‘Will George Jetson Drive To Work?’


For those still waiting patiently for the 21st century to arrive, a dip this week, via the web-world of automobile obsessives, into the gas guzzling future of personal tranportation.

Up In The Sky – It’s Bird, It’s A Plane – No, It’s A Flying Car!
“No matter how you look at it the automobile is only an interim step on our evolutionary path to independence from gravity. That’s all it will ever be. Moller International’s M400 Skycar volantor is the next step.”
– believe the hype@ www.moller.com/skycar ?

Only from the Northern hemisphere nation who brought the world the Gulf War, parts I & II, and is the world’s largest, massively in debt, consumer of oil, would we expect should an appropriate invention for our times : ‘the flying car’. Inventor Paul Moller believes in a future where ‘personal transport vehicles’ will be available that are ‘as safe, efficient, affordable and easy-to-use as automobiles’. At the moment you can leave a $500,000 deposit which will deliver you a skycar ( once tests have been finished ), that can carry 4 passengers, travel at around 350mph, hover with one engine failed and use automotive gasoline. NASA cats are behind it too – or at least one of them is ( a NASA janitor perhaps?), and Daniel Goldin’s vision for a gas-guzzling future is to:
“Enable doorstep-to-destination travel at four times the speed of highways to 25% of the nation’s suburban, rural and remote communities in ten years and more than 90% in 25 years.”

Car-Parking In 2020
We have just over 6 billion people on the planet currently. We’ve yet to reach 1 billion for cars yet though, a prospect General Motors predicts will happen by 2020. That’s one thousand million cars. Chinese officials hope to have 140 million of those cars on the round in 2020, more than currently on the road in the States. More ambitiously, the forward thinkers at Toyota expect that we’ll have some 3.25 billion cars on the road by 2050. Given there’s a UN estimated 9 billion peeps on the planet by then, that’s a personal transportation vehicle for one in three of us. What per centage of those are flying vehicles is up for grabs, as will be all the inner-city rooftop parking spots.

Fuelling The Future
“The solution to the problem of the auto won’t be found under its hood.”
– Alex Steffen, from worldchanging.com, reminding that public transport, energy efficiency, bicycling, walking, and better urban planning can do more for improving transport in cities than technological advancements.

Funnily enough, a car causes more pollution before it’s ever driven than in it’s entire lifetime of driving. ( Think : extracting raw materials, transporting raw materials and producing the car). Pollution aside, 3 billion cars is a lotta gas guzzlin for gas we won’t have. Try googling ‘Peak Oil’ for a glimpse of the ending era of ‘cheaply accessible oil’ ( or read here : www.energybulletin.net/primer.php or see the freakish doco – www.endofsuburbia.com). They disagree about when it will happen, but most International energy bodies and institutions agree and understand that we will have less oil available in coming decades. Car manufacturers understand this too, and are already making plans to shift to hybrid engines that can switch between fuel and electricity – allowing energy to be partially gathered via renewable sources. They are also interested in hydrogen powered vehicles.

Is Hydrogen The Bomb?
Many speculators are keen on ‘hydrogen’ as a major fuel source of our future. Burning hydrogen produces a ‘smoke’ which is in fact water ( H2O), so a hydrogen economy would have definite benefits such as reduced air pollution. However as The Australian Technology Association point out, given that hydrogen needs to be separated and stored using energy from other sources to do so. In that sense hydrogen is a battery and not a fuel, and will still require lots of energy from elsewhere to make useful. By asking ‘How on earth do we charge the battery that is the hydrogen economy?’, the ATA remind that although hydrogen itself is attractive, there is still a long way to go to sustainably fuel our future.

Oh, “&” …
For my money, George Jetson’ll have a modem and a bicycle.

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