March 27, 2015
How Energy Evolves: Why Cars Aren’t As Environmental As We Think They Are
The year 2020 is fast approaching, yet the flying cars that run on recycled goods and emit environment-friendly rainbows are nowhere in sight. What gives? Surely the future Doc and his sidekick Marty McFly promised us is on the horizon, isn't it? Why are we still driving around gas guzzlers that eat up fossil fuels? Is the trend of electric cars ever going to really take off? And if so, is that really such a good thing? We answer these question (and more) in today"s informative blog post!
Pull into the parking lot of any Whole Foods in a modern day American town and odds are you will see a row of electrical stations where you can charge your electric car (if you are lucky enough to own one). Energize your vehicle while you are purchasing meatless mycoprotein hamburger patties; it does not get more futuristic than that!
Maybe you don't own a fancy car that runs on electricity. Never fear, science has your back. Next time you are at your friendly neighborhood gas station, check the labels on the pumps, and, more likely than not, you will see a little sign that says "10% Ethanol." Here you have been pumping liquid corn into your vehicle and didn't even know it!
Before you start feeling too good about your environment-friendly life choices, I have a bit of bad news; those "green" fuel alternatives, it turns out, are not so great for our friend Mother Nature after all.
While the exact science behind why electric automobiles and ethanol are not so great for the environment is open for debate (and a subject that is too lengthy to cover in a single blog post), recent studies seem to indicate that the cleanest vehicles on the market at the moment are those that are either hybrids or that operate on diesel fuels. In actuality, there are all-electric vehicles that are cleaner than the aforementioned varieties (the ones that get their power from solar energy versus coal for instance), but from a mass production standpoint, hybrids and diesel are in the forefront.
So if fields of corn and engines that we can charge by plugging into our garage outlets are not the answer to a cleaner world, what is? As it turns out, those old Back to the Future movies may not be so off after all. Just like in the first movie in the beloved trilogy, the cars of tomorrow may well operate off of fusion power. New breakthroughs in fusion tech by industry giants such as NASA and Lockheed Martin (maybe you have heard of them?) promise to make fusion reactors a part of everyday life, and perhaps sooner, rather than later.
If the mad scientists behind some of the world's greatest think tanks have their way, fusion will fuel not only our land vehicles, but planes, rocket ships, and even the appliances in your home. Aside from potentially making our bodies glow an enticing shade of green, fusion technology could also generate energy that costs less, leaves behind a smaller carbon footprint, leaves no greenhouse gases in its wake, and is devoid of toxic, radioactive waste.
While the race is on to be the first to make fusion commercially viable, one thing is for certain: the future sure is looking bright, with maybe a slight tinge of green.