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Petroleum Power

Petroleum is formed from ancient life, is essential for modern industrial society, but has negative consequences on the environment.

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Future Vehicles
teacher Contributed

Your Dream Car

Why It Matters

What does your dream car look like? What special features would it have? Would it look something like this?


For most of us, our dream car is a certain type (sports car, SUV, truck) or a certain color. Have you ever thought about the fuel source? Today, there are a few different options out on the market: gasoline powered cars, electric cars, and hybrid cars (a combination of gasoline and electric sources of energy).

While we are familiar with how gasoline powered cars work, electric and hybrid cars might need a little more explanation.

Here is a site that explains how electric vehicles use energy efficiently: http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric/efficiency

Here is a site where you can learn more about how a hybrid car works: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybridAnimation/swfs/hybridframe.html

What type of fuel source do you think that your dream car will use? Why?

Explore More

  1. On the CK-12 site under the concept, Energy from Biomass, the production of ethanol fuel from corn is discussed as an alternative to petroleum power. What are some other alternative energy sources that could power our dream cars of the future? Brainstorm a list of other renewable and non-renewable resources that could be used to power a vehicle.
  2. Here are some examples of current areas of scientific exploration in this field: Hydrogen Fuel Hydrogen https://www.llnl.gov/str/pdfs/03_96.3.pdf Hydrogen Fueling Station Fuel http://energy.gov/articles/hydrogen-student-design-contest-inspires-and-opens-doors Fuel Cell Technology Microbial http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/doe_h2_fuelcell_factsheet.pdf Microbial Fuel Cells Copying https://str.llnl.gov/Mar12/qian.html Copying Nature’s Photosynthetic Process Carbon https://news.slac.stanford.edu/features/power-plants-scientists-use-x-ray-laser-probe-engines-photosynthesis Carbon Nanotubes For http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/may/unzipped-carbon-nanotubes-052712.html For each of these, identify the positive and negative characteristics. Which of these sources would be easiest to obtain? Which are renewable resources? Which of these areas of exploration do you think have a future in the automotive industry? Why?

Resources Cited

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory https://www.llnl.gov/str/pdfs/03_96.3.pdf


Stanford University https://news.slac.stanford.edu/features/power-plants-scientists-use-x-ray-laser-probe-engines-photosynthesis


Tesla Motors http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric/efficiency

Wikimedia http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A2011_Tesla_Roadster_2.5S_-_Review_-_Flickr_-_NRMA_New_Cars.jpg

US Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy




Connections to other CK-12 Subject Areas

Earth Science

  • Types of Air Pollution
  • Reducing Air Pollution


  • Photosynthesis


  • Engines

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