- Eight major automakers are collaborating to develop technology that will allow plug-in electric vehicles to communicate with utility companies via the Cloud.
- The system would allow a utility to send a message to a vehicle to ask it to stop charging temporarily during times of peak demand on the power grid.
- The incentive for consumers is that utility companies would offer lower rates to customers who make their plug-in vehicles available to the grid.
PALO ALTO, California — Eight major automakers are collaborating to develop technology that will allow plug-in electric vehicles to communicate with utility companies via the Cloud.
The goal is to help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid while still meeting the needs of car owners.
The auto companies — Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Toyota — are working with 15 U.S. utilities, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Sumitomo Electric Industries on the technology, called the Open Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI) Platform.
The first test of the system is taking place this week at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District's Customer Service Center. Attendees will include representatives from the auto and utility companies, as well as officials from state and federal agencies that deal with transportation and energy issues.
"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," said Mike Tinskey, Ford's global director of Vehicle Electrification & Infrastructure, in a statement. "Our intent is to add more capability to this technology so that it may be used broadly in the future."
The way it's envisioned, a vehicle owner would plug the car in for charging and set a time when it will be used next. The Cloud-based two-way communication system would allow a power company to send a message to the vehicle to ask it to stop charging temporarily during times of peak demand on the power grid. But if the system determines that pausing the charge would disrupt the driver's needs, it would continue charging normally.
The incentive for the consumer is that utility companies would offer lower rates to customers who make their plug-in vehicles available to the grid, similar to the way they offer discounts to homeowners who allow their air-conditioning systems to run intermittently during times of high power demand.
Customers would be able to opt out of the program entirely, charge their cars at another location if they wish or even have their vehicle ignore the utility's request to stop charging.
In a statement, Dan Bowermaster, manager of EPRI's Electric Transportation Program, said the technology "represents a major milestone that meets the needs of utilities and equipment manufacturers while simultaneously benefiting electric vehicle owners and electricity users."
If testing proves successful the resulting system could be rolled out to owners of such plug-in vehicles as the 2015 Chevrolet Volt, 2015 Ford C-Max Energi, 2015 Nissan Leaf, 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in and 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf.
Edmunds says: It sounds like this technology could help reduce the demand on power grids, but it's important that consumers retain the level of control being promised.