Legendary baseball player and quipster Yogi Berra is credited with saying “The future ain’t what it used to be.” In his heyday, there was the popular notion that by now we’d all be driving around in flying cars. While that hasn’t come to pass, there are in fact “cars of the future” that you can buy today. Let’s get an early start on the New Year by reviewing these present future cars, what kind of “fuel” each can run on, and just how practical and affordable they are for 2024 and beyond. And, as Yogi Berra might have quipped: “You can tell how great these cars are just by driving them.” 

The Water Powered Car 

Claims of cars using water as a kind of fuel have been made throughout the past century. Unfortunately, these claims have all been found to be pseudoscience and in some cases investment frauds.  According to the currently accepted laws of physics, there is no way to extract chemical energy from water alone. That said, due to the potential energy that gravity can impart, flowing water carries energy that can be captured by hydroelectric dams and turned into electricity. Therefore, a battery electric vehicle (EV) charged completely or partially by hydro sourced electricity is essentially a kind of zero emissions “water powered” car. Check out this charging station powered by a nearby hydroelectric dam: Darlington Park | Darlington, MD | EV Station (plugshare.com) 

The Wind Powered Car 

While it is possible to mount a sail on to a vehicle and use it to propel the driver, the amount of energy from such a sail isn’t enough to propel a large land vehicle. It has been successfully demonstrated by a niche sport called kite boarding. Watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqP7JMEzYUg 

However, much like hydroelectric dams can generate electricity to charging an EV, wind turbines are used to generate electricity that is used to charge up an EV. So an EV can in fact also be a kind of wind-powered car. (See a theme starting here?) Both hydro and wind are often in excess during the evening and overnight period when EVs most commonly charging, making them a great fit.  

US Wind Power Capacity (WikiMedia)

The Sun (Solar) Powered Car 

Since really all of the energy on our planet has essentially come from the sun, why not get it more directly from the source? This is what solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) do by converting the sunlight energy directly into electrical current. Some people already schedule the charging of their EV when their home solar is generating the most during the day. If their electric meter is still “running backwards”, then their car is getting 100% of its energy directly from the sun! Still, it may be better overall for the grid to charge an EV overnight and allow excess solar to offset possible peak demand. Grid scale industrial solar is the most efficient and cost-effective way to create electricity that can also be used to charge an EV. Solar is growing rapidly so the future is bright for the EV as a sun-powered car! 

The Ultimate Flex-Fuel Car of Tomorrow 

From the examples above, it’s clear that a plug-in electric vehicle is sort of like the ultimate flex-fuel car that can be powered by the fuels of today and of the future. And whether it’s renewables or even when powered from mostly fossil fuel generation, an EV still provides the proven environmental benefits of no tailpipe emissions and lower overall total emissions and reduced air pollution. Learn more about how the emissions from driving an EV are lower than a gas car in every US region: Driving Cleaner | Union of Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org) 

What about hybrid powered cars – particularly the PHEV? 

We’ve neglected to mention perhaps the champion of the future flex-fuel car – the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV for short. Like an EV and unlike a plain old hybrid, PHEVs can be plugged in to charge and run every day on practically electricity alone, and still on any day switch seamlessly to gasoline as a long-range hybrid. Therefore PHEVs give drivers the ultimate freedom from either the pump or the charging station, whichever is most desired on any given drive. Like all electric vehicles, PHEVs reduce environmental impacts and are also proven to cost less total to fuel, maintain and own over their lifetimes. It’s even been announced recently that Dodge will release the first PHEV pickup truck, the Ramcharger! The 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger | Ram Electric Truck (ramtrucks.com) 

And finally, there are cars that run on other fuels that are in various stages of development or decline, including natural gas, hydrogen and even waste cooking oil! So far, these vehicles are still largely truly only future prospects to watch in terms of the affordable mass market availability and electric “fueling” infrastructure that plug in EVs have already achieved. So if you want to join those who are already traveling forward in both space and time, get yourself and EV and plug in to the future today! 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from all of us at ENE EV! 

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