I read that UCLA is involved in lightweight plastic solar energy panel research that is supposed to be easier to make then current solar energy panels. UCLA Plastic Solar Energy Research. The implications of a plastic solar cell composite are dramatic. A Low cost, lightweight yet strong material for absorbing solar energy might mean a huge reduction in the overall weight of all transportation devices.
The lower the overall weight of our transportation system, the more effective alternative energy resources become. But even more importantly, if the plastic material can be lightweight, an energy absorber, and strong, the applications become monumental. Walls, either around a property or on the side of a building, could be made out of material that actually absorbs the suns rays and converts it to another form of energy that we can use to power lightweight vehicles and buildings.
If cars and trucks can be made out strong as steel plastics that are lighter weight and also act as solar energy panels, the world energy requirements would not only shrink, but suddenly everybody would be helping to create energy. Steel in no longer the answer when it comes to our trains, trucks, buses and automobiles, it is now the number one problem.
Steel of course, is still needed, lets just not waste a lot of energy moving steel around when it is more useful to use steel for reinforcement in buildings and bridges. Buildings and bridges are heavy, and once built do not move, ergo steel makes sense. Trains, trucks, buses and automobiles move people around, ergo lightweight, strong plastic that also absorbs and converts energy makes more sense.
Unfortunately, if the planet goes with lightweight plastics to move people, steel cars would have to disappear very quickly since the two probably cannot share the road at the same time when it comes to collisions.