Originally posted by Melanerpes
We're not likely to see rapid movement on the environmental/resource front as long as the current fuels and resources are as cheap as they are.
If gasoline prices suddenly jumped permanently to $20-gallon, you can bet that the rate of technological advances for car engines would become much faster.
20 dollar gas would suck big time! If it came to that kind of price, civilization as we know it would end. Even if you had a car getting 200 mpg, VW is actually showing off a small car that approaches that #, the price would be 10 cents per mile so a trip of 20 miles would 2 bucks. I suppose that could work but at that price, almost any alternative would be cheaper, like the upcoming algae oil industry, there is an algae that grows pretty much pure diesel fuel and is made in vats where they absorb sunlight so it's basically solar energy deferred just like fossil fuels but renewable.
At that price, solar powered cars could come online, where the body collects solar energy directly and stores it in some advanced form of battery and after you park at work in the sun, continues to generate its own energy and store it, maybe enough to get you to work and back with no further input of energy from any source. There is already lab work showing a kind of solar cell paint that is sprayed on a steel or other conductive substrate and it self organizes into one giant PV cell. Questions of course would arise like how well would it work if scratched or hit in an accident or how long would it last in full sunlight, etc., but that seems to me the coming wave of real self generated power for cars.
I calculated the price to drive my own car, a Voyager van, which gets about 18 mpg and the price right now is about 2.30 per gallon US, which comes out to about 8 cents a mile so a car getting 200 mpg could live with 20 dollar gas but if you don't get at least 100 mpg, not many people could still afford to drive. That would be about 20 cents a mile but of course if I had to pay 20 bucks a gallon right now with my particular gas guzzler, it would cost about 70 cents a mile so a 20 mile trip would cost 14 bucks so the size of the area you could commute to would go down drastically and even the price of subsidized mass transit would go up several times over.
At least for public transport, hydrogen driven vehicles would come online in a big way. They are already using hydrogen on small scales here in Allentown Pennsylvania which is a small town so H2 is probably being pursued in a lot of towns in America at least in the public sector as we speak.