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Ford collaborates with utilities to manage electric vehicle energy use

A 2014 Focus Electric plugs in for recharging.  Ford is collaborating to develop cloud based software to manage peak demand.
A 2014 Focus Electric plugs in for recharging. Ford is collaborating to develop cloud based software to manage peak demand.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is collaborating with automakers, utility companies and the Electric Power Research Institute in a pilot program to develop technology for plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) that would let EVs communicate with utilities via the cloud. Ford says this will help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the nation’s power grid.

Preventing brownouts
A looming issue for EVs is the effect they will have on power grids as their numbers grow and strain an already overloaded electrical grid. Imagine hot summer evenings - when millions of air conditioners are running full tilt - and thousands of EVs are plugged in for a nightly recharge. The result could be brownouts or even blackouts.

Collaboration is key
To help prevent overloading electrical grids, Ford is collaborating with pilot program partners to create a standards-based communications platform for EVs. According to Ford, this platform will enable utilities to contact EV owners who have opted-in to the program, and send a request for those cars to stop charging temporarily to help manage a grid that is becoming overloaded.

If this sounds familiar, it is because this pilot program is similar to electric utilities that offer customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of peak demand. In return, the customer gets a discounted electrical rate.

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, Sumitomo Electric will develop the core platform technology on the first phase of the pilot program.

“This innovative platform provides a critical enabler for the next step in vehicle electrification,” said Mike Tinskey, associate global director, Electrification Infrastructure for Ford. “It’s a way for plug-in electric vehicle drivers to be financially rewarded for their willingness to help manage the electric grid.”

Read more: How Ford vehicles might help solve Salt Lake City's public transportation inefficiency.