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Full of promises about saving the Earth and conserving energy, could automakers and visionaries be missing one big thing?

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 about water.

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.

We 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approximately 3 times more water is consumed (0.32 versus 0.07–0.14 gallons/mile) and over 17 times more water is withdrawn (10.6 versus 0.6 gallons/mile) primarily due to increased water cooling of thermoelectric power plants to accommodate increased electricity generation.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 the way.

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Problem solved
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 3/12/2008 3:08:49 PM , Rating: 2
The government needs to mandate a new public transportation policy. I'm not talking buses and trains. I'm talking upgrading our roads and freeways with power conductors and computer guidance systems. Make all vehicles electric cars that run off a separate power grid and controlled by a computer network. Hands-free driving from start to destination, reduce traffic congestion (major waste of energy) and accidents, and yet still provide for off-the-grid control of the vehicle (manual override). Power can be centrally generated specifically for this application (ie. off the main power grid for consumers) and the vehicles would have batteries so that they can run even off the grid. It would charge on the road.

This system would solve a LOT of problems. No more getaway ability for crooks, tracking politicians who visit prostitutes, traffic congestion a thing of the past, etc. :)

This is what I envision as the future of public transportation. Especially if I don't have to drive in traffic with the lady putting on her makeup or the guy talking on his cell phone, neither paying any attention to their driving.

RE: Problem solved
By Hawkido on 3/13/2008 1:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
Great now they won't have to hack my pacemaker, they can just hack my car and cause a Massive pileup. Thanks man!

RE: Problem solved
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 3/13/2008 6:20:07 PM , Rating: 2
Eh. Everything's been hackable. There's never been a device made that couldn't be hacked, whether digital or analog or mechanical.

RE: Problem solved
By Spuke on 3/14/2008 5:14:50 PM , Rating: 2
Eh. Everything's been hackable.
I would rather NOT have my car hacked in the middle of a drive. You are, of course, free to go do that.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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