The Car That Will Save the Planet

About a year or so ago, I was being interviewed by a radio program out in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the host asked me about what I thought would be the best “energy and transportation” solution to that would get us off oil and gasoline and save the environment.

At the time, I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I gave a very broad response like, “There are many promising technologies out there that are being explored, but until one becomes the indisputable front runner, we should just focus on driving less and buying more fuel efficient cars.”

Clearly, a very PC answer – maybe I’ll run for office some day.

Regardless, I’ve now come up with what I think is the answer to our oil/gas/environmental problems. It’s not exactly revolutionary, and will probably be expensive to implement, but I have yet to come across a better solution.


See, I told you the idea wasn’t exactly revolutionary. However, you can’t argue that it’s not a near perfect idea to solve our oil and environmental problems.

Think about it – a quiet, zero emission car, powered by a non-carbon based, clean and renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and/or any combination of the aforementioned.

These renewable energy powered electric cars would solve the oil addition and environmental problems from two standpoints:

  1. The car itself obviously isn’t burning gasoline or diesel fuel. This would keep hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. (Each burned gallon of gas creates 20 pounds of CO2.) Also, we wouldn’t waste as much energy drilling for oil, refining it into gasoline, and transporting the gas to stations.
  2. The energy that ultimately powers the car would be completely clean and wouldn’t have much of an environmental impact, if any at all. The main argument against electric cars is that while the car itself may not produce pollution, by further taxing our power plants, we’re simply transferring the origin of the pollution. This argument is made completely null and void by having the power plant’s energy source be as clean and renewable as possible.

While it certainly would take some time to get the infrastructure for this up and running – both in terms of creating these renewable energy plants as well as the “charging stations” for the cars – I think it would be more than worth the wait.

So, if you’re ever on the radio and someone asks you what we need to do to solve our environmental problems, you now know how to answer!


  1. The major problem with this is that you’ve still got all these individuals spending a good part of their day running around in their personal exercise-avoidance machines, much of it for unnecessary errands. You must maintain a growing network of roads for these cars. What are you going to build roads out of? Concrete or asphalt?

    We need to get back to a situation, IMO, where we can walk to work or bike. Stop trying to maintain a dehumanizing giant cityscape of concrete.

    Clean cars could help us transition, but let’s not get locked in to building a huge new infrastructure to enable us to get lazier and fatter than we already are.

    James Kunstler says it best. Check him out.

  2. I think the true transportation solution is no car at all. It still takes resources to build the vehicle, no matter what energy they run on. It also takes many resources to build and maintain the transportation infrastruture (gas stations and roads).

    For an efficiency standpoint, I think the true solution is public transportation and shared vehicles when there is a need for personal vehicle.

    High density developments decreases the need for transportation. I think California is heading in the right direction by discouraging sprawl based developments.

  3. If they can make an electric car that can go the distance it would be great. But I think the biggest drawback to these cars right now is that they can’t go very far. If they can fix that, they will be more viable.

  4. Businesses and organisations across the UK are using the new electric smart ed in one of the car industry’s biggest carbon neutral test programmes.

    Over the next four years the electric vehicles will be operated using only ‘green energy’ – electricity generated from renewable sources. From manufacture to delivery and on to final operation, the ultimate objective has been to create a virtually carbon-free car.

    The car has a maximum range in excess of 70 miles and can be fully charged from empty in eight hours and partially charged from 30 per cent to 80 per cent in 3.5 hours. With a top speed of 60mph (electronically limited), and acceleration from 0-30mph in 6.5 seconds.

    Smart are running a market trial with selected blue chip companies who are happy to meet their requirements to power the cars using only renewable energy sources. Among the partners already enrolled in the trial are The Urban Splash, Islington and Coventry Councils, Foster & Partners, CarbonNeutral Company, EDF Energy and Amey.

  5. I think the Solar Car can be the best answer to the pollution and other Environmental changes.
    We must get together and spread awareness among the people regarding the environment.we can save the environment only if All the people understand this big problem.

  6. I must admit, the thought of the ultimate auto has crossed my mind a few times in the last 45 years since I learned to drive. While at NASA, I came upon some of the greatest inventors in the world today. One, Dr. Ruth Pater of Langley Research Center, invented a material, RP46 (the RP is for Ruth Pater) that has ten times the strength to weight ratio of steel and costs less than a dollar a pound. If you built a car out of RP46, replacing everything but the engine with the stuff, using RP46 panels, glue, castings, and clear windows, wheels, and tires, it would weigh less than 300 pounds. That’s a full-size, 5-passenger vehicle. Couple that with a turbodiesel, initially powered with diesel fuel today, it would get about 200 MPG.
    Now, ultimately, we can power the vehicle with anything that burns in a diesel, including ammonia made from solar power. The emissions would be nitrogen and water. Ammonia-based diesels can be built today at 42% efficiency.
    What do you think?
    –Paul, retired NASA scientist

  7. tintamar says

    Even if we’d have green bubbles as individual cars, they would still be individual cars. That means roads to maintain, numerous accidents, and a socialization process that starts with “get off my path”. So a good part of the negative externalities of cars would still haunt us.

    And consider the problem on a global scale: in 40 or 50 years, the global car pool will increase by as much as 5-fold, thanks to the capitalistic model being exported worldwide. There exists about 800 million individual cars worldwide; in 2050, there will be 3 or 4 billion individual cars around. Whatever energy will propel these cars, it will take a whole lot of it. Forget about solar panels. We are talking nuclear energy here.

    The only solution I see is transit, walk and bicycle and (importantly) smart urban development.

  8. tintamar,

    Thanks for the comment. I think your stats on the number of cars — both current and in the future — are pretty interesting. Could you let me know where you got them?

  9. Electric cars don’t seem so green to me. sure they can rid us of our dependence on oil, but what about the mountain of used toxic batteries left behind? This is like saying nuclear power is green.

  10. Brian,

    I don’t remember exactly where I read these numbers (it was in a book, I could find it eventually), but here are some websites with numbers:


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