There they go again. Ford, the same car manufacturer that touched off a revolution in car ownership with the Model T more than 100 years ago, has just announced a new collaboration called MyEnergi Lifestyle®, which promises a whole new ownership concept based on electric vehicle technology. In essence, Ford is asking consumers to look at EVs as the biggest electrical appliance they will ever own, one that can interact with other household appliances and their local utility company to save energy and even generate more clean energy, too.
When you look at EV ownership in the context of overall household electricity use, MyEnergi Lifestyle really does echo the Model T goal of making car ownership more affordable for more people, a key challenge for car companies nowadays as young people have been dropping out of the automobile market in droves.
With Ford at the helm, the MyEnergi collaboration includes global heavy-hitters such as the power management company Eaton, solar industry giant SunPower, home appliance company Whirlpool, and semiconductor innovator Infineon, as well as smart thermostat pioneer Nest Labs. That lineup alone hints at the basic concept, which is neatly summed up by Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure:
“More than ever, cars are sharing the same energy source as the home. The time is right for the home appliance and transportation sectors to converge if we are going to tackle a myriad of sustainability challenges in a rapidly changing world.”
Renewable Energy and EV’s
The inclusion of SunPower in the partnership helps to resolve one key conundrum of EV ownership, which is the use of grid-supplied electricity that includes electricity generated by coal or oil, to power “emissionless” cars.
That somewhat gloomy picture is rapidly changing, as more solar power (and wind power) come onto the grid. Solar-powered (and wind-powered) EV charging stations are also going to make a big difference.
For its part, SunPower will offer Ford EV owners a high-efficiency rooftop solar installation with a 25-year warranty. The details are a bit light so far, but depending on how the installation is configured, the solar-generated electricity can be used not only to recharge the car battery but to power other electric appliances at the home as well.
When Homes and Cars Collide
The MyEnergi initiative is packed with loads of other goodies, geared toward saving energy and maximizing the household’s total use of off-peak electricity, or what Ford calls “time-flexible loads,” across all appliances.
That includes Ford’s cloud-based MyFord® Mobile app that automatically monitors utility rates to ensure that users get the best off-peak price when charging their vehicle, without having to do any additional planning or calculating. The app is already available on the C-MAX Energi, Fusion Energi, and Focus Electric.
For the benefit of homeowners who don’t or can’t take advantage of the SunPower offer, Ford also notes that the energy mix for utilities generally favors more renewable energy during off-peak hours.
The result, according to a computer model developed by Ford and its partners with the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a reduction of about 60% in the average annual energy costs for a typical single family home.
The Coming Personal Mobility Revolution
MyEnergi is part of a broader conversation about personal mobility, which Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford articulated right around this time last year.
Ford’s strategy of a “connected vehicle future” is designed to address the challenges of “increasing vehicle populations and rapid urbanization,” aka gridlock and air pollution.
Car-to-car and car-to-house communication is just one aspect of the solution of the future, which will also encompass seamless communication between individual drivers and access to mass transportation.
For that matter, Ford is also stretching out the interconnectedness of EV technology to include using solar arrays integrated with spent EV batteries as a power source for stationary facilities, beginning with its Michigan Assembly Plant.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.