Your Car May Not Be the Only EV in the Future

Electric planes, trains, and automobiles ahead

Key Takeaways

  • Companies are working on everything from electric blimps to electric and autonomous railway vehicles.
  • Unusual electric vehicles (EVs) could reduce pollution and be cheaper to maintain. 
  • An Israeli company is planning to soon test an electric-powered passenger plane.
The Winnebago electric RV.

Winnebago

Electric cars are so last year, and now manufacturers are turning to unusual means of battery-powered transportation. 

Winnebago industries just revealed its new electric recreational vehicle (RV) concept. Companies are working on everything from electric blimps to electric and autonomous railway vehicles. It's all part of an effort to reduce pollution through alternatives to gas-guzzling cars. 

"Conventional fuels that are used in these vehicles tend to produce greenhouse gasses and other pollutants that are harmful to human and environmental health," Ramteen Sioshansi, an engineering professor at Ohio State University and IEEE Fellow who studies electric vehicles, told Lifewire in an email interview. "It can be challenging to develop other liquid fuels that do not have these characteristics. Switching to electricity eliminates these emissions."

RVs Go Electric

The typical RV only gets around 6-10 miles per gallon which can quickly get pricey when fuel costs are high. But Winnebago claims to have a solution with its new electric RV. 

The Winnebago e-RV concept vehicle is an all-electric, zero-emission RV that incorporates an advanced drivetrain and battery package that also powers all the living area systems of the coach. It's got in-vehicle appliances designed to optimize energy usage and battery performance while maximizing comfort and functionality. There's even a 350-volt DC power for the water heater and roof-mounted air conditioner with heat pump and 110-volt AC for the induction cooktop. 

"Consumer demand is driving electric power applications across many fronts, and we believe RV consumers are poised to benefit from the enhanced features and usability that electrified and connected RV products will provide," said Ashis Bhattacharya, a Winnebago Industries senior vice president, said in the news release. 

Electric vehicles are attractive because they are so sustainable, both environmentally and economically, Andrey Bolshakov, the CEO of electric vehicle company Evocargo, told Lifewire in an email interview. His company is developing autonomous electric trucks. Remote operators will control the cargo haulers. 

Any electric vehicle—whether it's a plane, a truck, or a car—will put out zero emissions and be quieter than its conventional counterpart, Bolshakov claimed. 

"So a world full of electric vehicles will be cleaner and more comfortable," he said. "And since electric motors are so much simpler than internal combustion engines, they are more reliable to operate and cheaper to service."

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Manufacturers are slapping the word electric in front of practically every vehicle you can think of. For example, a group of former SpaceX engineers recently announced they are building self-powered electric freight train cars

Parallel Systems says its train cars are more energy-efficient than trucking. The vehicles have better aerodynamics, so moving one unit of freight by train takes one-quarter of the energy it takes to move it by truck. 

A concept of a futuristic street with people milling about and electric vehicles for transportation.

gremlin / Getty Images

"We founded Parallel to allow railroads to open new markets, increase infrastructure utilization, and improve service to accelerate freight decarbonization," said Matt Soule, the CEO of Parallel Systems in a news release. "Our business model is to give railroads the tools to convert some of the $700 billion U.S. trucking industry to rail. The Parallel system can also help alleviate the supply chain crisis by enabling low cost and regular movement of freight in and out of ports."

If trains can go electric, why not things that fly? That seems to be the thinking behind the company Hybrid Air Vehicles, which recently unveiled concepts of electric-powered passenger blimps. The Airlander 10 will be able to carry up to 100 passengers. An Israeli company is planning to soon test an electric-powered passenger plane

But challenges remain in making far-out EV concepts a reality. For electric trucks, the weight required of the batteries to pull heavy loads over long distances is testing the limits of current technology, said Michael Lenox, a professor at the University of Virginia and author of the book, "The Decarbonization Imperative: Transforming the Global Economy by 2050" in an email interview. He said the same hurdles of weight and battery life are hindering the dream of long-haul commercial flights. 

"Biofuels and hydrogen may end up being a better solution to decarbonize commercial air flights," Lenox added. 

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