Yes! The automotive-composites industry really has a great opportunity to make significant in-roads in a traditionally metal world. And yes, significant progress will be hard-won.
There are many advantages of composite materials that give the steel folks a run for their money (strength, weight, & stiffness). Other points to consider: Savings in tooling, the elimination of secondary operations, part consolidation, and the incredible design freedom that comes from a molded part.
You hit the nail on the head when you said that the steal companies "aren't going to sit back and let their marketshare disappear." And who will be the winner? The consumer! Just like many other products that come out on the market expensive (flat screen TV's, computers), after a few years the price drops down to level where mainstream consumers can handle it.
I also agree that, in order to get these innovative designs to the masses, perhaps a little collaborative up-front work (in a serious way) is in order. Automotive companies need to do what they do best with their tier one suppliers: Set design standards that require innovation and demand delivery dates that are borderline to impossible to meet. I say that a little tongue-in-cheek, but I believe there's some truth to that kind of expectation. How else will you be able to push the envelope past the sticky part within a time frame that's faster than the change in technology? Working fast, furious, efficient, and imaginative is the key. I'm ready for a paradigm shift.
By the way, The whole battery/charging system and limited range of an electric car intrigues me...
Anyone ever thought of using the back wheels as an electric generating system? The inner part of the wheel would be the stator and the rotating part would be the rotor. The motor would drive the front wheels while the back wheels would generate more DC power than the front wheels use.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.