Plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles to cause modern day Dust Bowl?

As if a potential power drain on the nation's power grids wasn't bad enough, a new study has found another inherent pitfall in the switch to plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. The new study finds that PHEVs and EVs could sharply increase water consumption in the U.S.

The study -- which is titled "The Water Intensity of the Plugged-In Automotive Economy" and is scheduled to run in the June 1 issue of Environmental Science & Technology -- finds that every mile of all-electric driving actually consumes about three times more water than a mile driven with gasoline power (0.32 versus 0.07-0.14 gallons per mile). According to Science Daily, that calculation is based on the water usage, consumption, and withdrawal during petroleum refining and electricity generation.

However, the authors of the article don't see the increased water consumption of electric vehicle operation as a reason not to make the switch from oil, just something to consider. "This is not to say that the negative impacts on water resources make such a shift undesirable," authors Carey King and Michael Webber told Science Daily. "Rather this increase in water usage presents a significant potential impact on regional water resources and should be considered when planning for a plugged-in automotive economy."

While an increase in water consumption seems to be a fair trade-off for lower CO2 emissions, sections of the U.S. susceptible to droughts might want to grab a copy of the June 1 Environmental Science & Technology when it hits newsstands.