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2017’s Most innovative Vehicles and Technologies

2017 Automotive Technology Is Changing

One of the most exciting things to an automotive enthusiast is taking a look at the innovative future technology of the industry. Every year, automakers try to go above and beyond what they (and their competitors) have done before in terms of functionality, safety, and performance. While the industry isn’t quite as quick to fully adopt new tech like phones, computers and other electronics, it seems that with every passing year even the newest vehicles can feel instantly outdated.

The following list examines a few of the technologies and advancements we can look forward to in 2017 (and slightly beyond). So continue on to discover what new vehicles will be attempting to obliterate the competition and what technology we may see in every car in the near future.

 

Ford GT

The Ford GT isn’t just an upgrade over the previous version, it’s an evolution. Scrapping the iconic V-8 for a twin-turbo V-6 and sculpting the body to be as aerodynamic as possible was just the start. While some of the visual cues of the original LeMans winning GT40s remain, the 2017 Ford GT is in a completely different realm from the original.

Although the body, engine, and transmission of the 2017 Ford GT are impressive in their own right; it’s the suspension that makes it unique enough for this list. With the impressive flow-through aerodynamics of the GT, Ford had to look back in time for a suspension system that could combine customization of ride heights without taking up unnecessary space. Their answer ended up being a new style of torsion bar setup instead of coil overs.

While the technology is new and patents are still in process, Road & Track had a chance to talk to Ford and get some details after a ride in a pre-production GT. They describe it as a set of two springs that work in series. While they are both engaged and relaxed, the total spring length is twice as long and has half the spring rate of a single spring. However, if “track” or “Vmax” mode is engaged, the system eliminates one spring entirely to lower the car and provide a higher spring rate.

While the idea is relatively simple, it’s a unique fix for a problem of nearly every supercar; how to make a car a track monster while maintaining comfort and drive-ability on the street. Once Ford’s patents are approved, we will have more details on exactly how this old-school/new-school tech works. For now it will remain on the list as a great way of revamping an old system to fit in today’s technology driven world.

 

Freevalve

If you are a car guy/girl then you know that Koenigsegg is near the pinnacle of hypercar superiority. Each car they make is groundbreaking in its own right with the Agera, Regera, and One:1 coming to mind immediately. And while Koenigsegg’s cars are phenomenally fast and powerful, their creator Christian Von Koenigsegg has a few side projects that may reshape the way gearheads look at the combustion engine altogether.

The one technology that personally draws my attention and amazement (besides the direct-drive transmissionless system in the Regera) is Freevalve. Initially debuted at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2016, Freevalve completely eliminates the need for a camshaft. Instead, it uses pneumatic-hydraulic-electronic actuators to control valve operation. By using computers and actuators, the entire combustion cycle and be regulated in each cylinder independently. What this allows is for a higher compression and cleaner burn resulting in significantly more power and torque, increased fuel economy, and decreasing emissions. And without the need for a camshaft, several other parts of the top end of an engine can be nixed as well which decreases size and weight of the entire system.

Currently, Freevalve is working with the Chinese manufacturer Quros with the first prototype engine appearing in the Quros 3 hatchback at the Guangzhou Autoshow in November. Adding the Freevalve system to the existing 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder resulted in 230hp and 320Nm of torque which is up considerably from the original 160hp and 240Nm. Even with the power increase, there was still a 15% decrease in fuel consumption. While testing in the Quros will be ongoing throughout 2017, I look forward to further developments of this technology. Hopefully we will see it in a full production car in the near future.

 

nanoFlowcell

This is a bit of an oddball. We know most companies are working towards perfecting the use of lithium-ion batteries for use in electric or hybrid car designs. The Chinese company, nanoFlowcell however, is taking the electric car to a new dimension. Instead of using mass amounts of lithium batteries, they are flowing liquids through a power cell. Once the liquids are used up, they can be refilled just as easily as adding gas.

Two oppositely charged ionic liquids are pumped into the system and used as fuel. These liquids go travel through the flow cell acting similarly to a regular battery which uses the positive cathode and negative anode to transfer ions back and forth, producing energy. The big difference here is the ionic liquids are said to not be harmful like lithium can be. Additionally, the only output from the electrochemical process is ionized water “dust” as nanoFlowcell’s video states.

