Even though automakers and environmentalists are pushing new
electric and hybrid electric cars, claiming less pollution to make our Mother
Earth unhappy with our wasteful ways, it seems they come with demons of their
own. Well, maybe not so much.
The media has certainly been filled with talk of the cleaner cars lately.
Everything from MIT's City Car
to the Lightning Car
Company's 700HP sports car to Chevrolet’s
Equinox fuel cell SUV which DailyTech
got to take for a little spin this January. What's the deal? Well, obviously if
you have cars running on electricity, they aren't churning out megatons of air
and water pollutants each year. Well, the cars won't be, but the whole
"where does the power get made to power the cars then" quandary can
be fought with later.
Today we'll make note of a much stranger side effect of all these silent,
battery and (noble) gas driven people movers. From the University of Texas at
Austin comes research projecting that there's going to be a pretty large
quantity of one of our most precious natural resources gobbled up by these
electrics. No, it's not oil, trees, hydrogen or even indium - we're talking
It's not much of a shocker, it's true. Water is probably our most precious resource,
but barring evils like pollution and hydrolysis, it's one of Earth's most
abundant and easily renewable. So we make a bit more steam, what's the big
deal, right? Let's let the research speak for itself for a moment.
compare figures from literature and government surveys to calculate the water
usage, consumption, and withdrawal, in the United States during petroleum
refining and electricity generation. In displacing gasoline miles with electric
miles, approximately 3 times more water is consumed (0.32 versus 0.07–0.14
gallons/mile) and over 17 times more water is withdrawn (10.6 versus 0.6
gallons/mile) primarily due to increased water cooling of thermoelectric power
plants to accommodate increased electricity generation. Overall, we conclude
that the impact on water resources from a widespread shift to grid-based
transportation would be substantial enough to warrant consideration for
relevant public policy decision-making. (PDF)
Wow. 10.92 gallons of water per mile. It's a pretty
staggering number. Thinking that my daily commute used to be about 40 miles,
not including zipping around town for random things, that's more than 400
gallons in one day. That's probably more than the average person uses all week
between hygiene and self hydration.
On the whole the conclusion they come to isn't exactly life-threatening, but it
could become a problem, as they point out, for areas where water shortages are
already experienced yearly.
In reality, a study like this doesn't really say much about how much pollution
we can or can't stop by converting to electric person delivery, other than the
inflated power generation, and subsequent water requirements, that will be
needed to charge all these cars (we weren't going to talk about that though).
But it does point out a much simpler fact that though we may think we're
heading in the right direction by cutting down our toxic pollution output,
sometimes we forget to think about the simple things we might be sacrificing on