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10.3   Chemistry for the Future

Holden Volt hybrid engine car


One of the ways chemistry will help us in the future is in the development of cars that run without petrol.   The Holden Volt is one way we can at least use less petrol.  This is an electric car with a petrol engine to keep the battery at minimum charge.   It has a range of 60-80km using the battery alone and performance equivalent to any small car.   A knowledge of the most efficient ways to store electricity is just one of the many ways chemistry and chemical engineering have helped in the development of this motor car. 

Right side: power inverter on top of the electric motor used for traction; left side: the 1.4 L gasoline engine used as a generator to keep the battery at minimum charge.

The science of chemistry is several hundred years old – it evolved from alchemy, a kind of magical recipe study where its students tried to do things like turn lead into gold and discover “the elixir of life”. Modern chemistry is far from a dead science – new discoveries are constantly being made,  new materials invented, new links to the sciences of biology, physics and geology are constantly being found and new ways of doing old things more cheaply, cleanly and efficiently are being worked out.   Perhaps more important even than these things, chemists are working to solve environmental problems caused by the careless release of toxic materials into the environment.  Chemistry is the science of the future, because without a good understanding of chemistry, humans will not be able to tolerate the changes they themselves are making to the environment.

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