Driving the electric dream: the top 5 green vehicle trends on the horizon


In recent months, we’ve seen more challenges to the electric revolution, with many claiming it is not the eco panacea once claimed. Fleet media headlines have highlighted concerns over the scalability of electric vehicles, citing the inevitable bottleneck in charging infrastructure as a major challenge yet to be solved.

The future recyclability and heavy weight of EV batteries have also been called into question, along with their negative impact on overall vehicle weight, range and efficiency.

Undeterred, the sector is fighting back with an army of innovators and exiting new developments. Here are five of the most impressive.


Harnessing the power of the sun

Once the stars of science fiction only, solar powered cars have now transitioned from mere imagination to tangible innovation.

The latest boundary-pushing electric vehicles are equipped with photovoltaic cells that transform solar energy into electric power. Not only can the energy captured be then stored for use during even sunless periods, but any surplus can also be shared back to the grid or other vehicles.

The trailblazing Lightyear 0, for example, charges on-the-go and gains up to 70 kilometres of range per day from the sun alone. It marked a significant milestone in 2022 as the first solar car ready for commercial production.

Lighter building materials such as aluminium, a high energy density, low weight battery pack, residual heat capture and re-use, and a record-breaking aerodynamic teardrop design all combine to help the Lightyear 0 achieve the holy grail for electric car manufacturers – more range with less battery.


Lightening the load

With EVs weighing in at much more than their ICE equivalents (due to the heavy battery pack), the shift to electric has sharpened the focus on so-called vehicle ‘light-weighting’.

EV manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways in which they can find more lightweight alternatives for vehicle components – from the body, chassis and powertrain all the way to the interior upholstery.

Aluminium emerged first as a quick route to cutting the weight of battery enclosures (by two thirds compared to steel), but even lighter composite plastics are now allowing for precision molding to produce a thinner, lighter enclosure with fewer parts and superior sealing.

Light fibre-reinforced plastic polymers have also been developed to be flame retardant, allowing them to be used in and around an EV’s high-heat areas.

German polyurethane and polycarbonate manufacturer Covestro, for example, has developed lighter and more heat-conductive alternatives to thermal interface materials which also improve the overall performance of battery cells in terms of power and charging speed.

Developed jointly by a team of researchers at the University of Kiel and the Technical University of Hamburg, aerographite could be another game changer for batteries. Combining carbon fibre with graphene to create one of the lightest but strongest structural materials ever made, it allows for smaller, yet equally powerful batteries.


Squaring the circle

The Circular Cars Initiative (CCI) was recently established by the World Economic Forum and vehicle manufacturers to cut the automotive industry’s carbon footprint by embracing circularity and sustainability in both car use and manufacturing.  

Big brands have been quick to lead the vanguard in their use of innovative recycled materials, particularly those which simultaneously address the global issue of plastic waste.

Audi A3 seat covers are made from recycled plastic bottles. The Ford Bronco Sport SUV’s wiring harness clips come from discarded nylon fishing nets. And the new Range Rover floor mats feature recycled industrial and reclaimed ocean plastic.

Other carmakers are looking to find more sustainable alternatives to traditional upholstery materials. Volvo, for example, has committed to making its electric-vehicle range vegan-friendly by 2030. BMW meanwhile, has partnered with Desserto, a company that creates a biomaterial from cactus, to replace leather in seats and panels.

And the list goes on.


Better battery recycling

The EV market is already preparing for the influx of end-of-life batteries by prioritising full circle recycling. Here, valuable materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel are extracted to reduce the demand for virgin raw materials and minimise the environmental impact of mining.

In Norway, for example, Hydrovolt launched the continent’s largest EV battery recycling plant in 2022. Recycling around 25,000 EV batteries annually, the facility recovers metals, plastics, and black mass – a powder containing nickel, manganese, cobalt and lithium.

An innovative dust collection system captures valuable material typically lost in mechanical recycling steps. Recovered aluminium is reintroduced into commercial-grade aluminium products, supporting a circular economy.


Drag race

Aerodynamics appears to be the next frontier of EV design.

With smaller motors, and batteries that can be housed under rear seats or boot floors, EVs unlock fresh opportunities to combat air resistance and reduce drag.

European EV brands, such as Polestar and Mercedes-Benz, are leveraging aerodynamic design to improve efficiency. Polestar’s vehicles, for example, feature streamlined shapes and integrated components to minimise drag, while Mercedes-Benz’s EQ models use smooth underbody cladding and aerodynamically optimised wheels to enhance their range.

EVs can also achieve a sleeker profile due to the fact that they no longer need a conventional engine grille for cooling purposes. Tesla makes good use of this by designing its Model 3 to direct airflow under the body, giving it a drag coefficient of just 0.23 – one of the most aerodynamic cars ever made.


Reinventing the wheel

The humble tyre has witnessed a huge makeover in recent years as manufacturers invest in increasingly sophisticated engineering to reduce rolling and aerodynamic resistance.

Bridgestone’s Turanza Eco tyres, for example, use optimised tread patterns, larger diameters, higher inflation pressures, and a slender profile to contribute to reduced vehicle weight and decreased rolling resistance.

By reusing the tyre casing and applying new tread, retreading also extends the life of tyres reducing the need for new raw materials such as rubber and oil, which are both resource-intensive and environmentally costly to extract and process.



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