As plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) starts to gain consumer acceptance and market share, automotive companies, utilities and charging equipment providers are collaborating on common standards to seamlessly align vehicles, charging stations and the power grid.

Toyota Motor Corporation’s new pilot project in central Indiana has the goal to answer the question of how best to manage plug-in vehicle charging based on integrated communication between the vehicle and the electric power grid, taking advantage of the region’s existing efforts deploying plug-in vehicles as part of the “Project Plug-IN” initiative.

Toyota is partnering with Duke Energy and Energy Systems Network (ESN), the non-profit industry initiative that leads Project Plug-IN, for this effort. The pilot project will use advanced technologies to give customers the ability to achieve their own personal charging strategy automatically – for example, minimize electricity costs by communicating with the utility company to recharge during off-peak periods.

The project aims to test and validate the effectiveness of communication standards developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to provide a simple and affordable smart grid communication protocol between the vehicle, the charging station, and the utility company – to effectively manage vehicle charging.

Additionally, the project plans to develop appropriate business processes and standards to most effectively manage charging to the benefit of the customer, utility and vehicle systems.

The pilot project will involve 5 Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicles driven by Duke Energy customers living in the Indianapolis area. These customers will drive the cars regularly during the pilot period, which is expected to begin in early 2013 and last for at least 12 months.

“Through Project Plug-IN, the Indianapolis region has been a national leader in the deployment and monitoring of plug-in vehicles with typical consumers, gathering data and taking steps towards making the ‘electric commute’ a truly practical alternative for more Americans,” said ESN President & CEO Paul Mitchell. “We’re pleased to extend this effort through the partnership with Toyota and Duke Energy, to help our vehicles, charging infrastructure and utilities speak the same language for the benefit of consumers.”

Toyota will provide a UL certified home charging station and a home gateway communication system to be installed in each customer’s home, allowing the vehicle and the ‘smart grid’ equipment to communicate with each other to evaluate billing and power supply control.

Duke Energy will simulate price structures and demand response events to understand the impact to the customer’s bill and understand how these types of programs can aid in grid reliability as plug-ins become more prominent. The pilot will employ the use of Homeplug Green PHY, a Power Line communication standard that is based on SAE technical standard J2931, and utilizes ISO/IEC standard which has been announced by ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association) as the European standard beginning in 2017. This method allows the sharing of data collected in a home network between the plug-in vehicle and the utility.

Toyota Info Technology Center, U.S.A., Inc.; Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. and Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc. support this project as the suppliers of the Level 2 EVSE and communication systems.

Toyota hopes to gain technological insight to perfect future vehicle iterations for its customers as well as for the overall advancement of the plug-in vehicle industry. “Smart charging through two-way communication with utilities will not only be a benefit to the customers, but is crucial for the promotion of transportation electrification,” said Edward J. Mantey, VP, Vehicle Planning & Corporate Strategy, Toyota Technical Center.

Each Duke Energy customer will use the vehicle communication system to monitor and manage their optimized charging using a mobile software application provided by Toyota for the pilot project. Data collected from the vehicles and EVSEs will be aggregated and maintained securely, protecting all personal information.