Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Car that runs on water .... GREAT... or is it really?

by Ed Latham

I stumbled across a bunch of videos lately when I was searching for alternative fuels. I would offer links, but if you simply go to You Tube and enter in "Cars that run on water" or "h20 cars" you will see a bunch of videos. In one of the videos from Reutors, a Japanese model has 1 hour of run time at 80KM (50 mph) on one liter of water (roughly 1/3 gallon) which would equate to 150 miles per gallon. On the surface this sounds great! Many of the videos suggest that the water does not even need to be cleaned. Water is everywhere right?

Those of you over 40 years old, could you please think back to your teen years and quote me the price of bottled water? Unless your family was in the rich upper class, you did not even see bottled water on standard supermarket shelves. In fact, the industry only started bottling water in plastic bottles in 1968 and that really started things off. Buying bottled water instead of drinking tap water really only took off in the late 80s and early 90s. Effectively, we might say that buying bottled water 20 years ago was a joke or novelty.

Look around you now. Go to any park in any city and you will find a good chunk of people toting around some water. Go to any professional conference and bottles of crystal clear water are usually present. Certainly, bottled water is increasing it's importance in much of American culture. After all, both Coke and Pepsi companies report that sales of bottled water continue to reach record levels through 2006.

How about our gas consumption? Before the gas crisis of the early 70s many people considered gas to be inexpensive and plentiful. In 1973 when things exploded, oil was up to a whooping $12/barrel and our country felt like it was being strangled. I know inflation has a role in comparing prices from one time period to another, but look at the price now for oil. Just do a quick search on internet for today's price. At the pump we can see the direct cost for us to drive around, and currently that is running around $4 US / gallon. People are complaining everywhere in America about the prices while Europeans sit back and sort of chuckle thinking it is about time for us to pay for our consumption rates. I do not mean to slip into a US consumption bashing (later article maybe) but I did want to highlight that people are starting to feel some anxiety about gas prices. Do we feel the same about water?

Lets do the math that no one thinks about. A 16 oz bottle of water sells for approximately $1 US on average. 16oz is 1/8th of a gallon. Some simple math gets us to $8 a gallon for water!!!! Something must be wrong with my math ... let me double check ... hmmmm. Nope, everything checks out. We pay $8 a gallon to drink water and no one complains at all, but almost everyone complains about $4 a gallon for the ability to drive around?

I would like to note that bottled water prices in the last 5 years or so have started a growth pattern that is far from a linear growth. This implies that we will be paying tons more for water if current trends continue. And we want to take this resource and put it into our cars?

Some would argue that water is everywhere and it is free to scoop up. Try that at your local town water reservoir and tell me how much the fine was. Couldn't we collect rain? Well, people could currently cut down on their water taxes in many cities by collecting rain, but how often does that happen. Even if we did, is your region experiencing droughts more and more each 5 year increment?

I love the idea of a cheap renewable fuel source. I worry about water, the key to our survival, being one of those sources. With the voracious appetite of the Amearican consumers and an apparent lack of concern where the products come from, I can envision us driving ourselves into some scary situations.

I don't think we talk much about water in this country. I would like to hear other's thoughts about water. Is it something we need to be aware of? How many were aware of the political tensions between Canada and American in the last few years of the issue to access fresh water? Are we aware of how others around the world view water as a resource? I would love to hear from different parts of the world about their culture's views on water. After all this typing, I think I need to go get a drink.


Shawn Kimball, Glenburn School Tech Integrator said...

Great thoughts Ed! Maybe we should start to think of using some "resource" that we want to get rid of to be our next automobile fuel!? How about CO2 or toxic ozone (O3) in the lower atmosphere?

Ed Latham said...

Shawn, I like that idea of using some "unwanted" product. I do have concerns about CO2 and ozone as depletion of those in the short term might be ok, but again, Americans are voracious in their appitites and at some point we might see other life forms that depend on these elements drop off.

How about a human produced byproduct? Think about it for a bit...what byproducts do humans produce that is proportional to the number of humans available. As disgusting as it may sound, the only byproduct I can think of that we produce in a stable ratio is Urine and Feces. I don't even want to imagine how you "fill 'er up" but throughout history, humans have always dealt with their biological waste in some very unproductive ways. Is anyone doing any of the dirty work necessary to explore the energy potential of human waste? Talk about a renewable energy source!