Career Trends in Automotive Research and Development

For automotive research and development, the emphasis is on creating engines that go farther for longer distances, on using alternative energy, making lighter chassis, saving money on interiors and applying this research both for civilian and military functions.

Engines

Fuel efficiency and new fuel types will become the watch words of automotive development. The combustion engine has not been supplanted but it will have to go farther on less fuel, and the vehicle must last longer since consumers may be holding on to the cars for much longer now that it is more difficult to finance a new car.

There are many vehicles that already run on biofuel, but in the future, biofuel cars that run on switchgrass or another non-edible crop, will become the primary biofuels. Reducing automotive emissions from these biofuels will also be very important, since they tend to be as polluting, if not more so, than gasoline engines.

Experimental research and development of fully electric cars will also be a priority. There is also some interest in producing hydrogen cell cars as well as solar powered cars, but at this stage in development, some of these cars will be as pricey and inaccessible to the average consumer as today's Tesla cars.

There may also be opportunities in this field for creating kits to retrofit older cars with newer engines. There are many hobbyists and entrepreneurs who make a good living switching combustible engines for biofuel engines while preserving an existing chassis.

Chassis

If a car needs to go farther, it also needs to be lighter while retaining its impact resistance and assuring safety for passengers. Industrial designers and engineers who specialize in developing new car designs and lighter weight designs, such as the SMART car, will be able to find employment, though currently most of the emphasis is being placed in development of what's under the hood, not the hood itself. However, a talented designer with an idea for increasing fuel efficiency through lighter weight design will be able to find employment with traditional car companies, as well as independent car companies that are designing hydrogen fuel cell or solar powered cars that need a lighter body.

Interior

If car companies need to save money, they will also look for lower cost and more durable materials for the textiles within the automobile. This is not usually the career for an engineer, but a scientist who specializes in creating textiles that are more durable and stain resistant, since consumers want to save money on interior repairs and stain removal. There will be fewer positions in this area, since consumers are very focused on mileage, and are willing to stay with traditional interior textiles.

Military

The military would also like to save money and make use of vehicles that are dependable, low maintenance and which can transport soldiers and materiel to the front lines with less time lost on maintenance and repair. They may also be making investment into sturdier vehicles that can travel in rugged, roadless terrain, and which can withstand artillery and munitions. These careers will usually go to mechanical engineers who have ten or more years of experience in the automotive industry and who want to apply their skills for military applications.