Automobiles: Where To Now?

by bestmapman on January 20, 2008

Automobiles, Where To Now

by Jud Engels Jan. 20, 2008

This is the first in a series of chapters on the future of automobiles. As an introduction, this first article is setting the stage for the investigation of future options for the automobile. This is an interesting subject to many, of which there are many opinions.

Pressing problem: OIL I think that everyone will agree that we have to find a solution to fossil fuels. Without a doubt, oil will run out. Some think it will run out sooner than later. See peak oil here. Unless we want to go back to horses, we need to find a solution to replace oil.

Historical Perspective: This is not a new problem. If we think back prior to the 1800’s, the primary fuel was wood. There is a good article here about the historical deforestation of the world by humans. We (humans) were in the process of deforesting the world. In fact much of the eastern US was devoid of forests by the American Civil War. This picture, VA. I have been to this place, and it is now all grown back with trees, but at the time of the Civil War, most of the trees had been cut down. Wood was replaced in the industrial revolution by coal. This was good for the forests, but as everyone knows bad for air quality not to mention greenhouse gasses. Then there is the Whaling issue. As we all know, whales were hunted almost to extinction for there oil. In 1859 Edwin Drake drilled the first “oil well”, and started the whole oil industry. This essentially enabled automobiles to develop to where they are now.

In summation fossil fuels are but a stepping stone in the advancement of engineering and transportation. The question is what is the next step.

Review of Automotive Fuel:

Fossil fuels: Up to this point, most automobiles have used gasoline or diesel fuels. As we have seen, there is a finite supply of all types of fossil fuel. Additionally there is the environmental issue. Additional finds may be available, but the price is sure to go up. The good news, is that they are not going to run out immediately, but will last a while longer. A proven good provider for fuel for automobiles

Batteries: Some of the earliest automobiles were battery powered EV’s. This is a brief history of the electric car. Although some of the earliest cars were EV’s, they fell out of production around 1900. The major advantages are: very little pollution, no greenhouse gasses, and little mechanical maintenance.

Next Chapters:

Future Automotive Fuel Options:

  • Internal Combustion Engine
  • Gasoline:
  • Natural Gas/Propane
  • Hydrogen
  • Diesel
  • Bio fuels
  • Electric
  • Batteries
  • Ultra Capacitors
  • Fuel Cells
  • Compressed air

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{ 1 comment }

1 mattW March 13, 2008 at 7:45 am

Hey Jud, nice post.
I’m doing a similar series on the blog over at I’ve taken a look at biofuels and will be doing hydrogen, air and electric cars later this week. I’ll be looking forward to your perspective on them too.

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