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EVs of the Future Could Be Powered by Evaporation

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Lake Geneva
Photo:Zacharie Grossen

Everybody learns about the water cycle in grade school and one of the most powerful forces in the cycle is evaporation—so powerful, in fact, that coupled with special devices, the open bodies of water across the United States (not including the Great Lakes) could produce 325 gigawatts each year through evaporation.

This estimation comes from new research published in Nature Communications and comes at a time when electric vehicles are on the verge of becoming widespread in carmaker lineups, prompting many to demand where the extra electricity generation will come from.

The research is still in early stages, but in a hypothetical evaporation farm, a floating, piston-driven engine would harness the energy using a cycle of absorbing and then evaporating the water to create renewable energy with a power density three times greater than wind. This would rest on several factors, though.

To begin with, the theoretical evaporation farm would work best above bodies of water in hotter areas with drier air, although the study identified high potential for this method in Utah, California, Minnesota, and Louisiana, as well as in the Southwest.

Then, such a device would lower evaporation rates from the body of water, contributing to water savings in the region, more specifically preventing about half of the water from returning to the atmosphere. This could be a boon to areas where water stress is a problem, like the recently drought-ravaged California.

The question, then, is if keeping water from entering the air would have an effect on weather. According to the study, the answer seems to be maybe, but only in a minor way that is dependent on the geography of the area. It calls the possibility of stunted rainfall is highly unlikely, although it says that nearby wind turbines could lost some strength.

There are still a number of effects that evaporation energy could have, since research is at an early stage, including economic feasibility, grid connectivity, water quality, and whether or not people want a big turbine covering a patch of the local lake or reservoir. However, it is entirely possible that the electric vehicle of the future could draw power straight from a fundamental natural forces.

News Source: Gizmodo