We already know that appropriately-equipped electric cars can be used to provide emergency backup power to homes cut off from the electricity grid in a natural disaster, but can they also be used to help a city run as normal? 

Could they, for example, be used to power stop lights? 

It’s a question we admit we hadn’t thought of before, but in the city of Tokyo, a group of engineers from Mitsubishi and the National Police Agency have answered that question with a good old-fashioned experiment.

The team connected a fully-charged 2012 Mitsubishi i to a portable emergency power inverter using the car’s Chademo direct current quick charging port.

Drawing power from the 2012 Mitsubishi i’s 16 kilowatt-hour battery pack, the inverter then provided enough electricity to run 20 sets of stoplights in downtown Tokyo for 2 hours. 

2012 Mitsubishi i

2012 Mitsubishi i

It might seem a little superfluous to focus on running stoplights in the hours after a major disaster like the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last year. 

But in the days following a major disaster, returning power to street furniture like stoplights helps residents assume normal day-to-day activities, often speeding up repair efforts.

It could also provide power companies with a way of powering stoplights during essential power maintenance work, minimizing the use of gasoline-fueled power generators normally found being used by any road-repair crew. 


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