battery or two.