Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015

The World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, a panel of 18 experts, draws on the collective expertise of the Forum’s communities to identify the most important recent technological trends.

Here is their list

* Fuel cell vehicles [NBF -says this is wrong]
* Next-generation robotics [NBF – agrees with robotics getting more important]
* Recyclable thermoset plastics
* Precise genetic-engineering techniques [NBF – CRISPR gene editing is a big deal]
* Additive manufacturing [NBF – still several breakthroughs away from delivering on the promise]
* Emergent artificial intelligence [NBF – does not think improved Watson will be that important]
* Distributed manufacturing [NBF – craft and hobby scale but a will remain a small part of the supply chain]
* ‘Sense and avoid’ drones [NBF – drones matter but this aspect is not that interesting]
* Neuromorphic technology [NBF – there is potential and the tech is interesting but real big applications have not arrived]
* Digital genome [NBF – not that big a deal]

NBF believes the WEF pick of Fuel cell vehicles is wrong.

A Lux research report indicates that hydrogen fuel cells and fuel cell vehicles will be a tiny market by 2030 PEM fuel cells will reach $2 billion on the backs of forklifts and light-duty vehicles, while buses will remain miniscule. A robust hydrogen vehicle fueling infrastructure is necessary but ultimately insufficient to overhaul the passenger vehicle market.

Joe Romm identified problems with fuel cell vehicles.

There have historically been seven major (interrelated) barriers to fuel cell car success in the U.S. market:

1. High first cost for vehicle

2. On-board fuel storage issues (i.e. limited range): Can enough alternative fuel be stored onboard to give the car the kind of range consumers expect — without compromising passenger or cargo space? Can the AFV be refueled fast enough to satisfy consumer expectations?

3. Safety and liability concerns: Is the alternative fuel safe, something typical users can easily handle with special training?

4. High fueling cost (compared to gasoline): Is the alternative fuel’s cost (per mile) similar to (or cheaper than) gasoline? If not, how much more expensive is it to use? Hydrogen generation accounts for less than 33% of the cost at the pump. The costs of hydrogen compression, storage, and distribution make up the majority of the cost of hydrogen, offering the greatest opportunities for improvement and innovation.

5. Limited fuel stations

6. Improvements in the competition. Fuel efficient gasoline cars and better electric battery cars.

7. Problems delivering cost-effective emissions reductions.