A Dutch physicist first experimented with the internal combustion engine in the 1600’s using gun powder as fuel. That same conceptual design powered the first “horseless carriage” in the 1800’s.
Since then, the world has gone through a spectacular, explosive advancement in technology from space travel to a real-life version of Captain Kirk’s tiny hand-held communicator to the desktop PC.
But our automobiles are being powered today by the same technology that Henry Ford put in the Model-T Ford over one hundred years ago.
In a very literal sense, our auto engine technology today is one step above the horse and buggy.
The Challenge: develop a 21st century automobile propulsion technology that will power a full-sized car at Interstate speed limits from New York to Los Angeles without refueling or charging batteries.
Seem impossible? Perhaps. Just as “impossible” as JFK’s vision of putting a man on the moon over forty years ago at a time when space travel was only something we fantasized about and read about in Buck Rogers’ comic books. Eight short years later, we heard Neil Armstrong’s historic words “that’s one small step for man…….”
It’s time we shift our mindset out of the 20th century ideas like “alternative fuels” that will still depend on the 19th century piston-pounder to power our cars. Or natural gas that is not in infinite supply and still very costly. Conventional electric cars with conventional batteries will only serve to shift the oil/gas crisis to one of electricity as demands on the power grid jump off the scale to charge batteries. It’s hard to envision my car with a wind turbine mounted on top.
Roughly two-thirds of all U.S. oil consumption goes to transportation fuels. That’s about the amount of oil we import from foreign countries. How sweet it would be if we could tell OPEC to go swim in their $140 per barrel oil – we don’t need it.
If JFK could do it over forty years ago, we can do it today.
Allowing a bickering, partisan, do-nothing Congress to apply their Harvard law degrees toward designing our futuristic energy technologies is just plain dumb. If they truly want to get serious about solving our energy problems, then create another JFK-style program by assembling the world’s most brilliant scientists, physicists, engineers and free-thinking visionaries to lead us out of 19th century. Open the purse strings and let the PhDs develop something right out of Scotty’s engine room of the Starship Enterprise.
The USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is a massive (93,000 ton displacement) nuclear-powered aircraft carrier than can operate 30 years on one refueling and was commissioned in 1962 – about the same time Kennedy launched his endeavor to put man on the moon.
If we can develop the technology to run a mammoth warship for thirty years, then we should be able to develop something to power our 3,500 pound autos beyond the next gas station.
Beam me up, Scotty! There is no intelligent life down here!