What Will Cars Look Like In 2026?

Editorial

It's only 10 years from now.

Growing up, I thought the year 2015 was the real future. That’s what happens to you after watching “Back to the Future: Part II” an endless number of times. Right, so hoverboards never came to the mass market, nor did cars with a hover conversion. Disappointing, to say the least, but today’s cars would undoubtedly impress Marty and Doc circa 1985. Infotainment systems and touchscreens, autonomous driving, EVs, and pretty much Tesla in general are all examples of the best technologies out there at the moment.

Design wise, cars are sleeker than ever, designed almost entirely with advanced software. And let’s not forget 3D printing. The design possibilities are endless right there. With all of that in mind, and taking into account developing design tech, what do you think cars will look like in 2026? Will some be 3D printed? Void of metal like aluminum, and replaced entirely by carbon fiber? Will, for example, Pagani’s recent titanium-laced carbon fiber weave become mainstream? Given the rapid pace of technological development today, we wouldn’t rule anything out. Toyota recently revealed a concept it created with graduate students at Clemson University, which represented its take on future mobility.

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It’s essentially a raised crossover-like EV with plenty of 3D printed components. BMW also recently looked even further ahead with its bizarre-o Vision Next 100 Concept. It’s not a crossover, but it is made out of carbon fiber and plastic. Roughly the size of a 5 Series, this concept incorporates four-door coupe styling as opposed to a conventional sedan. Both concepts are merely predictions, but there are a few clear takeaways: composite components, batteries as opposed to internal combustion, and a spacious interior designed for comfort and conveniences (like messing around on tablets as opposed to driving). Another design element we need to take into account is simplicity.

Look at any of the three Tesla models as examples. The Model S, X, and 3 are sleek, stylish and, above all, simple. Nothing radical is going on inside or out. A Lamborghini Veneno is radical. The latest Toyota Prius is somewhat radical. Radical doesn’t age well, and sometimes doesn’t sell well, either. Like Apple products, Tesla has embraced sexy simplicity and it works wonderfully. When I spoke with BMW design chief, Karim Habib, at Geneva last month, he mentioned that innovation needs to bring something new to the design itself. Given the rapid pace of innovation at the moment, who knows what new designs will be the result. It’s an ongoing, never-ending process.

Innovation and design go hand-in-hand, always have, and by the time 2026 rolls around, our cars could look very different than today. Or maybe not so much. Model year 2026’s cars could look like more advanced versions of a Tesla. Let's also not forget two other wildcards: Google and Apple. Both are working on cars, and it'll be fascinating to see the results. Whatever it turns out to be, the cars of 2026 are going to be jam-packed with tech, and their designs will reflect that.

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