It's one of the primary concerns of the electric-vehicle revolution: how do we charge so many cars, and still keep that electricity (relatively) inexpensive? Ford hopes it may have an answer in the form of its new vehicle-to-grid communication technology.
Allowing the owner to program the car's recharge cycle - including overall duration and the utility rate - the system could theoretically save money by tapping the grid during low-demand periods when electricity is abundant and cheap, all in an automated process. 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.
“Direct communication between vehicles and the grid can only be accomplished through collaboration between automakers and utility companies, which Ford and its partners are demonstrating with this technology," said Greg Frenette, Ford's manager of Battery Electric Vehicle Applications.
Fortunately many other carmakers are also working to develop solutions in the field. Finding ways to come to an industry standard may become essential, as a proliferation of different, mutually incompatible charging methods could be just as bad as none at all.
Over 75,000 miles of plug-in hybrid testing and years of research have gone into the development of Ford's plans for commercialization of hybrid cars, and the new intelligent charging technology comes as the company prepares for release of its pure-electric Transit Connect van in 2010 and the first Ford electric passenger car, a battery-powered version of the Focus, for 2011. Plug-in hybrid and hybrid electric vehicles will then follow in 2012.