The future of car ownership is different depending on who you ask. There is the autonomous dream of technology companies like Google, the speed-racer vision of sports car manufacturers like Maserati, and the fuel-efficient future of companies like Smart, or Elon Musk’s Tesla, that want to do it all.
But many of the big reveals at the New York International Auto Show in March seemed like a lot of the same. Nissan even went so far as to showcase their old performance models right alongside their newest performance vehicle. That’s because cars take a long time to develop. Change is incremental and huge jumps in technology and design are rare.
The exception? Concept vehicles. A company’s way of showcasing something that it knows may never make it to market in its current form, they are often mere months removed from a sketchpad. Some of the ideas are flops, some show what the future will look like, and some of the ideas are so out there you just have to wonder if car designers are whip-it enthusiasts.
Here are nine of the best cars from the future that New York’s auto show had to offer:
9. Nissan New Mobility Concept
This tiny concept car barely fits the common concept of “car.” It’s electric, has a single-charge range of 40 miles, and tops out at 25 mph. Don’t plan on seeing this in flyover country, but if the rise of the SmartCar in crowded, hard-to-park urban areas is any indication, this future concept is likely to just become future. Concept only.
8. Volkswagen BUDD-e
This is the car that boasts its application of the Internet of Things. Autonomous cars and semi-autonomous cars already connect to your smartphone, but the BUDD-e concept van takes that one step further by connecting the vehicle to your home, office, and phone. Everything is just as advanced as well, with screens and motion sensors replacing most of the buttons and dials. It’s also one of the only future concepts not made for ants. Concept only.
Instead of losing room in the cars of the future, why not just lose a wheel? Elio is a three-wheeler fit for cross-country travel at half the price of the cheapest four-wheel car on the market today. Living in a crowded city with a car is hard when it comes to traveling out of that city. Elio takes on the crowded part with small size, and the traveling part with 84 mpg and stable front wheel steering. Available 2017. It’s one of a few different three-wheeled cars at the show.
6. Toyota FCV Plus
The FCV Plus is not quite a spaceship, but it sure looks close enough. This concept car focuses more on energy concept than actual mobility. It’s based on the idea of hydrogen as a fuel source, which would eliminate all those noxious greenhouse gases. Hydrogen might not be the energy of the future, but then again, it just might. Concept only.
5. The Smart Fortwo Passion
The Fortwo Passion is only eight feet and eight inches long. It’s a tiny car like Nissan’s New Mobility Concept, but it’s a reality, and it is a roomier version of the SmartCar that is, of course, made for two people. Again, not really something for the future of rural travel, but city dwellers and tree huggers who don’t live the single life might find it agreeable. Available today.
Like the Elio, Arcimoto sees three-wheelers in the future. Unlike Elio, Arcimoto sees electric three-wheelers in the future. It looks more like an off-road pleasure vehicle than something with true utility, but it is designed for daily commutes in crowded cities with 130 miles per charge. Production starting in 2017.
3. BMW i8
The i8 hybrid sports car is admittedly not everyone’s future at a base price of $141,695. But with all the focus on sustainability and fuel efficiency, even the sports cars of the future will be Earth friendly. And it’s hard not to stare at the doors of the future that we’ve all been waiting on since butterfly doors became a thing.
2. Toyota FC 2
Like the Toyota FCV Plus, Toyota is focusing on something other than actual driving experience with the FC 2. In this case, it’s focusing on the emotional factor of a car. Not traditional car-centric emotional cues — roaring engines and hard angles — but emotional as in, it knows everywhere you have been and want to be. The technology is called “Agent Plus,” and it predicts where you want to go based on your driving history and then chooses a route for you. Also, the concept allows for the driver to stand up and ride the thing like a hoverboard.
1. The Extra Terrestrial Vehicle Space Car
This creation is out of left field. It was made by a Florida car enthusiast, not a car manufacturer, but who’s to say that maker culture won’t take over the car market in the future? It has a four-cylinder engine and a three-speed automatic transmission and more looks the part of vehicle from the future than acts the part.