Will we soon be driving with energy from the sun and water? Alternative fuels are currently the focus of research in the automotive industry. The first solar-powered car is soon to conquer the market. And hydrogen-powered vehicles are already on the road today.
Driving a car with the energy of the sun. This is the promise of the Lightyear One solar car, 946 of which are to be launched on the European market this year. It was developed by Dutch mechanical engineering students. Investors provided about 48 million US dollars for the solar car.
With its five square metres of solar cells on the roof and a very light body made of aluminium and carbon fibre, it promises a range of 700 kilometres. So it not only makes conventional electric cars look pale, it can even match the range of a combustion car. With a price tag of 150,000 euros, however, the solar car is still a utopia for many citizens.
Hydrogen technology is also advancing in leaps and bounds. Hydrogen is increasingly being produced from sustainable energy instead of from environmentally harmful natural gas. Some European countries as well as the EU have developed roadmaps for hydrogen as an energy supplier, in which the individual steps on the way to promoting the fuel are laid down. The fuel is seen as a beacon of hope for trucks in particular, as it enables significantly longer ranges and can be refilled at filling stations in a similar way to diesel and petrol. The first truck test tracks with hydrogen filling stations should soon make real-world operation possible. In total, however, about 1,000 hydrogen filling stations would be needed in Germany alone to enable a nationwide infrastructure.
But battery-powered e-cars that can be charged with electricity at the socket are also becoming increasingly efficient. The battery manufacturer Varta has started producing so-called "power cells". These can be fully charged within six minutes and, at only 2.1 centimetres in diameter and 7 centimetres high, are very small so that they can be easily installed in different cars. The company wants to be able to produce 100 to 200 million of these "power cells" as early as 2024.
So things are happening with regard to alternative fuels. However, it is not yet clear how long it will take until vehicles with the new technologies are available on the market at affordable prices.
Diesel and petrol engines will therefore probably remain the means of choice for most citizens for some time to come. With them, the battle for internal combustion vehicles in the inner cities will continue.