Presidential candidate Mitt Romney once famously said that “you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” but he might want to take a trip to Spain before he fully commits to the position that wind-powered vehicles are beyond the realm of the possible. The city of Barcelona happens to be the site of the world’s first electric vehicle charging station attached to a wind turbine, courtesy of a partnership between wind industry leader GE and a company called Urban Green Energy.
Wind-Powered Cars, For Real
GE and Urban Green Energy announced the launch of their wind-powered charging station about a year ago with plans to start in Barcelona, New York, and Bejing. Dubbed the Sanya Skypump, the charging station combines the technology behind GE’s WattStation™ and UGE’s Sanya hybrid wind/solar street lamp.
The Skypump is designed as a freestanding drive-through station suitable for installation at commercial sites. The first installation in Barcelona went to Cespa, a subsidiary of the transportation infrastructure investment company Ferrovial Servicios.
To ice the green cake, the Barcelona installation includes a green roof to shield vehicles from the elements while charging.
Micro wind turbines combined with residential charging stations can also offer some homeowners the potential to charge an EV directly from their own wind power (the WattStation also comes in a wall-mounted version suitable for new or existing homes).
Purchasing offsets for grid-supplied wind power offers both homeowners and businesses yet another opportunity to charge electric vehicles from wind turbines. The availability of wind power on the grid is growing rapidly according to a new wind industry report from the U.S. Department of Energy.
You Can’t Drive with an Oil Well on Your Car, Either
Mr. Romney’s poke at wind power was good for a laugh, but it’s hard to see how it makes his case for fossil fuels any stronger. In addition to the disconnect with reality, it lacks a coherent argument in favor of petroleum fuels.
Namely, if your only real beef with wind power is the fact that a wind turbine is an awkward thing to strap onto a moving vehicle, then you’ve exposed an essential disadvantage of powering your car with a product that has to be pumped out of the ground and refined into a usable form.
Compared to the idea of dragging an oil well and refinery off your trailer hitch, mounting a wind turbine on your front hood sounds pretty doable after all.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.