Ford Smart Charging Can Target Clean Power

Ford Motor Company has developed an intelligent charging system that previews how its production vehicles will interact with the grid. The unnamed system enables all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners to restrict charging to when electricity prices fall below a certain threshold, or even “when the grid is using only renewable energy such as wind or solar power,” according to Ford.

Being able to drive “emissions free” could be a huge selling point for the upscale and eco-minded early adopters who will be buying electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids during the next few years. There’s a natural synergy for customers to put solar on their homes and buy plug-in cars, so they can drive free of fossil fuel.

In its ongoing testing of Ford Escapes converted into plug-in hybrids, the company is leveraging communications systems it designed including SYNC, SmartGauge, and Ford Work Solutions. The vehicles are communicating with the grid through smart meters over a wireless network using the Zigbee protocol, but Ford hasn’t committed to a network platform for its production vehicles.

Ford said its final communications system will be designed to work with a variety of smart meters. The first generation of electric vehicles is likely to use a mix of proprietary and “open” standards that are still in development. Each company will likely offer some part of their charge management technology to others in hopes that it would become industry standard.

The batteries in the 21 test vehicles are from Johnson Controls-Saft, which will also be supplying the batteries for its production plug-in hybrid. Ford will spend $14 billion over 7 years to retool to manufacture advanced vehicles.

Ford has lined up some impressive utilities to help with the tests, including Southern California Edison, American Electric Power, Progress Energy, and 10 others, which will each receive some of the test fleet. The agreement is to continue testing for three years, which is interesting because the company plans to have a commercial plug-in hybrid for sale in 2012—you might think that testing of grid interaction would be moot at that point. Ford received $30 million in DOE grant money to pay for part of the testing.

Ford is rigorously testing plug-in hybrids now, but the all-electric Ford Focus (due out a year earlier) is not being tested in a similar broad fashion.

Reprinted with permission from Matter Network

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  • Malaysia Plug-in Hybrid Advocate

    I wish this technology is being marketed in my country. But I wish the politicians must do the job first by introducing the policy and strategy i.e. timeline. But there are also oil companies who are not happy with this technology. They will do whatever it takes to prevent the spreading of this technology to the society.

  • Robcares

    Very nice, I can’t wait. This should give everyone in good push to match. Now a little subsidy to install solar panels. I’m a little more hopeful that we are moving in the right direction.

  • Mr.Bear

    You figure most people get home around 6pm. Peak emery usage drops off after 8pm, even more so after 11pm.

    You also have to figure 6 to 8 hours of charge time will be required.

    So, if you want to have off-peak charging, all you need is a clocl built into the charger.

    Was that so hard?

  • Mr.Bear

    You figure most people get home around 6pm. Peak emery usage drops off after 8pm, even more so after 11pm.

    You also have to figure 6 to 8 hours of charge time will be required.

    So, if you want to have off-peak charging, all you need is a clock built into the charger.

    Was that so hard?

  • two cents per mile

    this is just one more news article that disproves another baseless myth about electric vehicles- not to mention that as the demand for electricity grows, so will the grid. Electric cars are safe, clean, and efficient. And, with electric cars we can save our economy (using domestic energy, lowering our trade deficit, building jobs), while also helping reduce pollution. Electric cars are the future- as soon as affordable ones are on the market. For an insightful, readable, and eye-opening introduction to the benefits and history of electric cars, I recommend the book “Two Cents Per Mile” by Nevres Cefo. Did you know that electric cars have been driving on u.s. roads for over a decade? (check out the Toyota RAV4-ev!). Check out and to learn more

  • HSR0601

    The vehicle-to-grid communication technology is helping the battery serve as a storage to prevent the costly blackout standing at about $90 to 100bn per year. That means utilities are shedding cost for additional storage facilities and ratepayers are selling electricity for peak hours so that EVs can make more economic sense, as we know.

    It is also in the best interest of electricity utilities that EVs are going mainstream, thereby they need to put in charge stands where needed around highways, major roads with card readers or cell phone tech.

  • calvin

    They would need a serious retooling of our nation’s power delivery infrastructure to have this type of smart meter (beyond the the simple clock-based system Mr. Bear suggested).

    First off, right now many residents can already “buy” clean energy by paying different rates to your power provider for either wind/hydro/solar/coal/gas/etc. It doesn’t mean that the actual electricity you’re using is coming from those sources, just that the power company will get their energy from each of those sources proportionally to what their users pay for–so the net effect is the same. With such a system there’s no need for a smart meter.

    Ford seems to be proposing that the power station directly routes power from renewable sources to individual homes, which seems to be a bit impractical (and pointless), not to mention requiring a dedicated data connection from the power station to each home just to communicate this information. A 250kbps connection would be enough for transmitting this info, but it seems like a huge waste. I mean, if you’re going to roll out a whole new communication network just for this niche application, then why not just invest in open WiMax and wire up homes the smart way?

    And I don’t see why the DOE would invest money into developing a proprietary technology we’d be paying twice for–first for its initial development, and then a licensing fee to use the technology we already paid to create. Why not just develop an open standard based on TCP/IP (another open standard)? Most homes already have broadband, and any public charging stations could be linked to nearby APs using Zigbee.