Monday, October 15, 2012

Power At The Pump

After a solid 6 hour brain-drain effort this morning worrying about non-technical details associated with configuration management, I decided to figure out something fun.

How much power is coursing through the hose as you fill up your car at the gas pump?

Well, to be honest, I've been wondering about this for a while.  The seed was first planted by colleague a few months ago who made an offhand comment, and it stuck in my head.  So, I timed the flow rate when I was filling up a few days ago:

  1. It took 30.4 seconds to put 5 gallons of gas in the car.
  2. According to the EPA, gasoline has 114,000 BTU's per gallon, or 33.41 kWh per gallon.

Item #2 up there is a measure of energy: to put it in layman's terms, 1 gallon of gas can be converted into a LOT of heat.  114,000 British Thermal Units.  By combining #1 and #2, and making sure the units come out right, this is how much power is coursing through that hose:

20 megawatts.

I couldn't believe it was that much.  20 megawatts is a lot of power. A typical wind turbine will produce about 2 megawatts of power.

That's right ... the combined power from every turbine you see in the picture, running at full capacity, is about the same as what's flowing through your gasoline hose.  I think that just underscores how power dense gasoline is.

Now be careful where you point that thing.