A big part of sustainable transportation is not only decreasing usage or getting more people on communal and public means but also making all forms of transportation more energy efficient.  Energy efficiency can be measured by both how far a means can travel per unit of fuel as well as the effects of the fuel used on the environment.  In that spirit, here are two new means of energy that may one day be used to fuel vehicles on and off the electric grid.

The Navy has invested in 20,000 gallons (476 barrels of oil equivalency) of algae-based fuel.  The company, Solazyme, explains the process here.

Our unique, indirect photosynthesis bioproduction process uses microalgae to convert biomass directly into oil and other biomaterials, a process that can be performed in standard commercial fermentation facilities cleanly, quickly, and at low cost and large scale. Our renewable oil and bioproducts technology has manufactured thousands of gallons of oil and hundreds of tons of biomaterials that are tailored not only for biofuel production, but also as replacements for fossil petroleum and plant oils and compounds in a diverse range of products from oleochemicals to cosmetics and foods.

It somehow feels appropriate for the Navy to invest in algae.  However, I’m thrilled that the military is pushing such new technologies and funding their development.  First off, it is good for the alternative energy business.  Moreover, every soldier and citizen has a stake in this as the sooner we have viable alternative fuels the sooner we can stop fighting wars in the Middle East.  If Wikipedia is accurate, this is very exciting:

Among algal fuels’ attractive characteristics: they do not affect fresh water resources,[3] can be produced using ocean and wastewater, and are biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled.[4][5][6] Algae cost more per unit mass yet can yield over 30 times more energy per unit area than other, second-generation biofuel crops.[citation needed] One biofuels company has claimed that algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two car garage than a football field of soybeans, because almost the entire algal organism can use sunlight to produce lipids, or oil.[7] The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (40,000 km2).[8] This is less than 17 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.[9][10]

The second story isn’t quit as exciting in terms of viability, but it definitely registers high on the weird scale.  A man in Nepal has created a solar panel that runs on human hair!  Apparently the melanin in hair is light sensitive and acts as a conductor.

He was originally inspired after reading a book by physicist Stephen Hawking, which discussed ways of creating static energy from hair.

‘I realised that Melanin was one of the factors in conversion of energy,’ he said.

Half a kilo of hair can be bought for only 16p in Nepal and lasts a few months, whereas a pack of batteries would cost 50p and last a few nights.

People can replace the hair easily themselves, says Milan, meaning his solar panels need little servicing.

On second thought, if it can save the Nepalese people scarce funds and resources, why the hell not?