Effect of Energy Harvesting on Vehicles
In 10E + 100 years, the last bit of thermal energy will leave the last atom. By this time, every molecule in the universe will be equally spaced apart. They will all have equal gravitational effects on each other in all directions, rendering them essentially motionless. The universe will go quiet in a state of perfect entropy.
But that is a very long time from now. For now, entropy still has a lot of work to do before it can get there. Entropy, if you do not know, is the loss of energy inside a physical system that does work. Systems burn fuel to produce work, but the work they do is always less than the fuel they burn. This loss is called entropy.
The human race fights against entropy at all times. Not only is the work humans do lesser than the fuel, but the fuel they use is constantly running out. Eventually, the system will have nothing left to burn. That is where energy harvesting comes in. Energy harvesting is the process of using the waste of a system as fuel.
Vehicles already utilize this to some extent. Cars are especially good at using their own energy expenditures to power themselves, since they are partly powered by combustion and partly powered by electricity. The electricity of the battery helps run the engine, and the combustion of the engine keeps the battery charged.
But if humans are to combat their ever-dwindling fuel reserves, they need to innovate on their energy harvesting technologies. There is calculated to be about 156 years until natural gas is no more. That is not accounting for a sudden increase or decrease in the use of natural gas, but it is still a chilling number.
Without energy harvesting, humans’ favored ways of transportation will be no more. Cars, motorcycles, and buses are one thing. But this will also affect the shipping, flight, and farming industries. What will the world look like if humans wait until the 11th hour to find a way to do these without gas?
Imagining an Energy Harvesting Future for Vehicles
To begin with, consider the modern gasoline drivetrain. Only about 15% of the gasoline your car uses arrives at the drivetrain as power. The rest is wasted. Not burned as energy, not used as lubricant—wasted. And the bigger the car is, the smaller that number becomes. Clearly, energy harvesting would do wonders for that.
If cars could get 30% of the gasoline to the drivetrain as power rather than 15%, that would extend the lifespan of fossil fuels by dozens of years. Make no mistake, it would not double it—there are simply too many wasteful cars still on the road for that change to double the current number. But it would give humanity more time.
This is part of the logic behind hybrid cars, in an amusing sort of way. The idea is that less fuel is wasted, not due to an increase in the efficiency of how the fuel is used, but because it is supplemented by an electrical engine. The gasoline is still turned into power at an alarmingly poor rate.
The standing theories are that energy can be harvested from many places in the car—from the gas tank, to the battery, to the shocks going through the axels of the cars. What the future holds is up to the market though. And unless the market allows for it, energy harvesting will have little effect on the inevitable doom of cars.