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Future cars as 'two-ton Cuisinarts'?

Cars aren't going anywhere, but conventional fueling strategies will change dramatically, according to panelists at the Future in Review conference.

CORONADO, Calif.--The car of the future will apparently have more in common with a kitchen appliance than a lawn mower.

Car design in years to come? Cuisinart

"The future is going to be an automobile that looks like a two-ton Cuisinart," said Josh Wolfe, managing partner of Lux Capital, at the Future in Review conference Wednesday. Wolfe was part of a panel discussion entitled "The Future of Energy on the Nanoscale," in which panelists focused mostly on battery technologies and how those will evolve for cars and other devices.

The night before, researcher J. Craig Venter suggested that fuels derived from algae could provide a much more abundant source of energy than that black goo under the deserts of the Middle East. Venter has been analyzing samples of ocean water taken during a cruise of the Sargasso Sea, and he and his team think they can use gene-sequencing technology to create microbes that could provide a future source of fuel. "My goal is to replace the petrochemical industry by the next decade."

Wednesday's panelists steered clear of biology, preferring to work on finding new markets for their existing products. "The nanomaterials and nanoscience haven't hooked up with the market," said Keith Blakely, CEO of Nanodynamics, which is working on fuel cell technology*.

"Most important is the electrification of automobiles, this is the trend, more than biofuel or gas substitutes," Wolfe said.

The Future in Review agenda is filled with discussions on future energy sources and challenges, and more debates are sure to emerge on how best to reduce the world's dependence on oil and coal.

*UPDATED - Keith Blakely notes in the comments below that I misinterpreted the tense on his remarks, in that when the Future in Review conference first started, the market opportunities weren't there. But, as evidenced by the fact that companies like Nanodynamics exist, the situation has changed. Sorry, Keith.