These are tough economic times for investors and venture capitalists as we all know, but even more so for those invested in green ventures and alternative sources of energy. With gas plunging to around $2 a gallon, millions of jobs being lost, and the RV industry suffering a lack of buyers and financing, the push toward alternate fuels has been shoved to the back burner. But these difficult times will not last—or so we’re told. And I believe it. The problem right now is a lack of confidence. Confidence that your job is secure. Confidence that your investments will lose even more of their value. Confidence to take on the debt of buying an RV. Confidence by lending institutions to make loans as borrowers’ ability to pay is challenged. And confidence in RV manufacturers that they can sell what they build.
Like dominoes, when lenders start lending, buyers will start buying, and RV companies will build what they can sell. Unfortunately, what they build will probably be more of the same, the safe road, rather than the road of innovation, of trying green materials and hybrid fuel configurations, of downsizing and employing more European design concepts to make more efficient use of space.
Following Winnebago’s lead with their popular Sprinter chassis coupled with a small diesel engine capable of producing 15 mpg and more in a 24 to 27 foot Class C, that is about as adventurous as we can expect other manufacturers to be during this recovery period.
However, when the times improve, here are a few innovative directions that futurists in the transportation sector are predicting. It’s just a guess as to how far ahead you may have to look to see these innovations, but they are actually in the testing phases now.
- As well as downsizing, niche manufacturers may start producing classic RVs, such as the 1965 Condor or the original Winnebago Brave, that appeal to classic vehicle buffs and without all the computer modules so backyard mechanics can work on them.
- As those inventive engineers and entrepreneurs start to take market share away from the major car companies with their high tech offerings (Tesla electric sports cars are an example) we may see mergers between Toyota and Microsoft, or GM and Samsung. This would give car companies entry into cutting edge battery and software technology, new materials, and other high tech advances to keep them competitive.
- Nanotechnology researchers are working on vehicle bodies that have shape memory built in, so that when you put a dent in it, it fixes it self—pops out into the shape it remembers.
- Biodegradable plastics, made from the starch in potatoes or rice, will be used to replace the metal and fiberglass fender, side, and door panels of cars and motorhomes. And when it’s life is over, you bury it in your yard where it decomposes and fertilizes your arugula and squash.
- Spray painting color onto these panels will also become a remnant of the past, as smart color will be a part of every vehicle, where owners can electronically change the color to match their moods.
- And eventually, software will be designed that will enable vehicles to drive themselves, sensing danger and braking, and determining the space between you and the vehicle ahead and adjusting speed accordingly. Then we can sit back and fully enjoy the passing scenery as we tour our national parks and scenic byways. I could even write my blog. Ahh, perchance to dream . . .