Thinking Ahead to 2050

 February 10, 2023


In the wee hours of July 26, 2016, Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi to eager crowds and cameras. After 14 months of travel and 550 hours in the air, the plane had accomplished what many had deemed impossible: traveling 25,000 miles around the world—over four continents, two oceans and three seas—without a drop of liquid fuel. The sun's vibrant rays supplied the craft's only power.1

Solar Impulse 2

Photo credit: Milko Vuille

Modern technology has brought us a long way since the 1950s. People live longer and healthier, cars start quickly and seldom stall on the road, airplanes fly farther and faster with few failures and we have a whole load of conveniences unknown when today's senior citizens got the slap that started their breathing.

Thanks to the private sector, I would expect the 100 years of technological advancements since 1950 will bring unimaginable changes to how we travel on the ground and around the globe. By the year 2050, look for sun and wind power totally moving a large number of airplanes, boats, automobiles, trucks, buses, trains, motorcycles, farm equipment and other moving objects I fail to mention.

How do I know this? The truth is I don’t but the possibility certainly exists. Understand, I do not make the claim the sun and wind will power all vehicles totally but they will power many. For example, yes for personal airplanes but unlikely for heavy aircraft.  For another example, yes for yachts but very unlikely for aircraft carriers.


One is, I think, on firm ground believing so when considering solar energy has proven to be practical for powering airplanes long distances.


The Solar Impulse 2 shows us day and night flying over long distances without fossil fuel can happen.  The Swiss manufactured airplane circled the globe during 2015-2016.


With this kind of achievement, we should expect similar advancements with automobiles. Hybrid automobiles - powered by combinations of various energy methods - serve their owners well now.


The automobile industry has been developing more and more economical electric cars since the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The electric cars today are awesome compared to those powered by internal combustion engines. However, space required by the batteries place major limitations on electric vehicle usage as we know it now.


Battery space limitations will diminish in time. They will become less expensive, lighter and smaller. Range will increase, speed and power will satisfy nearly all owners, and charging time will be impressively reduced.


When we reach that point, automobile travel will be ready for total solar with the help of wind. It is not far-fetched to believe technology will bring solar panels and wind generators designed to fit in and on a vehicle that pleases the eye. Those solar panels and wind generators will produce all power requirements necessary for moving the vehicle down the highway as well as keeping batteries fully charged.


Technology will bring similar performance efficiencies to the transportation industry as well as to farms and manufacturing facilities. 

Too, we will not have to put up with the noise pollution we have now.

Great days are on the way.


But, we then will have one remaining challenge: Conditioning pedestrians to be on guard for silent vehicles.


I have 2 answers for that challenge too:

1. Equip all vehicles with continuous forward and backward beeping tones - you know, tones like those that we now hear on industrial vehicles as they move backward. Except for the unbearable and annoying noise driving us insane, wouldn't that be a hoot? Whee!


2. Do nothing. Pedestrians already know to look both ways before crossing a street.

Anyway, ciao.


1Source: Inside the First Solar-Powered Flight Around the World
  Smithsonian Magazine    Maya Wei-Haas    January 31, 2018