Ford Launches New Charging SoftwareSmart recharging will be extremely important for electric cars and plug-in hybrids. It would be pretty disastrous if millions of plug-ins started recharging their batteries during peak demand, which is why auto makers are working on systems that would allow the cars to be programmed to not only charge when electricity is cheapest, but also to communicate directly with the power grid via smart meters.
Flexible ChargingFord says: "When plugged in, the battery systems of these specially equipped plug-in hybrids can communicate directly with the electrical grid via smart meters provided by utility companies through wireless networking. The owner uses the vehicle’s touch screen navigation interface and Ford Work Solutions in-dash computer to choose when the vehicle should recharge, for how long and at what utility rate."
This is important because studies show (including this one by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory) that if electric cars and plug-in hybrids are charged at night, when demand is much lower than at peak, very few new power plants (if any) will be required to meet that demand. It's additional demand during peak use that must be avoided.
But with truly smart recharging software, we could do even better than that: Ford's vehicle-to-grid program allows the driver to "to accept a charge only during off-peak hours between midnight and 6 a.m. when electricity rates are cheaper, or when the grid is using only renewable energy such as wind or solar power." So not only could you minimize your electricity costs by charging only when its least expensive, but you could also minimize your CO2 emissions (if you don't already get 100% of your electricity from green power, that is).
Real World TestingFord has a plug-in hybrid test fleet (21 modified Escape SUVs) that has logged about 75,000 miles over the past two years, and they will be equipped with this new charging software/hardware.
Real-world usage and laboratory research is helping to accelerate the advancement of electrified vehicles. Ford and its research partners are now focusing on ways to make the recharging process easy and efficient for consumers. In addition to low-cost recharging at home through the use of a smart meter, Ford researchers say recharging away from home – whether at work, in a shopping mall parking lot or at a curbside station – needs to be as simple as plugging in and swiping a credit card.
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