EVs are an intriguing alternative to their gas-guzzling counterparts when it comes to getting us from Point A to Point B. But, there are some very smart people out there who have figured out how to use EVs in a few very smart ways that are… maybe a bit weird – but very cool.
Like this alternative idea, for instance: What if you could swap dams generating hydropower for electric trucks?
Apparently, this has real potential, according to an international team of researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. In a recent study published in the journal “Energy,” these researchers say they have developed a hydropower technology based on electric trucks that could provide a flexible and clean solution for electricity generation in mountainous regions.
Conventional methods used today rely on two connected reservoirs with different water levels where the potential energy of the water is converted into electricity. This means in steep mountainous regions the potential for generating electricity is quite high, but the hydropower potential of these regions remains largely untapped because it requires building storage reservoirs, which can have negative environmental and social impacts.
Electric Truck Hydropower would skip that storage reservoir stage and would instead use the existing road infrastructure to transport water down the mountain in containers, applying the regenerative brakes of the electric truck to turn the potential energy of the water into electricity and charge the truck’s battery. That generated energy could then be sold to the grid or used by the truck itself to transport other goods.
What is cool about this is that this technology does not require dams, reservoirs, or tunnels, and it does not disrupt the natural flow of the river, so our fishy friends will remain undisturbed. The system requires only roads, which already exist, charging and discharging stations, a battery facility connected to the grid, and the trucks themselves.
Here’s an interesting one for all the doctors in the house: What if driving an EV could save 110,000 lives, and result in 13.4 million avoided lost workdays?
Well… this one’s more or less just speculation, but according to a recent report by the American Lung Association, if you got ahold of a magic lamp and wished that all new passenger vehicles sold from now until 2035 are zero-emission and all new heavy-duty vehicles sold by 2040 are zero-emission, it would generate more than $1.2 trillion in health benefits and $1.7 trillion in additional climate benefits by 2050.
This would mean 110,000 avoided deaths, 2.79 million avoided asthma attacks, and 13.4 million avoided lost workdays. The report also contains which metro areas would benefit the most and, no surprise, L.A., New York and Chicago – all areas with lots of highways, trucking corridors and inner-city congestion – top the list.
Here’s a fun one: What is your potential if your EV’s range was “to infinity and beyond?” The UK-based company Williams Advanced Engineering – recently purchased by Australian iron ore company Fortescue Metals Group – is developing what they call the “world’s first zero-emission infinity train” to see if gravity is a viable potential fuel for the future.
Here’s how it would work: The regenerating battery-electric iron ore train project will use gravitational energy to fully recharge its battery-electric systems without any additional charging requirements for the return trip to reload. Now Fortescue is clearly very serious about this, as the company is dumping $50 million into the project over the next two years.
Of course, $50 million is nothing compared to the fuel costs to be saved if there is any degree of success, here. Fortescue says its rail operations consumed 82 million liters of diesel, or approximately 22 million gallons, in financial year 2021. Now, if we say the average price of a gallon of diesel is $5 to be kind, that’s a $105 million savings for the company in a single year.
What about you? Let us know if you’ve heard about some unexpected ways EVs are being used, and maybe we’ll talk about it on a future episode of the show.