You may or may not approve of the elimination of the world’s dependency on fossil fuels (oil, coal & natural gas) and the pace of the change to renewables (solar and wind) is taking, but they are definitely upon us. It appears that virtue-signaling government personnel and bureaucracies have gotten ahead of available technologies with the exception of Japan and perhaps a few other countries.

The current worldwide preferred technology for cars and trucks to avoid fossil fuels is electric motors and the source of electricity is batteries that require frequent recharging. Recharging requires electricity from the grid and this power is derived from generators powered primarily by fossil fuels. The stated desire is to augment and eventually replace these generators with renewable power from photovoltaic cells (solar) and wind-driven generators. As a side note, current new solar panels transform 20% of the applied sun energy into electricity, stabilizing to 18% shortly after installation.

The obvious problem in the transition to sun and wind use is their intermittent availability. To overcome this deficiency, a huge industry of battery-based energy storage that releases electricity on demand 24/7 is emerging. This storage capacity will require millions if not billions of batteries over and above those needed for vehicles.  It’s questionable that even multiple Tesla million-square-foot giga-factories can meet the challenge.

In addition to the production capabilities needed to produce the number of batteries required, is raw materials availability. Sources of items such as Lithium, cobalt, and nickel are questionable as is their very existence. One geologist has stated that there aren’t enough of the necessary elements on the planet to meet the needs. The answer may be to switch to sodium from lithium. Sodium is a close cousin to lithium on the periodic table and is universally available as salt to be mined and in seawater. Metallic sodium does not exist in nature as pure sodium but must be extracted from molten salt (Sodium Chloride) by the Downs Cell method. Sodium-based batteries have a lower power-to-weight ratio than lithium-based, so they are best suited for stationary storage applications thus leaving lithium for vehicles. One interesting source of salt could be the wastewater from seawater reverse osmosis systems. By reclaiming the salt and not returning it to the ocean, permits for large seaside systems to produce drinking water may avoid the negativity by environmentalists.

Interestingly, Japan, in spite of its history, is ramping up its nuclear energy electricity production capabilities to replace shipped-in oil and natural gas. They have a shortage of both wind and solar options because of location, geography, and population density. They have developed smaller, close-to-use reactors and turbine-driven generators. The reactors are totally unique employing closed-loop helium cooling systems to replace water and employ ceramic encapsulation of radioactive core sources that are impervious to heat.  Both features address the problems displayed at the Fukushima power plant.

Of additional interest, Japan is betting through Toyota and Honda on electric cars powered by Hydrogen using hydrogen fuel cells as the source of electricity. They have also developed two new methods of producing hydrogen from water. Both processes are electrolysis with one receiving its energy in a loop directly from the small nuclear reactor called high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) and the other called the thermochemical water-splitting iodine-sulfur (IS) process.