Ford unveils ‘intelligent’ system for plug-in hybrids to communicate with grid


Dearborn, MI, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — August 19, 2009 – The Ford Motor Company has announced the development of an intelligent vehicle-to-grid communications and control system for its plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that “talks” directly with the electric grid.

This new technology allows the vehicle operator to program when to recharge the vehicle, for how long, and at what utility rate.

“Electric vehicles are an important element of our strategy for improving fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman. “This vehicle-to-grid communication technology is an important step in the journey toward the widespread commercialization of electric vehicles.”

All 21 of Ford’s fleet of plug-in hybrid Escapes eventually will be equipped with the vehicle-to-grid communications technology. The first of the specially equipped plug-in hybrids has been delivered to American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio. Ford’s other utility partners’ vehicles will also be equipped with the communications technology.

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.

For example, a vehicle owner could choose 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.

Over the past two years, Ford and its energy industry partners have logged more than 75,000 miles on the plug-in hybrid test fleet, the company said in a statement. The plug-in hybrid research focuses on four primary areas, battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage, and grid infrastructure.

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, 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, the company believes.

In 2007, Ford announced a partnership with Southern California Edison to explore ways to make plug-in hybrids more accessible to consumers, reduce petroleum-related emissions and understand issues related to connectivity between vehicles and the electric grid. Since then, Ford and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have expanded the partnership with a three-year plan to develop and evaluate technical approaches for integrating PHEVs into the nation’s electric grid system, a key requirement to facilitate widespread adoption of the vehicles.

Other key partners in the project include the U.S. Department of Energy, New York Power Authority, Consolidated Edison of New York, American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio, Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala. and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company, Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C., DTE Energy of Detroit, National Grid of Waltham, Mass., Pepco Holdings, New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, and Hydro-Québec in Canada.

Ford also has formed collaborations with Smith Electric Vehicles, Europe’s leading battery electric commercial vehicle upfitter, Magna International, the supplier jointly developing the Ford Focus battery electric vehicle passenger car for 2011, and Johnson Controls-Saft, the battery supplier for Ford’s first production plug-in hybrid vehicle coming to market in 2012.

Ford has recently been awarded two grants from the Department of Energy under its fleet electrification program. The program is designed to accelerate viable commercial volumes of electrified vehicles and vehicle-to-grid infrastructure development.

One grant, for $30 million, will help fund the collaboration with utility partners across the nation with an expansion of a vehicle demonstration and grid integration program.

Ford also will receive a $62.7 million grant for production of an electric drive transaxle that could be used for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Ford plans to invest nearly $14 billion in advanced technology vehicles in the next seven years, retooling its U.S. plants more quickly to produce fuel-efficient vehicles and help meet the new, rigorous fuel economy requirements, the company said.