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Some 2000 years ago, North Africa was an integral part of the Roman Empire. Those early ties with Europe are ­apparent from the Roman ruins that remain there, including those of Leptis Magna, in Libya. The ­spectacular theater of this ancient city was one of the few tourist sites that Contributing Editor Peter Fairley [above] was able to take in during his journeys.

Fairley spent two years ­planning his fieldwork in North Africa to investigate the region’s role in the emerging Mediterranean Electricity Ring, or MedRing. But a week before he was to leave home, a ­promised Algerian visa ­evaporated amid that ­country’s deteriorating security ­situation. So he quickly had to redirect part of his focus from Algeria to Morocco. ”It gave me ulcers,” Fairley says. His revised ­itinerary turned out for the best, however, ­opening his eyes to some of the vast differences within the region.

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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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