If I say the words "green energy," do you roll your eyes? Do your skeptical antennae immediately start twitching, nose pointed into the wind and ready to scent the smallest whiff of BS? 

It's completely understandable if that's true, especially if you're like me and you want to believe there are actionable things we can do to try to make things better. The trouble is, there are so many hurdles in the way of progress that it feels like an endless slog of frustration at times.

Sure, EVs massively reduce tailpipe emissions, but what about the harms (both which are environmental and achingly human) caused by lithium mining? What about the prohibitive costs involved in ownership, which then severely curtail access to this cleaner, less polluting technology so that only certain people can afford it? 

And even if you get beyond all that, what about the seriously lacking infrastructure we have to support even a theoretical cultural shift from our old gas guzzlers to swarms of EVs?

Yes, it's improving, but is it improving quickly enough? That will vary based on your location and is an almost infinitely debatable question.

It is, as your grandma might say, a pickle. Potentially the grodiest of Gordian knots. (Go drink some water and take something for that headache; we'll wait.)

But a team of researchers at MIT has been hard at work on what seems like a more promising potential solution than most. What makes it look so good? For a start, it doesn't require rare earth minerals, intensive and expensive production processes, or even any eye of newt or toe of frog to mix up a batch.

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Instead, it relies on something regular and every day that humans have literally been making for centuries. Maybe you won't believe me when I tell you this, but it's cement.

You know the pyramids in Egypt? They used a form of cement because that's how long humans have been making the stuff. And now MIT researchers think they may have found a way to turn cement into energy storage.

Using a combination of cement and carbon black, which MIT says "resembles very fine charcoal," mixed with water, could be the key to creating a formulation that essentially acts as a supercapacitor. This, in turn, could turn regular buildings (like homes, schools, workplaces, or pretty much any building you can think of), roads, or other structures into potentially endless seas of built-world energy storage. 

You may remember Stellantis' Arena del Futuro inductive charging project in Italy. It utilized a system of coils embedded in the asphalt to directly provide electric charging to a test EV (in this case, a Fiat New 500) as it rolled down the road at regular highway speeds.

The project began in 2021 and continued into 2022, when Stellantis says that it successfully demonstrated that such a system could keep an EV charged solely via the inductive road, without the New 500 needing to rely on the energy stored in its battery to keep the motor running. 

The MIT research team is thinking along the same lines, exploring the possibilities of using this concrete formulation to act as supercapacitors that could store energy effectively, and then supply it to power electric vehicles, appliances, or other everyday things that humans use that rely on electricity to function. 

As With Everything, There's A But

Getting the mixture right is of utmost importance. So far, researchers have found that carbon black exhibits impressive qualities of conductivity. Unfortunately, if you add too much carbon black to the cement mixture, while it can store more energy, it becomes structurally weaker. So far, about 10 percent carbon black appears to be a reasonable mix to maintain sound structural capabilities. 

The energy stored by the supercapacitive cement mixture could be generated by anything, from solar panels to wind turbines to whatever energy source was hooked up to it. Although the amount of carbon black that can be added to a mixture is limited for reasons of structural coherence, the possibilities seem enticingly endless.

And it's this kind of technology that can make electric motorcycles and other vehicles where practical battery size simply doesn't support long-range travel much more practical.

Electric motorcycles can absolutely be fun to ride, but you know what isn't fun? Panicking about potentially running out of energy because of spotty, flaky charging infrastructure while you're out on a spirited weekend ride. Ask me how I know.

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