The transportation sector uses a lot of energy.
That’s not some startling revelation— we’ve known it for some time. But as the last few decades have seen increased gasoline consumption as more and more people worldwide enjoy heightened standards of living, the last few years have introduced an interesting new trend as cars become more efficient.
In addition to the overall energy drain this presents, these vehicles are also massive polluters, with the transportation sector making up an estimated 31 percent of the United States’ annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
These are truly global problems for us as a species. Aside from the staggering implications of climate change, the energy costs associated with our modes of transportation hint at a time when we simply won’t have enough fossil fuels remaining to support our standards of living, with estimates typically placing that point between 2050 and 2080 at our current rate of consumption.
It’s difficult to say that our modes of transportation haven’t changed much in the last century— they’ve made strides. But these advances have been incremental: a more efficient engine, faster cars, jets over biplanes, electric cars, etc. But it’s really pretty realistic to say we haven’t seen a true revolution in transport technology since the birth of commercial aviation.
Even the wave of electric vehicles making their way onto the market now comes with a host of limiting factors, such as the facts that they are still cars and inherently are limited to traveling in certain ways and at certain speeds. And while electric cars themselves don’t produce greenhouse gases, they do still more often than not recharge on grids supplied by fossil fuels.
One thing is clear when leaning back and looking at the full picture: we desperately need a new form or transport, not just for the planet, but for industry in an increasingly globalize world.
There may be one contender: the Hyperloop.
The brain child of celebrity-billionaire businessman Elon Musk, the Hyperloop has the potential to carry passengers across the United States from Los Angeles to New York in the time it would take to watch an episode of Archer— or for those less familiar, roughly one-third of the Dr. Oz Show (with commercials).
For those crunching the numbers, that’s about 20 minutes. Imagine the economic impact that a not only electronically, but practically geographically connected country the size of the United States would have on world trade.
As for its own energy sources, the Hyperloop would likely be solar powered and has been suggested to generate more power than it uses, all while generating no greenhouse gases.
To learn more about the (admittedly, theoretical) Hyperloop, we bring you this infographic from gocompare.com and developed by VisualCapitalist.com.