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Published on October 19th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Plug-in Cars & Utilities Communicate Via The Cloud In New Partnership

October 19th, 2014 by  

A new, somewhat clever means of managing and improving the efficiency of the power grid was recently unveiled by a coalition of some of the world’s largest automakers.

To be precise, this new “means” is in fact simply a technology that allows for the direct communication of utility companies and plug-in electric vehicles, via the cloud.


That doesn’t sound like something that’s necessarily that important I suppose — at first thought, anyways — but when you think about, this opens up important opportunities to efficiently and economically improve the grid. So perhaps it does have a place.

“Our intent is to add more capability to this technology so that it may be used broadly in the future,” Mike Tinskey, global director, Vehicle Electrification & Infrastructure for Ford, said.

The automakers — which include Ford, BMW, Honda, GM, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, and Toyota — are partnering with Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on this, as well as some major utilities and Sumitomo Electric. The two-way communication system lets utilities message charging electric vehicles asking them to temporarily stop charging. However, customers can decline if they wish, and the entire program requires opting in. The goal, of course, is to help the grid avoid being overloaded.

“In a typical situation, a vehicle owner would plug the car in for charging and set a time for departure. If the system detects that pausing the charge would disrupt driver needs it would not stop charging,” a Ford press release stated. “Otherwise, the charge would pause to help conserve power for the grid.”

Importantly, electric vehicle owners get something out of this as well. There are financial incentives offered to entice them into program participation. Actually, such a system already exists using certain home air conditioning units.

A technology demonstration for the new approach recently took place (October 16) at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Customer Service Center, in Sacramento, California.

“This first-ever test is a critical milestone as we move forward with our collective goal to advance electrification and boost the environmental benefits that come with that,” stated Tinskey. “Our intent is to add more capability to this technology so that it may be used broadly in the future.”

Image Credit: EPRI 
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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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