EVs Talking To Utilities Through Clouds? It’s Coming Soon

Automakers located in the U.S. will try to have vehicles talk to utility companies during a special field test this week.

Eight global automakers are joining forces for a first-ever test of technology that will allow utility companies to communicate with plug-in electric vehicles via the cloud, an advancement that would help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid.

American Honda Motor Co., BMW Group, Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Co., Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America Inc., Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. are the eight automakers involved.

The automakers said they are collaborating with the Electric Power Research Institute, leading utility companies and Sumitomo Electric to develop a two-way communication platform that would allow plug-in electric vehicles from all participating manufacturers to work with power grids. The system is expected to enable the utilities to send a message directly to the vehicle, asking it to stop charging temporarily as a way of helping a grid that is becoming overloaded. The opt-in program allows customers to refuse the request if desired.

The technology demonstration will take place on October 16 in Sacramento, California, at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Customer Service Center.

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

The automakers explained 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. Otherwise, the charge would pause to help conserve power for the grid.

Utility companies said they will offer financial incentives to customers who make their plug-in electric vehicles available to the grid, similar to utilities offering customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of high demand. Customers who opt-in to the program can charge their cars at a location of their choice and have the ability to ignore the utility’s request to stop charging.

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“This demonstration represents a major milestone that meets the needs of utilities and equipment manufacturers while simultaneously benefiting electric vehicle owners and electricity users,” said Dan Bowermaster, manager of Electric Power Research Institute’s Electric Transportation Program.

Utilities and regional transmission organizations participating in the software and hardware development and demonstration include DTE Energy Company, Duke Energy, PJM Interconnection LLC, CenterPoint Energy Inc., Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Southern Company, Northeast Utilities, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, Commonwealth Edison, TVA, Manitoba Hydro, Austin Energy, ConEdison and CPS Energy.

Sumitomo Electric is the platform IT developer for this demonstration.

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