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Electric Power Steals the Show

The annual Detroit Auto Show offered a feast of technology, and the best dish of all was an electric-drive concept called the Chevrolet Volt

5 min read

Detroit in January is cloudy and cold. But the city’s annual North American International Auto Show is still the only place to be for car buffs, people who know it as an excellent showcase for new auto technology.

This year some 7000 journalists came to the show, and there was a lot for us to cover. For instance, Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen said they will sell vehicles using Mercedes-Benz’s Bluetec system for reducing emissions from diesel engines. And by 2008, the carmakers expect to offer ”50-state” diesels that meet even the limits that California has set (and that several Northeastern states have adopted).

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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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