Payback time for the motorist

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The Independent Online
Drivers of electric cars may be able to recover some of their running costs by selling surplus battery power back into the national grid when the vehicles are parked.

A report in this week's New Scientist suggests that if a substantial proportion of the United States' 146 million cars were powered by electricity, they could, in theory at least, provide the American national grid with 16 times its capacity. Electric cars could charge during the night, when electricity is plentiful, and then be plugged into the grid when parked in the day, helping the generating companies cover so-called "spikes" in demand.

The cars could be programmed to retain enough power to get their owners back home, and fuel cell or turbine-electric vehicles, which make their own electricity, could generate a healthy income for their owners.

Willet Kempton, of the University of Delaware, says that his study, originally published in Transportation Research, shows that electric vehicles could replace dozens of conventional power stations.

A prototype system, which allows drivers to feed back power into the grid, has already been developed by Wavedriver, a British company based in Hertfordshire.