New Cars New Fuels New Batteries

Two major advances that can revolutionize our transportation system will mature simultaneously: cellulosic ethanol and the plug-in hybrid. About 2011, plug-in hybrids will start to hit the roads just at the same time that meaningful amounts of cellulosic ethanol are becoming available at service stations across the country. This will be a happy tie in the race between battery technology progress and biofuel progress. This synchronous combination will allow drivers to plug in their cars at night, drive about forty miles on battery power alone, and then use the cellulosic ethanol they purchased at their corner filling station for the rest of their trip. The car will get a minimum of 150 miles and potentially as much as 500 miles per gallon of gasoline.

In the first decade, most of the electricity powering the car will come from old-fashioned coal-based generating plants that are heavy carbon emitters. Even then, because of the efficiency of the system, CO2 emissions per mile will be less than with gasoline. As solar, wind, wave, and clean coal become a larger part of the grid system, net reductions in CO2 will increase dramatically.

Even before plug-ins become a substantial part of the auto fleet, cel-lulosic ethanol will make a rapid penetration of the market. This will occur because Congress will have done its job and mandated production of flex-fuel vehicles and a certain percentage of service stations to offer biofuel pumps. The Farm Belt will convert a rapidly growing percentage of its acreage to dedicated energy crops for the production of biofuels, but use of new perennial feed stocks and increased yields per acre will minimize the impact on overall food production and the consumption of water and fossil fuel resources as the industry moves away from a sole reliance on corn. Biofuels should provide 25 percent of our fuel by 2025. Our agricultural exports will diminish, but so will our payments to Saudi Arabia. The reduction of U.S.-subsidized food commodities entering third world markets will help global agriculture to rebound and improve the climate of global trade negotiations; the move to biofuels will improve the nation's balance of trade. Over time the production of biofuels from humble algae will offer an increasingly cheap and environmentally benign source of fuel for the mass market.

We predict that gasified coal "synfuels," made using the Fischer-Tropsch process, will not become a substantial part of our auto fuels. While using them might mean we produce more of our fuel domestically, it would also mean diverting huge national resources to the development of an industry that does not reduce CO2. And that would mean missed opportunities, both to create low-carbon fuels and to reduce the carbon footprint of the coal we continue to use for energy. Development of a carbon cap and a low-carbon fuel standard or carbon alternative fuel equivalent policy will help ensure that other alternative fuels improve both our energy and our climate security. Whether this prediction comes to pass will depend on whether Congress can transform the huge political pressure that will build to maximize our coal assets into a plan for low- or zero-emission coal through IGCC with carbon capture for electricity generation, rather than production of fuels. It should.

The efficiency of cars will skyrocket. A combination of better tires, better aerodynamics, and the use of composite materials will substantially reduce the rolling resistance and inertia of our cars, while high and volatile oil prices as global petroleum markets tighten further will create sustained global demand for ever greater fuel efficiency. The steady 2 percent per year increase in horsepower of the past decade will be converted to a steady improvement in efficiency. The American auto industry will rebound by serving this market for innovative products, once the rules are in place to ensure increasing efficiency and as efforts continue to address the legacy costs of health care and retirement faced by all U.S. manufacturers.

The percentage of Americans routinely using public transportation will more than double in the next two decades. The combination of improved and more comfortable public transport, increasing fuel costs, and better land-use planning will make public transport a preferred option for millions of commuters, and urban living will continue to outstrip the growth of suburban sprawl as open space becomes increasingly limited and the efficiency of cities ever more valued. Commuters will get to read, listen to their watches (iPods will be part of our watches by then), and socialize on the way to and from work instead of developing road rage before 8:00 a.m.

The "Mr. Fusion" car power source featured in the Back to the Future movies will not arrive, at least in the next fifty years. After that, who knows?

Some fuel cell—driven cars running on hydrogen will begin to be commercially available in the next fifteen years. Their use will be concentrated in certain regions that have built a hydrogen distribution network. Battery technology will develop faster than fuel cells, however, and plug-in hybrids that use the grid to deliver energy to the car will prove more cost effective because the cost of building the hydrogen distribution system will slow fuel cells' growth. It will prove more effective to use the existing grid to distribute energy and batteries to store it than to build a separate network to move hydrogen around the country. The lithium batteries of plug-ins in the 2020s will become the main substitute for the dead dinosaurs of the 1990s. In the horse race between fuel cells and plug-ins, we are putting our two dollars on plug-ins to win by several lengths.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hummer will become an exhibit in the Smithsonian Energy-Efficiency Gallery.

Old Volkswagen Love Bugs will continue to be converted to run on biodiesel and fry grease for decades.

Teenagers' use of cars on Saturday nights will not change.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment