The Shift: Energy Limitations
Today, the vehicles we have are not really limited by much at all in terms of both performance and their energy sources, predominantly gasoline. If you want a car that can accelerate like it was shot out of a cannon, cruise all day at 100 mph, and stop on a dime, there are many alternatives to choose from.
As we move forward and develop alternatives to oil-based energy sources, we’re finding that we’re now on the other side of the coin. Chassis capable of handling the aforementioned performance criteria are plentiful. But alternative energy sources of propelling a vehicle to those lofty levels are not measuring up to the performance of good old-fashioned petroleum.
Now it is about energy density because the energy issue is upstream of the performance issue. Solving that will affect performance – at least in the near term. We’ll have to take what seems like a step backward in order to go forward.
While oil has such high energy density that nearly everything from marine engines to lawn mowers can be powered by internal combustion engines scaled for each application, tomorrow it will be a case of different horses for different courses. What might work for locomotives won’t work for automobiles, which will again be different from trucks and planes.
Right now it looks like electric cars are the next step. But that might not work for many other applications such as long haul trucks. Or rail. Or construction equipment.
In the foreseeable future, I just don’t see oil getting completely displaced by alternatives until big breakthroughs are made. Not only do we need to concentrate on making those breakthroughs, we need to be mindful of using less of everything. It’s a two pronged approach to accelerating the end of oil: Developing viable alternatives AND reducing our overall energy needs.
Labels: Alternative energy