Google is Good for the Environment

Google has just announced the Recharge project. They are converting some of their own fleet of Prius and other hybrid cars to be “plug-in hybrids”, this means that the car can be plugged in to mains power to charge it’s batteries and petrol will only be used as a fuel of last resort. If a car is mostly used for short trips then the petrol use is dramatically reduced – but the car still has the 1000Km range that a full tank of petrol provides!

Google is also going to invest $10,000,000 in companies that develop technologies related to hybrid vehicles. If you have some ideas for new technological developments related to power saving then you might want to check out what Google is doing.

7 comments to Google is Good for the Environment

  • Anno

    Driving by plug-in is evironmental harassment given the efficiency of producing electric energy.

  • John Hughes

    So, how are they going to generate that electricity – if it’s with nice clean hydro/wind/wave or even nukes, ok, but if it’s nasty dirty coal, oil or even gas then you’re just upping the carbon output by the electrical transmission losses.

  • etbe

    The Google web page I referenced states that they plan to use Solar power to directly charge Prius (see the “What we are doing” link).

    As for mains power generation, the use of green power is steadily increasing. Incidentally John, do you have a reference for how much energy is lost in electrical transmission?

  • Fred

    Yes and google building those huge data centres to store all that personal data doesn’t just sit there and consume huge loads of fossil fuels, bit like coal powered kettle calling the nuclear pot black

  • Efficiency of electrical transmission depends highly on the voltage, amongst other things. That’s why they commonly boost the voltage to between 110 and 1200 kV before transmitting.

    According to this wikipedia page, transmission losses commonly amount to somewhere around 7%.

    But those aren’t all of the losses that should be incorporated. No matter how much more “green” power there will be, today not possible to satisfy man’s power hunger using just solar, wind, and water power stations. Nuclear and/or fossile fuel power stations will still be required for the near future.

    All those power stations require the transformation of one type of energy into another; and such transformations always produce effeciency losses; rather than just turning heat/combustion energy into kinetic energy (as is required for a car), a power stations needs to turn fossile fuel into heat, transfer the heat to water (turning it into steam), transfer the steam into kinetic energy (for the turbine), and then transfer the kinetic energy into electricity. Then you need to transport the electricity to the car (transport losses), load the battery (you need far more electric energy to load a battery than you will be able to get out of it afterwards — again, losses), and turn the electric energy back into kinetic energy.

    Even without the numbers, it’s clear that a hybrid car isn’t necessarily more energy-efficient than a fossile fuel car; and even if you use green electric energy, I’m not sure the difference for the environment will be enormous — although that is a matter up for discussion.

  • etbe

    Fred: Google is installing photo-Voltaic systems on the roofs of their offices, while they still use a lot of electricity they are better than many other companies that run servers. Saying “sorry computers use electricity some of which comes from coal, so we’ll just close our business” is hardly an option.

    Wouter: Thanks for that reference about transmission losses.

    Satisfying our power needs from renewable energy would be quite easy. Wind power has the potential to supply the vast majority of Australian power use with only a tiny fraction of farm-land used for wind-farms (the bases of the turbine towers take 1% of the land space so sheep and dairy farming can be done around them without any effort and wheat farms can work around them with minimal effort).

    In Australia we are facing severe water shortages, it’s impossible to meet our future power needs from nuclear and fossil fuels because the water supply is decreasing and the power demands are increasing.

  • Fred

    is installing…so does that mean they have been energy sucking beasts like the rest of us infidels and continue to suck juice to run the identity collection databases, open source doesn’t mean free power