Ford announced at the New York Auto Show today that it will team up with Microsoft’ energy management software system, Hohm, to help drivers optimize the juice for Ford electric vehicles – starting with the Ford Focus next year.
Through the partnership, which will also involve utilities and municipalities around the country, the carmaker is playing a role in establishing an infrastructure for charging EVs, while also smartly managing electricity allocation. Charging a vehicle requires a significant amount of power–in fact it can double the amount of power a single household draws from the electrical grid. This is significant not only for the ratepayers but also for the utilities, many of which worry that as EVs become more popular, the increased demand for power in residential areas will cause a strain on the grid–or worse, power outages.
Forty-two percent of the consumers who participated in a recent Accenture survey said they are likely to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle in the next two years.
Microsoft launched Hohm last year as a home energy management application. It relies on information provided by the homeowner (and number-crunching, using software licensed from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the Department of Energy) to calculate how much power a user’s major household appliances are pulling–and also an estimate of the associated CO2 emissions.
By loading Hohm onto Ford EVs–through the vehicles’ on-board communication system SYNC, which Microsoft also developed–users will basically be able to add their EVs to their household profile, as another major appliance.
Hohm will send EV owners alerts when electricity rates spike due to high demand, suggesting that they opt for charging their cars at another time, when cheaper–and cleaner–energy sources are available. (Overnight charging is often the best option, especially in areas where wind power is fed into the grid, because winds are generally strongest at night, and rates are generally low).
This partnership marks an early and important step in addressing the role EVs will play in the smart grid, but many other pieces of the puzzle will have to fall into place. Perhaps the most important will be consumer buy-in.