Fueling the Future of Energy

Posted by: Prof. P. Harish Kumaar

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Fueling the Future of Energy

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established the Sustainable Development Goals with the aim of “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”, among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is Affordable and Clean Energy. It aims to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.


As countries move towards Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by mid-century, the switch from fossil fuels to clean energy is inevitable. In this scenario, we explore the opportunities and challenges posed by Electric vehicles, Hydrogen fuel cells, Nuclear Energy, and other alternatives such as algae biofuel.


Electric Vehicles

In the last five years, we have witnessed a global increase in Electric Vehicles (EVs) mostly in China, the US, and Europe with growth that is poised to increase exponentially. In addition, in February 2023 the European Parliament approved a law banning the sale of Petrol and Diesel Cars from 2035 which will speed up the bloc’s transition to EVs. One major positive fact about EVs is that they have zero net emissions.


For all the bold and virtue-signaling, electric cars have some serious drawbacks. Battery prices are now advancing; the price of exotic battery components like cobalt, manganese, copper, and lithium go through the roof, destroying the economic viability. Electric cars are hopeless for sustained long-distance driving compared with fossil fuel-powered cars.


Hydrogen Energy

Hydrogen has evolved as a versatile energy choice and can be produced with the least carbon footprint. Hydrogen plays major roles, which span from the backbone of the energy system to the decarbonisation of end-use applications.


Fuel cells complement Electric batteries to decarbonise Transportation

Hydrogen and Electric batteries are competing technologies. Electric vehicles exhibit higher overall fuel efficiency as long as they are not too heavy due to large battery sizes, making them ideally suited for short-distance and light vehicles. Hydrogen can store more energy in less weight, making fuel cells suitable for large vehicles with heavy payloads and long-distance transportation. Faster refueling of Hydrogen also benefits Commercial Transportation and other vehicles in near-continuous use.


Electrified Roads

As Cities are evolving as Smart Cities, more energy solutions are entering the Urban infrastructure. Few roads in Israeli offer inductive charging for Electric vehicles, which allows vehicles to charge on the go, it is indeed a promising option but only feasible if it gets cheaper and becomes more widely adopted.


Algae Biofuel

When looking to a greener future, algae is a promising fuel for future energy. Algae biofuel is a promising solution for creating a wide range of fuels already in use for current vehicles. Algae culture also has minimal impact on freshwater resources since it is biodegradable. Microalgae have the potential to produce an oil yield that is up to 25 times higher than the yield of oil palm and 250 times the amount of soybeans.”

In Hamburg, Germany, the Bio Intelligent Quotient building is the first algae-powered building, a 15-story apartment wrapped in algae biomass produced by a photobioreactor. Filled with water and pumped with liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide, this bioreactor promotes algae growth and prevents it from rotting. It is through these panels that energy is generated and used to power the building.


Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is the greener solution for generating energy as the mortality rate has become much smaller.

Small modular reactors (SMR) are already offering cheaper, faster, and less complex ways to deal with nuclear power in comparison to traditional nuclear plants. These reactors are miniaturized and self-contained, meaning they have a much lower risk of leaks. Further, the emission of atomic fuel and energy during emergency shutdowns is decreased, due to containment units that can shut down autonomously, thus remaining cold indefinitely.

Both the US Nuclear Corp and Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies (MIFTI) believe in a few years the first fusion power plant to be viable, will release up to four times as much energy as fission while using fuel that is lightweight, safe, low-cost, and sustainable.


New Space Race for Energy

In May 2020, NASA announced the Artemis Accords, a proposed legal framework for moon mining, named after NASA’s Artemis program to take Americans back to the moon in 2024. The United States will be the first to dictate the terms of lunar mining before any other country.

Despite the fact that asteroid mining is still too expensive to be a viable solution right now, there are numerous studies examining how space resources can be utilized to not only tackle Earth’s energy needs, but also support space travel, spaceports, and even Human colonies. Hypothetically, the harvesting of resources in space would help reduce the depletion of Earth’s natural resources.

Thermodynamics has taught us that no energy is ever lost, but transformed; the future of energy prompts the challenge of extreme efficiency. There might not be a future for technologies that perform a single task and are not integrated into a broader perspective of sustainability.



  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02510-y
  2. https://www.bitsathy.ac.in/blog/fuel-for-the-future/
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