The answer is “I don’t know yet, but I can see a trend”. You see, a couple of days ago I was just thinking about how important the “how many miles per gallon?” question is these days. Ads and commercials drive the consumer’s attention to this performance indicator more than ever before, because manufacturers understand that car efficiency translates into money in the eyes of the consumer. Even when the vehicle’s intended purpose goes beyond mere transportation, such as with utility trucks and luxury cars, I have yet to find an ad that does not include that “efficiency note” next to the price tag. I may be stating the obvious when saying that fewer miles per gallon means less money in my pocket, but this particular line item has become so important for many people that the decision on selecting the right car is no longer a matter of engine power, features or design but a matter of size, dependability and most importantly efficiency. In today’s economy people understand that in the long term, efficiency equals savings, especially when gas prices have become so volatile. Moreover, for many of us, the MPG out weights the HP or RPM when selecting a new car these days. I’m sure this wasn’t the case decades ago when the common conception was “the bigger the engine, the better the car.”

Car manufacturers understand this so well that they have reached a point where increasing the efficiency of a combustion engine is not enough to overrun competitors anymore, and they have pushed their R&D departments to switch to alternate technologies and implement them into their newer models. Whereas many people may not see it this way, I believe this switch is not a minor tweak but a major overhaul to their manufacturing processes and their supply chain overall instead. We are witnesses of the beginning of a major revolution in the development and design of the automotive industry. In a similar fashion to what steam power represented to the transportation industry late in the 18th century, new electric powered vehicles have the potential to not only affect the consumer’s behavior but redesign economies of scale as well. Ultimately, if these new designs continue to observe the same success they have over the last five years, several market commodities may be affected, from fossil fuels used to power internal combustion engines to metals used to create Lithium-ion, NiCd or NiMh rechargeable batteries of larger capacity.

Over the past years, this transition has been relatively smooth, steady and slow enough so that markets have had a good chance to properly target it to consumers and consumers have been able to absorb and embrace the technology quite well. The first approach to this technology was provided by the hybrid model that combined a small electric motor with a larger combustion engine (like the one on the popular Toyota Prius) that proposed relying on the electric system when the car was stopped or moving at a slow pace to reduce the use of the regular fuel engine and therefore maximizing MPG, this technology later served as the prequel to the newer and current design which introduced a second generation of hybrids mainly powered by electricity and backed up by a small gasoline engine that powers the battery not the wheels (which is exactly what the Chevy Volt is all about).

So what comes next? – A vehicle that needs no gasoline and can perform in the same way as any other medium size sedan perhaps? Well, that may be the counterintuitive response, but it may take many more years until we see something like that. However, the trending path is clear now and the market is responding well, while giving other commodities sufficient room to adapt and transition to alternative uses and allowing companies to naturally evolve into the industry.

In addition to this, many of these new vehicle designs will also promote business development in other areas. Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) companies all over the world will compete for a piece of the market and to become the source and supply of high-tech rechargeable batteries for car manufacturers, it already being the case that several battery assembly plants have been designed and some have initiated operations many of them to the benefit of GM.

Markets obey the needs and demands of the consumers, and the reality is that fossil fuels are less abundant and getting more expensive every year (I firmly believe that will be the overall trend in coming decades). In addition, there is a spike in interest by today’s generation on green initiatives and the prioritization of eco-consciousness on everything that’s new (recyclability, use of renewable sources or energy, lower ecological toll and impact, etc.) which has been fed by the overall natural and organic evolution of our technology to be focused on making things more user friendly, practical and versatile.

So what does the Chevy Volt have to offer to this trend? As a concept, the answer is simple — it is the confirmation of that trend, a re-assurance that technology has taken a next step and a clear indication that it will take many more steps toward maximizing vehicle efficiency. Consumer markets have clearly embraced the concept of cleaner technology; now it is just a matter of who will offer it more competitively in the coming years. As a product, the Chevrolet Volt is radically innovative, practical, ecofriendly and technologically sophisticated and on top of it all, has great design. A great part of the perception of a car’s efficiency is really put to the test by this vehicle. The car has an equivalent of 161 horsepower engine and capable of going from 0 – 60mph in just over 8 seconds, with the ability to reach a test-track speed of 100mph. The Volt can be charged with a conventional 120V home outlet and go up to 35 miles on a full charge and 375 miles with a tank of gas, and for those App-junkies out there, you can monitor the charge of the battery and verify if your car is plugged for charge with your iPhone or Droid.

With all this said, answering the question of “what comes next” really becomes the reflection of what’s happening today. Toyota, GM, Nissan, Ford, etc. have realized there is a new market with different needs and demands; hybrid vehicles are just a small piece of the complex puzzle of consumer markets. How versatile and ever changing the corporations have become and how adaptable, ambitious and ever demanding the markets have grown are the source of these technological improvements and the main drivers of the future economies. Let’s think about other topics that are governed by the same rules for a second now: like those new genetically modified crops that produce twice the amount of food than a regular crop, or the cutting edge cloud technology, or the new trends on currency and monetary unions, or the highly intricate digital money markets like the bitcoin, or the Mars Exploration Rover Mission, or the thousands and thousands of new ideas that make our daily lives simultaneously simpler and more complex every day , these events cause me to actually start wondering, “What Comes Next?...
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Diego De la Garza

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