Ambient Air, Environment & Energy, Metals, STRATEGIES

AIRBORNE: A MECHANIZED LIFE

If there is a single thing that defines our urban life then it has to be mobility.

Always being on the move requires energy which our vehicles consume in the name of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels…carbonized remnants of historic organic life transformed over time into hydrocarbons not only able to drive our vehicles but light up our homes, cook our food among many other things.

Fossil fuels are here with us for a while so for those who believe that one day we’ll wake up to a renewable energy driven world, it might not take place in our lifetime.

Be that as it may, fossil fuels come with their fair share of inconveniences…

Besides being key culprits in depositing carbon into our atmosphere, fossil fuels compromise our air quality in ways that are shocking.

Of concern are particulates which come in all shapes an sizes visible as soot.

Some have an average diameter of 2.5 microns giving them the potency to penetrate deep into our respiratory systems leading to respiratory disorders in the long run.

And not only do they damage our lungs…

Being a concoction of chemical by-products, long term exposure to airborne particulates could lead to organ failure, cancer and mental health deterioration.

We might not completely eliminate combustion of fossil fuels but a little focus on renewables could help in reducing their after effects.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Yes…I know Tesla appears somewhere at the top of our heads.

But let’s imagine affordable vehicles powered by solar energy batteries dominating our streets.

For a while this looked like a pipe dream.

But not until ‘Nopearide‘ that Finish start-up took to the stage and redefined taxi services on our streets.

Yeah, I know…

They are still a pale shadow of the big players such as ‘Uber’, ‘Bolt’ etc.

But something fascinating about ‘Nopearide’ is their desire to gamble with unchartered waters which possibly could lead them to new profitable destinations.

Because smaller cars use less energy than larger ones (no brainer huh!), they are perfect ‘guinea pigs’ for battery power testing…

And in this regard, ‘Nopearide’ doesn’t dissapoint.

While hitching a ride on one such taxi, the driver informed me that one could time their travels perfectly as long as they are guaranteed of a charging point along the way.

And how does he charge his car battery?

He uses his electric mains socket at home…

Yes…

That same ol’ electric socket we use to charge our phones can charge his car!!!

Amazing!!! (and the three exclaimation marks are not a coincidence)…

And to make matters better, the battery could still be powered by a solar panel mounted on top of the car.

Meaning that a sunny drive could as well be self-powering…

LITHIUM ION BATTERIES

We use batteries everyday in our phones and tablets.

But the lithium ion battery is a versatile gadget that finds uses even in electrical vehicles because of a couple of reasons.

First, it is light in weight.

Besides lithium being the third lightest element in the periodic table, lithium batteries are mostly composed of compact electrodes made out of carbon (graphite) and a metallic oxide such as that of cobalt or manganese.

These compact electrodes make the battery smaller delivering more energy per gram compared to most of their contemporaries.

But secondly, the lithium battery is designed for recharging.

An electric vehicle could be charged pretty much the same way we charge our phones or tablets.

But the only challenge with charging batteries is the time taken for the gadget to recharge fully.

How possible is it to design batteries with the capacity to recharge faster saving not only on time but also on costs?

But lastly, lithium batteries are versatile.

They could be deployed in many different applications which employ solar panels.

From domestic lighting to food storage…

From water purification to powering electronic gadgets…

From warming up food to powering a receiver for some rural folks.

But to make renewable energy a greater reality in the future, solar energy research needs to be matched with R&D on energy storage devices such as batteries.

BEYOND LITHIUM ION BATTERIES

R&D on easily accessible electrode materials is important to make battery manufacture in developing nations like Kenya a reality.

Several locally available materials such as silicon from rice husks, activated carbon from agrowaste and recovered rare metals from used batteries could enable local innovators capture this space.

But beyond lithium, many energy intensive power storage solutions such as the use of vanadium redox batteries are slowly gaining traction in the market.

The future of renewable energy hinges on robust energy storage models to enable energy usage when needed.

IN CONCLUSION

Reduction of negative impacts of fossil fuel combustion could be realized through embracing researched technologies in the field of energy storage.

After all, we shall not only be taking care of our environment but our health also.

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