In the year 2050, the world is expected to reach a population of over 9 billion. At the same time, it is projected that the worlds energy consumption will double from our current use. In a world where energy sources are already being depleted, scientists and environmentalists alike are searching for a new, effective energy source to fuel a demanding population.
When thinking about the future of energy and fuel use, many scientists have played with
the idea of bio-fuels. With bio-fuels, glucose is extracted from plants such as corn or sugar cane and mixed with a yeast. A (small) byproduct from this reaction is a layer that forms at the top of the liquid that can then be skimmed off and used as fuel. This process is not only time consuming, but the amount of land that would be needed to feed the demand for fuel would leave very little room for edible crops to feed the growing population.
In the early years of the 21st century, the Discovery Channel came out with a television special called Earth 2050. In this hour long special, three energy/fuel saving stories are introduced: Fueling the Future, Driven by Design, and Searching for Utopia. Of the three, “Driven by Design” caught my interest the most because rather than searching for a new fuel source, the idea of dramatically lowering the need for fuel was introduced. This idea comes from looking at the busy city highways and measuring the inefficient fuel use while stuck in these traffic jams. The engineers working on this plan considered two main things:
- Installing 360 degree cameras that allow drivers to view a map to plan for what is coming up, such as traffic or construction, and chose an alternate rout provided by the mapping system.
- Taking the driver out of the car all together, creating an autonomous vehicle.
The way this works is the car is built like a robot and connected to the mapping system. The energy saving component comes in because by removing the human driver, the car will not do things like speed, slam on the breaks, or get lost. It will also automatically choose the most efficient route, making it less frustrating for the person in the car as well as cut the time that the engine is running.
My reaction to this idea was very conflicted. For me, it seemed a little unrealistic and almost creepy (Robot apocalypse? I don’t know.) . BUT when thinking about future ways of limiting our energy consumption and moving into world where vehicles will not require the amount of fuel they do now, all options must be considered. Of course, this is not ready to be taken to the streets quite yet and would take a lot of trial and error, but with the health of the earth at stake with limited resources available, this is just one way corporations are trying to actively reduce the amount of energy and carbon emissions through burning oil.
Want to learn more? Below, you can watch the full length special to introduce yourself to the future possibilities in reducing energy use in transportation!