The Future Fuel For The Automobile Is The Sun.


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Forget petroleum, biodiesel, hydrogen or any other fuel that people have been working on getting to market lately. As much as I really like the thought of using biodiesel (and I hope to one day), the only way we are going to become both fully independent of foreign countries AND clean our air is by driving electric cars. And these future electric cars will be powered by solar panels on the roof of your house, office, or apartment building. Presto – no more emissions from our cars!

It is painfully obvious that people are not willing to give up their private transportation…sure, there are small amounts of people who have given up their cars (myself included) and taken advantage of public transportation in their town. There are a lot more in the cities that could also do so, but there are also millions of people who do not live in the city, and they do not have any public transportation to speak of. So there really is no way for them to give up their own cars, so we have to figure out a better way to make them run.

We may be a ways off on electric cars taking off into the mainstream…the issue for most people is that they currently only have a limited range and take a long time to recharge. That and the batteries are toxic, which needs to be resolved as well. People are worried that they will be out in the middle of nowhere and their car will run out of power; however, that can happen with a gas-powered car as well, and we never worry about that. So that problem can be easily fixed by both making quick-charge batteries that take, say, 20 minutes to recharge at a “filling” station, and by creating batteries that have a longer range. Imagine getting in your electric car that was powered up overnight using the electricity stored in batteries that were charged by the sun. You head out on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and every 200 miles or so you have to stop at a charging station and top off the battery. It would add an additional 40 minutes to your trip – well worth the emissions cut and gas savings
I would say!

In my opinion, we need to get started on this right away. Major corporations need to get involved so there is real money behind this kind of development – it is great that backyard engineers are building electric cars, but if we want to get this up to speed and working we need to have money invested in research and development. Just inventing yet another fuel to burn in a combustion engine is not really going to help in the long run; we are still emitting pollution and burning through a natural (even if it is renewable) resource. By creating electric cars that run for 200 miles or so and charge up in 20 minutes using the power of the sun, we could completely remove ourselves from both foreign oil (i.e. funding both sides of every war fought over oil) and every other fuel we could possibly come up with.

There is no time like the present, and if I had the money or the resources, this is where I would be putting my dollars. Let’s come up with a solution that REALLY solves a problem, not takes us from one problem into another.

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  1. The notion that all-electrics are required is pure nonsense.Plug-ins with more than 40 miles of electric range can accomplish more than 90% of what all-electrics can and without the exorbitant
    expense of a large batery pack and the inconveniences. In fact, ethanol can supply virtually all the liquid fuel required for longer trips, and receptacles will be available at office buildings, sjopping malls, parking lots, grocery stores, etc, that will extend the electric only driving ranges considerably. And solar photovoltaic technology compelyely sucks – it is far too expensive and unreliable and non-dispatchable. Solar thermal and nuclear will clearly be the clean power of the future : dispatchable and cheap, unlike crappy and useless wind and wave and photovoltaic, upon which billions have been wasted. It’s time the alternative energy folks started thinking with their heads for a change and quit supporting environmentally obnoxious technologies like solar roofs and gargantuan windmills. Those technologies are totally obsolete for those concerned with clean energy that is actually at man’s command, rather than vice versa.

  2. Kent – I didn’t know solar and wind power were obnoxious, that’s a strange thought. Nuclear is dangerous and anything we burn still emits pollution, so I do not see how switching to ethanol will really make a difference – it’s exchanging one fuel for another instead of working on real solutions.

    And guinness, that is pretty cool! Wish we had them here…

  3. I take issue with the comments of Kent Beuchert regarding solar and wind. They are neither too expensive nor obnoxious. I’ve been driving a fully electric Toyota RAV4 EV for five years now. All of the power for my car and my house comes from 3 kW PV system on my house here in Santa Monica. I’ve driven over 52,000 miles in those five years and have ranged from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all over LA, Ventura and Orange counties. For the few times I needed to go farther than my EV would travel, I flew or switched cars with a friend who has a Prius.

    My solar system cost, out of pocket, about $15K. Because I’m offsetting gas at over $3.00 gallon, I calculated the payoff for my system at about 8 years. I’m 3 years away from this now. The solar PV systems of today are expected to last 40-50 years. I don’t understand why someone would say that is too expensive. I consider it a terrific investment paying well over 15% return.

    As for the future of cars, it’s clearly going to be battery electric vehicles with ranges from 75 miles for low cost “city cars” to 300 miles for those who feel the need for long distance driving. Phoenix Motorcars recently demonstrated fast charging of their battery packs in under ten minutes. Aerovironment of Monrovia, CA has been selling fast chargers for forklifts and other heavy duty EVs since 1998. This is not rocket science.

    Plug-in hybrids will serve the purpose of long distance driving for many. Like the proposed Chevy Volt, these cars will have an all EV range of about 30-40 miles with a range extender that will charge the battery and power the motor once the grid charged pack is exhausted. Since most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, they would not use any liquid fuel unless they took a long drive.

    I haven’t been to a gas station for five years now. It feels very good to not give the oil companies, and by extention, the Saudis, any of my money. Demand EVs from your local car dealer and you can do this, too.

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