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Closing the Circuit

Engineers working in the teeming cities and lonely deserts of North Africa are creating the last links in a power grid that will ring the Mediterranean Sea

13 min read
Fatima Mansouri
Power to the People: From her desk in Casablanca, Fatima Mansouri oversees network projects for Office National de l’Electricité, Morocco’s electric-power utility, which is already connected to europe through undersea cables.
Photo: Ana Nance

With bandannas protecting their faces from the blistering sun and blowing sand, day laborers smooth the ground over freshly buried cables at Libya’s newest electrical substation. Until a few years ago, this same patch of ochre earth in the sparsely populated Bir Osta Milad district, located on the outskirts of Tripoli, was the site of a Scud missile plant. Today, thanks to Libya’s oil revenues and its recent rapprochement with the West, the rocket parts are gone, replaced by gas-insulated switchgear, transformers, and state-of-the-art controls. This and more than a dozen other 400-kilovolt substations located throughout Libya will bolster that country’s beleaguered power grid. But these improvements are also part of a much larger drama. That’s because they will form a key bridge for an electrical superhighway that could soon bind the fractious nations on the south side of the Mediterranean Sea.

The coming electrical unification of North Africa will advance a grand scheme known as the Mediterranean Electricity Ring, which has been the stuff of speeches and studies for decades. Engineers have recently made much progress on the ground, and perhaps as soon as mid-2009 they will cinch together all the power systems from Morocco to Syria with those of Europe. The same momentum could see the entire MedRing finally completed by the end of the present decade, connecting more than half a billion people in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

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The EV Transition Explained: Charger Infrastructure

How many, where, and who pays?

7 min read
Illuminated electric vehicle charging stations at night in Monterey Park, California.

Electric vehicle charging stations in Monterey Park, California.


The ability to conveniently charge an EV away from home is a top concern for many EV owners. A 2022 survey of EV owners by Forbes indicates that 62 percent of respondents are so anxious about their EV range that travel plans have been affected. While “range anxiety” may be overblown, the need for an extensive and reliable external charging infrastructure is not.

Infrastructure terminology can itself be confusing. For clarity, bear in mind that a charging station is a specific physical location which has one or more charging posts. A charging post itself may have one or more ports, where each port can charge a single EV. Each post may have multiple types of service connectors to support different EV charging connector standards. And a port may supply varying power levels.

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Video Friday: Humanoid Soccer

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
Humans and human-size humanoid robots stand together on an indoor soccer field at the beginning of a game

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

CoRL 2022: 14–18 December 2022, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
ICRA 2023: 29 May–2 June 2023, LONDON

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.