Fuel Efficiency: Hybrid, Electric, Solar or ‘Exotics’ (discussion)

The quest for the most fuel-efficient vehicles has entered a new phase, with major government private-sector investment in research and development for industrial-scale commercial production of a new class of gas-electric hybrid vehicles and EVs (all-electric cars). Swiss-based Solar Impulse is building the world’s first 100% solar-powered airplane, an achievement that will revolutionize the travel, industrial production, transport and fuel sectors. Now comes the news that the Chevrolet Volt will shatter the existing paradigm for fuel efficiency, achieving 230 miles per gallon (mpg).

Nissan claims to have better comparable performance for their LEAF model, and Tesla is preparing a fleet of high-performance “100% torque 100% of the time” EVs. Solar panels are creeping into automotive design, for supplemental power for commercially sold vehicles, though they have long been the subject of engineering competitions that race solar-only prototypes. Organic solar concentrators (dye-treated SV-edged windows) allow for the highly efficient use of existing window surfaces to capture solar power and generate electricity.

‘Exotics’, such as compressed air, water and bio-waste conversion systems —like the futuristic trash-fuel converter seen in the Back to the Future movies— are gaining increasing attention, as the quest for lower-cost, renewable, and environmentally friendly automotive fueling systems is popularized and outsourced to the activist and scientific communities. Hybridization, using these ideas to enhance the efficiency of other new technologies, is also gaining interest.

Such technologies could revolutionize automotive design and speed the arrival of the electric-only zero-combustion transport economy. Let us know what you know about the sudden rapid evolution of new highly fuel-efficient automotive systems…

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