In recent years, we have seen a spike in the research and development of technology designed to make our vehicles smarter and safer. Next-generation cars now have Wi-Fi connected infotainment dashboards and rear-view cams, and sensors that nag you if you are reversing too close to the curb. Mobile apps can alert you through your car when you are driving close to police presence or speed cameras.
All of these inventions can be beneficial to consumers and provide new revenue streams for businesses, but unless we can run our cars in the future, there's really little point.
As a result, automakers have developed electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids which either use less of our dwindling fossil fuel reserves to operate, or none at all.
In an ideal world, these vehicles -- which generally produce a small carbon footprint -- would be received with aplomb by the general public. However, few advances in technology come without teething issues.
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One of many problems is a lack of infrastructure required to support these vehicles. With the exception of some cities such as San Diego which are promoting the use of EVs by providing the required charging stations, few of our cities have enough charging ports to keep EVs going -- which, in turn, causes range anxiety.
Speaking at the technology conference Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal, chairman and chief executive officer of the Renault-Nissan Alliance Carlos Ghosn admitted to attendees this is a barrier to adoption, but said the situation is still much better today than it was five or ten years ago.
"Progression is slow but at some point it will accelerate," Ghosn said.
Some countries, such as China, offer incentives for drivers willing to invest in an electric vehicle. This is important as the starting purchase price of an EV is high, which means that government subsidies become crucial to make these cars affordable.
Five years ago, the country was completely absent from this market as a whole. Now, according to the executive, China now represents approximately one third of the EV global market thanks to subsidies.
The automotive group said earlier this month that it planned to develop and sell an EV which cost no more than $8,000, which the CEO says is the correct "price point" for Chinese consumers.
This figure, while taking into account government subsidies, is still far cheaper than the Nissan Leaf which did not sell well in the country. Known locally as the Venucia e30, the Leaf holds a price tag of approximately $37,000.
By collaborating with others on battery technology, Ghosn says that the cost of EVs could be brought down even further, which in turn would promote adoption rates. With this in mind, the group plans to eventually launch an EV which costs no more than $8,000 -- no subsidies required. In order to do so, the Renault-Nissan Alliance will be working with other manufacturers and engineers to slim down the cost of production.
"We want to concentrate efforts on the car itself and use existing suppliers which are investing a lot of money," Ghosn said. "We can't do everything ourselves."
The Renault-Nissan chief hopes that by focusing on battery technology and by snapping up startups which host talented engineers, EV adoption rates will increase and the automotive group will stay competitive.
Making the move from fossil fuel to electricity is just one step on the path to changing our vehicles from an "object of transportation" to what Ghosn calls a "connected, mobile space," but by changing the fundamental nature of a car, the design also changes -- leaving more room for smart functions, such as sensors, cameras, and connectivity systems.