I recently had the fun task of inventing some futuristic vehicles for a cooperative science fiction project. One of the first I created as a close relative of the Tesla Roadster. Seeing as how the story takes place some ways into the future, I felt justified in swapping the Li-ion cells for a supercapacitor bank, but otherwise I couldn't see anything I felt needed changing. Next I had to design some vehicles for a "frontier" wilderness area. That's when I was able to get creative. I set out to create a high-technology counterpart to the classic old Dodge Power Wagon. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Power Wagon was probably the toughest pickup truck ever made. It had a full ton payload rating, four wheel drive, and most of them came equipped with a PTO winch. Cobbled together from parts of several military vehicles, it was introduced in 1946 as one of the first 4WD off-road vehicles offered to the public. The inline six-cylinder engine was nothing to brag about, but the truck had low gears like a tractor, so it could crawl over or through just about anything. The Power Wagon was a real working truck. Hunters and fisherman, campers and recreational off-roaders flocked to the much cheaper and more nimble Jeep, while the Power Wagon was relegated to industrial use with farms and ranches, forestry services and oil fields. Power Wagons were even used to film King Soloman's Mines on location in Africa. Power Wagons were produced well into the 1970s, continuously manufactured for almost 30 years with only minor changes from the first to the last. At the end Dodge's factory tooling was worn out, but whenever they tried to end production they'd typically get a phone call from an oil company begging them to ship another 2,000 Power Wagons to some remote corner of the world. Great as it was, it was 1940s technology. What would the Power Wagon of the future look like? That's what I set out to imagine. The first thing I decided was, it's got to have an electric power train. I'll put a motor in each wheel hub, which gives me two advantages. First, it allows lots of ground clearance. I no longer have to worry about ground clearance for the drive shafts, axles, differentials or CV joints because they're all gone. Secondly, it allows each wheel to be powered individually under computer control, which should make possible excellent traction control. We have a fifth electric motor for the winch, of course. It's too useful to imagine leaving off. Where does the electric power come from? I settled on a plug-in hybrid system. I already decided we have supercapacitors in this setting, so using them was obvious. I decided to give it an 80 km maximum range on pure electric power -- enough to be useful around the farm if electrical power was available but fuel wasn't. Next I turned that around. I said, what if we have a work site in the middle of nowhere and there's no electricity? It should be simple to build in a converter with electric outlets, so the truck could be used as a stationary electrical generator and operate lights or power tools. We also need an internal combustion engine. I decided a Rotapower engine -- a refinement of the Wankel rotary engine -- would be perfect. These engines have few moving parts and develop a lot of power with light weight and compact size: a 160 HP Rotapower engine can fit into a five gallon bucket. Even more interesting, they can be adjusted to burn almost any sort of liquid fuel, including diesel (or biodiesel), gasoline, ethanol, methanol or kerosene. In theory it could be built today, putting Li-ion cells in place of the supercapacitors. Economically it probably wouldn't make much sense at this time. In fact, this kind of technology (like that of the original Power Wagon) seems likely to show up first in military vehicles and later trickle down to the civilian world. These are only the first two vehicles I've come up with for the sci-fi project, and I'll probably do several more. I've enjoyed stretching my imagination and thinking about what might be possible using technology that's just over the horizon.