Be on the lookout for "solar-powered," "air-powered" or "wind-powered" cars. Renewable energy is great, but it is absolutely incapable of being the sole on-board source of power for car and truck
engines. It won't happen now, and it won't happen in the near future. George Jetson can buy a car like that (it folds up, too), but you can't.
I bring this up because the new Planters Nutmobile has both a wind turbine (an industry first, Planters says) and solar panels. But you have to read the fine print. Both of them are there to provide power for the LED interior lights and the sound system. That's it. The peanut-shaped craft actually runs on 5% to 20% biodiesel.Both the Toyota Prius and the forthcoming Fisker Karma (supposedly on the market in March) offer solar panels, but again the intent is limited. It's a cool conversation point, but the panels run fans that can cool and ventilate the cars' interior when they're closed up on a hot day. That's a modest, but worthy, goal.
The "solar cars" in a noted Australian green race are ultra-lightweight, and hardly ready for the consumer road.
Air cars? Well, a French company has been talking about putting them on the market for a decade now, and although the concept definitely inspires people (I'm constantly getting emails about this revolutionary technology) the laws of physics are sobering. It takes a lot of energy to compress air, and the range of such a vehicle is likely to be 15 miles at best. No production car has been forthcoming.
Some folks like the concept of cars powered by "space energy," and reports on these virtual perpetual motion machines are always going to galvanize willing audiences. Unfortunately, I hear, their revolutionary concepts are always getting hijacked or their labs wrecked just before the plans can come to fruition.
From what I can see, no game-changing technology is on the horizon. "Zero emission" battery cars are the cutting-edge, and they'll run on wind and solar only if we had a renewable energy grid. The good news is that as we build more battery cars, the grid is also adding more green energy. So you get a car that is cleaner every time you drive it, when the status quo is exactly the reverse.
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