As auto producers continue to unveil plans for developing all-electric (EV) and plug-in-hybrid vehicles (PHEV) for the near-future market, there are still many questions regarding the broader implications of building a larger EV infrastructure. Many of the use models for electric cars involve some form of recharging strategy relying on a direct interface with our current energy grid. This is no simple proposition. Though it is improving, much of our energy grid is quite antiquated. Just this week, as the summer temperatures started setting in here in New York, we had small scale brown outs and power shortages in several highly populated portions of north Brooklyn.
In order to prepare for the impeding influx of electric vehicles on US streets, solutions for managing their use of the power grid will need to be implemented. We’ve already seen a lot of these “smart grid” technologies hit the market for home energy management. Google among other companies have developed energy management tools that help users understand their home energy use and make changes to improve their efficiency. Recharging a car would add an immense load to the average household energy needs making the need for such technologies that much more important. To be successful, energy management tools will need to not only monitor the use of your appliances and heating and cooling systems but also your new electric car.
The Ford Motor Co. has already got a jump on this need by partnering with Microsoft to integrate energy management software into it’s future line of electric vehicles. Ford is planning on releasing a all-electric version of their popular Focus model as soon as 2011. Microsoft’s Hohm software will assist owners in determining how to to recharge their vehicle’s batteries in the most efficient, responsible, and affordable way. The primary goal of the software will be to lessen the strain of car charging on the power grid during peak hours, and to help utilities better manage the rising need. To accomplish this Ford and Microsoft will also be working directly with individual cities and utilities to bring them into the development process creating a true “systems” approach.
IT has been an increasingly important part of auto design, most recently in the form of integrating the myriad of mobile technologies we have come to rely on. Ford’s partnership with Microsoft takes this relationship a step further by involving the still emerging field of smart grid technology into the future automobile. Regardless of weather Electric vehicles represent the best long-term solution to the countries car-dependency, the EVs are certainly here and are going to be a influential part of the future energy needs.