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Future Drive


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So I've been thinking about the future of the car.

Assuming that electric cars are the future... or at least some sort of hybrid drivetrain, and that motors, engines, batterys/capacitors will continue to shrink, I was thinking that the current debate of FWD vs. RWD will change radically.

FWD's biggest selling point is that the weight of the engine is over the drive wheels. And for the car makers, its a packaging benefit. Since electrics tend to put the batterys in the center of the car, and there are many prototypes of electric motors that are located in the wheels of the car, negating the need for a large motor in the front of the car, the weight is actually shifting midship... so you are losing the public's perceived benefit of FWD.

Adding to the change will be the overhaul of the traditional car format... with car's shrinking in size, and trunks disappearing, I imagine that the front of the car needs to be utilized as a trunk... you can't really get rid of the front without sacraficing crash protection.

I imagine hybrids will only need (or be permitted by the EPA) a small engine, directly coupled to the electric system, with no transmission needed... these engines may be small enough to fit under the passengers, as well.

Of course, immediately, people are going to chime in about 4WD or AWD electric vehicles, but since these motors are expensive, there will always be the bulk of cars on the road that do not power all of the wheels... and in the future, maybe not even more than one wheel in the most inexpensive cars.

So, I ask... in the future, will RWD make a comeback because it makes more sense from a driving dynamics perspective or will the car makers continue to use the idea of FWD being better to continue the misrepresentation they have used for the last 25 years?


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Depends who you ask. Even then, their answers will change based on the reasoning.

With those who have used RWD forever without stopping, they'll see no reason to convert to FWD. With companies who have always been FWD only or who have done away with RWD for whatever reason, they'll have to analyze whether or not the cost justifies the benefit.

Personally, I think that both will persist. I'm betting that RWD will pick up in the future, however.

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FWD is pretty intrinsically more controllable for inexperienced/unskilled drivers. Weight over the front wheels is only part of it. However, stability control systems and such should help tremendously with keeping control, so that advantage for FWD should diminish somewhat.

As far as configuration options, it seems several are likely to be tried in an electric-drive setup:

- 1 motor driving both rear wheels (perhaps only one wheel at a time via a differential)

- 1 motor driving both front wheels (perhaps only one wheel at a time via a differential)

- 1 motor driving all wheels (similar to current awd or 4wd systems)

- 2 motors driving rear wheels

- 2 motors driving front wheels

- 4 motors driving all wheels

The 1 motor setups all have costs in materials and space due to differentials, axles, etc. It's likely that for lower priced cars, those costs will be more than worthwhile to avoid the cost of an extra motor, but higher priced vehicles may find it worthwhile to use a multi-motor setup to help with space and driving dynamics. We may see electric motor pricing come down enough that someday it'll be worth it to use multi-motor setups in all vehicles.

I think in the shorter term, hybrid and electric vehicles will largely appeal to people looking for either mpgs or for "green" reasons. While those concerns aren't necessarily exclusive from performance interests, IMO people who are concerned enough with mpgs and "green" concerns tend to be much less interested in performance, and would be content with or even prefer FWD. I fully expect that because of this, hybrid and electric vehicles will be hugely dominated by FWD designs.

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