It may not be a particularly glamorous definition of the automobile, but it's true on some level that cars and trucks are individual little power generators on wheels, a fact pointed out here by WIRED staff writer Alexis Madrigal. Interestingly, when viewed in that light, the United States has an embarrassment of riches in overall latent power availability.

In fact, Madrigal calculates that the U.S. has 35 times more horsepower sitting there in our driveways than in all our power plants combined. Like numbers? Says Madrigal:
Turns out we have something on the order of 51 billion peak horsepower sitting in our driveways. That's an incredible 38,276 gigawatts of power available. That absolutely dwarfs the nameplate capacity of our electrical power plants, which total up to a mere 1,087 gigawatts. In fact, each week of 2008, a horrible year for car sales, almost 38 gigawatts of capacity rolled into the streets of America.
That's mighty impressive, no? While we're not sure we'd follow Madrigal's logic all the way to the conclusion that we should all be driving Tata Nanos, we do agree that the average passenger car doesn't really need 200 horsepower to get its lone occupant to work on time. We also can't help but consider the potential of a national electric car infrastructure as a way to store excess power that could be called into action in a jiffy, if required.

[Source: Inventing Green]

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