Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

New USB Plugs Might Enable Efficient DC Grids

New USB plugs will be able to handle ten times as much power, potentially changing the way we charge electronics.

  • October 25, 2013

A recent article in The Economist argues that a new standard for USB plugs, out next year, could help promote a shift to using DC power in offices and homes, which could reduce energy consumption and make solar power more attractive.

A lot of the things that use power in a home or business–computers, laptops, smartphones, LED lights, many motors—run on DC power. And converting the AC power at an outlet to DC wastes a considerable amount of energy. If you have solar panels, you add another layer of waste. Solar panels produce DC power, which is converted, at a loss, to AC power, only to be converted back to DC when you charge your phone.  

It’s already possible to set up DC grids that skip AC and directly power DC devices with DC solar power. Such grids are used in data centers for example. But a consumer-friendly USB standard might make the switch easier. 

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Energy

Can we transform how we power and feed the world in time to head off climate change?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.