To better understand the popularity and importance of hybrid energy today, it’s important to not forget the past. The development of vehicles as a means of transportation of people and goods has made technological leaps and bounds in the past 100 years or so. By stepping into the past, we can appreciate where centuries of research and experimentation has brought us.
Road Vehicle Development
In the 1800s, transportation was mainly achieved via horse-drawn carriages, sailing clipper ships, and coal-burning trains. Slower and less reliable methods of getting around, they were all that was available to most countries of the world. That is, until two creations spearheaded the rapid advancement of vehicle design and development. One was the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, which upon production by Ransom E. Olds in 1901 was the first mass-produced automobile. The inception of a motor-powered vehicle as commonplace in society was a huge game-changer, inspiring generations of researchers and scientists to consider new ways of developing vehicles. Today, the antiquated and wasteful motorcars (often playthings of only the richest citizens) have been replaced by hundreds of millions of varying types of road vehicles. From small hybrid two-seater sports coupes and sedans to entirely electric vehicles such as those developed by the geniuses at Tesla, today’s vehicles are far less intrusive on our environment. We still have a long way to go in order to minimize our greenhouse gas emissions, but the increasing popularity of hybrid and electric-powered road vehicles is a very good sign of things to come with continued research and development.
Seagoing Vessel Development
Another breakthrough came in the form of a successful business once hindered by the ferocity of the sea. Samuel Cunard received a license to deliver mail from the old world to America in the late 1830s, allowing for him to operate a scheduled service across the Atlantic Ocean. His first steamship, the RMS Britannia, featured revolutionary paddlewheels and three masts, and passengers flocked to her and her eventual fleetmates as they arrived safely and within only a dozen days or so, compared to months of travel associated with sailing vessels.
In that sense, the Cunard Line was the first truly successful steamship line, which created an industrial boom that created a furious game of one-upmanship to build increasingly larger, faster, and more opulent ocean liners. Countless innovations such as iron hulls, riveting, welding, the bulbous bow, stabilizer fins, watertight compartments, fireproofing, and conversion from coal to gasoline emerged during the golden age of ocean travel. Today, the ocean liners of yesteryear are replaced by towering cruise ships capable of transporting nearly 10,000 passengers and crew around the world. Many new features have been developed as a result of continued breakthroughs in naval architecture and marine vessel design including azipods, seamless welding, strict zero-waste at sea policies, and the development of liquid natural gas (LNG) as a form of energy. These innovations have been applied to cargo vessels of all sorts as well, and in a world with a surface comprising of 71% water, this is an important step to take towards our bettering of the environment through alternating to clean energy methods.
Highlighting road and sea travel in particular is important, because they are the most utilized methods of passenger and goods-based transportation. When compared to how dramatically road vehicles and shipping has changed over the years, air travel hasn’t relatively changed as much. In the past several decades there has been little room for improvement due to the limitations presented by aerodynamics, but that never stopped research teams from shifting towards greener practices. Many smaller changes over time resulting from extensive research have improved the efficiency of air transportation. Continuous retooling of turbines, engines, electrical components, and fuel consumption methods have made aircraft a viable and effective way to get around, but these are not the main culprits behind greenhouse gas emissions.
By highlighting the changes made to methods of travel and examining how we’ve shifted to favouring green alternatives through the years as our consumption and environmental impact increased, we see a pattern. We’re recognizing as a species the importance of developing ways to minimize our footprint without sacrificing our economic integrity and stability as a civilization.