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Ford Smart Charging Can Target Clean Power

By · August 18, 2009

By John Gartner

Ford Plug

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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