Today we take a look at the potential cars of the Future, thanks to Money Supermarket.

When you talk about vehicles of the future, it is common for people to think about hover cars like those used on the Jetsons. However, this is nothing more than a pipe dream and the real cars of the future are more likely to be designs which are independent of fossil fuels.

This was confirmed by a recent survey conducted by which revealed that 65% of motorists will purchase a more environmentally friendly option the next time they are searching for a new car because of rising fuel prices. 5% of motorists even admitted to having been forced off the road all together by these increasing running costs.

The increased interest in environmental vehicles amongst motorists has resulted in major manufacturers plough millions into the development of vehicles which do not rely on fossil fuels. This has resulted in three different design concepts being put into development, each of which one car manufacturer is banking their future on. But which concept will emerge victorious?

Nissan is electric

Electric cars have been thought of as the most likely type of vehicle to lead the green car revolution for many years. Nissan is confident that this is the case, with plans to plough $3.9 billion into electric car designs by the end of 2017.

The first product of this development push is the Nissan Leaf which went on sale last year. This was the first all electric vehicle to be put into mass production by a major car manufacturer. The vehicle has won universal praise for its performance; being capable of 100 miles between charges and having a top speed of 148 kph. This resulted in the Leaf becoming the first electric vehicle to win the European car of the year competition at the end of 2010.

It is estimated that the average motorist currently spends $2,980 every year on fuel for their vehicle, $274 on tax and $1,487 on car insurance; resulting in an annual running cost of $4,741 before things such as car repairs and servicing are considered.

With the Nissan Leaf, this bill would shrink to just $1,816; with the Leaf adding just $483 to your annual electricity bill, being exempt from road tax charging and qualifying for a 10% discount with most insurance companies. This is a remarkable saving of $2,925.

The Nissan would cost roughly $100 more per month than a basic Ford Focus if you were paying for it with monthly instalments. Despite this it would still knock $143 off your monthly motoring expenditure thanks to the huge running cost saving.

Despite this, the Nissan Leaf has not become a major seller yet. One of the reasons for this is the limited number of charging stations around the country which makes journeys of more than 50 miles away from home almost impossible. Additionally, it can take hours for electric vehicles to recharge their batteries. This is something Nissan has been working on, introducing a quick recharge function on the Leaf so that it recoups 80% of its total power in just 30 minutes. Despite this, recharging times and the total range due to the limited recharging network will still be a massive inconvenience for any Leaf owner.

Honda’s hydrogen concept

Honda for one seems to be of the opinion that this will be the fundamental flaw which derails the electric car movement. The alternative which the Japanese manufacturer has come up is a vehicle called the FCX Clarity which is fuelled by hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen gas is pumped into the fuel tank in the same way as fossil fuels enter conventional vehicles. Once there, a fusion reaction will occur with the hydrogen reacting with the oxygen which is already present in the tank. It is this reaction which will create the electric energy necessary to power the electric motor. The big advantage of this is that it will take no longer till refill the FCX Clarity than it would a conventional fossil fuel vehicle.

However, Coventry University’s David Bailey has warned that hydrogen will cost far more than conventional fuel at the pumps initially due to the difficulties involved with extracting hydrogen from its natural ores. It is expected that this price will come down as techniques advance and more hydrogen is sold commercially; with Bailey conceding that the Clarity represents a “seismic shift” in the future of the automotive industry.

Nevertheless, the Clarity is still going to be handicapped by the lack of hydrogen filling stations around the country. Honda has admitted that this is an issue which will hold back adoption of their model initially. However, thanks to its lack of reliance on fossil fuels and quick refill times; the Clarity could well turn out to be far more likely to be adopted by the great majority in the years ahead.

Tata full of hot air?

Indian manufacturer Tata has also attempted to come up with an electric car alternative. Their design has been called the Tata OneCAT and is based on the designs of former Formula One designer Guy Negre.

Negre began development to build a car which would be powered only by compressed air in the year 2000. By 2007, the vision became a reality as Negre proudly showed off his air car concept at the New York motor show. This attracted the attention of Tata who pledged funding towards the programme.

The OneCat will be capable of completing 120 miles between refills, and will take no more than five minutes to refill when a high end air compressor is used. It could still take multiple hours to refill when a low powered compressor is used, such as those used to pump up tyres in filling stations. The onus of responsibility therefore still lies with filling stations around the country to equip their facilities with higher end systems if the OneCat concept is to become main stream. Initial uptake of the OneCat will therefore be stifled by the same handicaps which will also hold back electric and hydrogen vehicle adoption.

However, perhaps the biggest advantage that the Tata model has over the two other environmental alternatives is its low initial purchase cost. Thanks to its relatively simplistic design, the OneCat is expected to sell for no more than $6,000. This should certain help the OneCat appeal to that 5% of motorists who admitted that rising running costs had forced them off the road. Perhaps we will have a surprise winner in the race to lead the way to the green car revolution.