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African at Heart

The Back Story

1 min read

G. Pascal Zachary writes passionately about Africa, as anyone who reads this month's "Thirst for Power" will see. Zacharys interest in Africa stretches back to 1998, when, as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal , he jumped from covering technology to a stint as a foreign correspondent based in London. Fascinated by Africa, he started writing stories about African-Americans in Ghana, the battle against malaria, and the flight of nurses from the continent.

Shortly before leaving the Journal , he wrote Endless Frontier , a highly regarded biography of legendary engineer Vannevar Bush. After leaving the newspaper in 2001, Zachary began looking for stories that combined his interests in technology, economic development, and Africa. "I want to bring attention to neglected stories, especially involving older technologies taken for granted by Americans," says Zachary. Electricity caught his fancy, partly because it is the backbone of modern economies and partly because "for Africans, electricity remains an elusive technology, difficult to master."

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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