The ultimate aim would be to run all of human civilization's daily needs with the same amount of energy falling upon the surface of the earth every day. The energy we are talking about is vast and more than enough for our needs. So how do we tap into it?
So far our attempts at converting sunlight into usable forms of energy has been lame. Of late the semi-conductor junction called the Photovoltaic cell has experienced a quantum leap in conversion of sunlight into electricity. If Sanyo's claims are to be believed, it has managed to rise above the nominal 2-3% conversion rate to reach 23% conversion. http://us.sanyo.com/News/SANYO-Develops-HIT-Solar-Cells-with-World-s-Highest-Energy-Conversion-Efficiency-of-23-0-
This makes a lot of sense to adopt this method of harnessing the sunlight reaching our planet every day. Widespread adoption and integration of this to our current electrical grid can and will reduce our dependency on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.
However while we pat ourselves on our backs, nature has been doing this for millions and indeed billions of years. Plants have the ability to convert the sunlight into energy storage forms and they do it for free and without pollution as well.
The strategy is to be able to capture this excess energy and store it for our needs both current and future. Nature has been wise enough to have captured vast amounts of this energy as fossil fuels and we have been “clever” enough to exploit this stored energy to advance human civilization. Have we gone too far?
Well using the stored fossil fuels seemed like a free ride but we are now realising it does have a cost and we just hope that it will not be paid with human lives if not indeed human civilization as we know it.
The rational strategy is to play by the rules. First human civilization must not exceed the daily ration of energy that falls upon this earth for its existence. More prudently we should not exceed the potential of our ability to capture this energy. But fortunately nature is generous and we have an abundance but it is mainly one form, that of light or electromagnetic radiation.
We need many forms for all our needs and have been clever enough to master the conversion of the different forms of energy to suit our needs.
For the longest time our cars have been served by utilizing the conversion of chemical energy onto mechanical energy via the internal combustion engine. So who is to say we cannot continue with this method indefinitely?
All we have to do is find a way to tap into the existing cycle of life to convert the sun's energy into mechanical energy to propel our cars. The most obvious is the conversion into electrical energy which needs to be stored for use in our cars. This will be represented by electric cars where the electric grid is well developed.
Second is to find commercially viable ways to convert the sunlight to a form of storage energy that can readily be used in the internal combustion engine. This is bio-fuels used in an internal combustion engine.
Third is a hybrid of the two technologies and this we already have, the Hybrid car.
So is not clear that we already have the implements for the future already in our hands. There is little need to debate of the Hydrogen future and of Fuel cells.
The future is already here. We only have to get clever enough to make economic sense of these technologies and make it work.