I drive a 2011 Honda CRZ. My car is solar-powered.
It doesn’t have any solar panels. It’s a regular car right off the factory floor without any special bells and whistles.
The solar power isn’t the energy that is currently hitting the Earth, but energy that hit the Earth three hundred million years ago. After hitting the Earth, it went through some processing and was stored in the world’s largest battery. It’s solar power, but not green technology. It’s old school.
Roughly 300,000,000 years ago (plus 8 minutes, 20 seconds), the sun emitted some solar energy in the form of photons that traveled to Earth at the speed of light. Once it arrived, some of it was absorbed by green plants. These plants used that energy to power photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugars (carbon-based plant bits).
Eventually, some of those plants will die. I know, it’s sad, but a fact of life. Others will be eaten by animals. When these animals die, they will join the dead plants as deposits under the Earth’s surface. Over the next three hundred million years or so, these dead plants and animals are reduced to carbon-based chemicals… coal, oil, and natural gas.
Some time later, humans discovered these organic compounds can be used to power our lives, so as humans tend to do, we started excavating coal and oil in massive quantities. Once the oil is removed, it’s refined into gasoline. The combustion engine in my car is able to burn this gasoline to release its energy, using that power to make my car move.
Here’s the killer part of this cool trick though…. humans live fast-paced lives, and the Earth lives on MUCH longer time scales. All the oil available today took 300,000,000 years to produce. It’s taken just 200 years for humans to dig it up, burn it, and release it’s byproduct carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The numbers can be fudged a little to account for what we haven’t used yet, or when our fossil fuel economy really started, but any way you parse the numbers, humans have significantly affected the carbon cycle. We are putting CO2 into the atmosphere infinitely (well, 150,000,000 times) faster than it can be reabsorbed by plants.
And that, my friends, is why my car is solar-powered, but not in a good way.