Inside any major carmaker, there are executives trying to predict what kind of cars we’ll all be driving ten, twenty years into the future. When Ford’s Susan Cischke looks into the future she still sees internal combustion engines powering cars, but they are smaller, weigh less and are much more fuel efficient than today’s motors. Cischke, who spoke recently with Associated Press reporters, is the Blue Oval’s newly appointed senior vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

One of her key tasks is to predict consumer tastes, gasoline prices and the future development of powertrain technology. Ford has had trouble predicting trends beyond five years, but to be sustainable it will need to look out more than twenty years down the track. According to Cischke, Americans want better mileage but they don’t want smaller cars. "I want what I have today, but I want double the fuel economy of what I have today,” is the general attitude of the American car buyers she said.

Beyond 2012, Cischke sees more efficient gasoline engines but also a rise in the popularity of clean diesels and biofuel cars. Hybrids will only be sold in significant numbers if there is a breakthrough in battery technology and by 2030, she predicts, hydrogen fuel cells will play a major role. Cars will also be much smaller and constructed from the latest in lightweight materials.

Ford has a lot of options on the table, but limited resources to further develop them. "Technology is moving so fast that you're just trying to figure how do you place your bets. And you only have so many chips," Cischke warned.