This means we get an electrically powered vehicle without the use of harmful lithium batteries and no exhaust. Adding to this, the ionic fluids are supposedly inexpensive, non-toxic, non-flammable, and have an infinite shelf life. When this technology was put into a car, the Quant FE and Quant E were born each claiming to produce near or above 1,000hp and around 2,100 lb-ft of torque.  The Quant E has a stated top speed of 236 mph and a 0-60 time of just 2.8 seconds.

This is all very impressive stuff, and has apparently been approved and (apparently) running on the autobahn since 2014. However, I haven’t heard of any recently developments. So for now it’s hard to not take this with a grain of salt. That being said, if the technology is viable and can travel 500 miles on a single without using lithium, it will definitely be something to look out for.

 

Faraday Future

When it comes to the electric car market there is no name more well-known than Tesla. From the original roadster to their complete lineup with a sedan, crossover and soon-to-be daily electric car for the masses, they have the market cornered. But with all that attention comes plenty of new-comers eager to take the crown. The latest, and potentially most viable competitor, is the Chinese-backed, Silicon Valley startup Faraday Future.

Faraday Future made their presence known last year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas with the wild FFZERO1 concept. Touting a sub 3 second 0-60, over 1000 horsepower and a top speed over 200 mph it was definitely worthy of the supercar badge. But many thought this hurried concept was nothing more than a show and felt Faraday Future’s goal of building a brand to take down Tesla was little more than just smoke and mirrors.

Recently at the 2017 CES, Faraday Future set out to drown out the haters by revealing the concept for their first production vehicle, the FF 91. Touting faster acceleration, higher range, and more autonomy than Tesla it appears we may have a legitimate contender to take on the electric market. That being said, the FF 91 failed to perform parking duty on stage, their factory hasn’t been finished yet, and the company seems to be full of plenty of show with few real details to share. BUT, if Faraday Future can pull it off, the world may see a real deal Tesla competitor in the next year or two.

 

Headlights

Headlight design and use varies greatly between manufacturers. Some use traditional halogen bulbs while others prefer Xenon or LED technology. This gives a lot of variation in how users see the road and in the case of that annoying blue Xenon glow; how other drivers see cars coming at them. Additionally, these varying technologies don’t even have set standards for how far their light must reach ahead of the vehicle and this leads to poor visibility at night and the potential for more accidents.

With this in mind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performed its first study of vehicle headlamps about midway through 2016. Needless to say, the results were appalling with only one vehicle out of 31 cars to receive a “good” rating; the Toyota Prius. While this may seem like a win for the Prius, this was only the case when it had the optional LED lights with high-beam assist package installed which is an extra cost for the consumer.

Thankfully, it seems manufacturers are starting to catch on to the importance of good headlights. For example, some of the latest high end cars combine laser high-beams and LED lighting to create a brilliant view of the road at night. The BMW i8 was the first to offer this in Europe in 2014 and debuted it stateside last year. Most recently, the 2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus Exclusive Edition was approved to use the laser technology in the US.

 

While this is great news, Mercedes is moving beyond lasers to do more than just illuminate the road. With LEDs and 1 million “micro-mirrors” it is said they have such clarity it could project a movie if it wanted to. Instead though, Mercedes will be able to control where the light goes and how it is displayed. For example, it could display anything from directional arrows to crosswalks to provide turn by turn directions or guidance for pedestrians. Additionally, the new headlights could fully illuminate the road for the driver without blinding oncoming traffic. It seems though this is still in testing, but may become viable within the next few years.

In conclusion, us gearheads have a lot to look forward to in the coming year(s). From revamped technology to completely new cars, brands, and revolutionary power there will be no shortage of surprises to come. This list is only the beginning for 2017 and beyond. I know I can’t wait to see what amazing equipment will be rolled out this year!

 

Categories: List Articles

Eric Climer
About Eric Climer

I haven't always been a car fan, but if you ask my wife I never shutup about them. I'm always eager to see what is new while appreciating and admiring the classics. As with every car lover, I dream of having a garage larger than the house!