Ford plans vehicles to interact with power grids

Aug 18, 2009 By KIMBERLY S. JOHNSON , AP Auto Writer
FILE - In this May 29, 2009 file photo released by Ford Motor Co., Chairman Bill Ford is interviewed with a Ford Focus Battery Electric Vehicle during the 2009 Mackinac Policy Conference in Mackinac Island, Mich. Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday, Aug. 18 said its future electric cars will "talk" to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in alternative energy vehicles. (AP Photo/Ford Motor Co., Sam VarnHagen)

(AP) -- Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday its future electric cars will "talk" to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in alternative energy vehicles.

The nation's second-largest automaker released details of a two-year collaboration with 10 utility companies as well as the Department of Energy on the design of a system that allows car owners to control when they charge vehicles and for how long.

Ford's first battery electric vehicle, the Transit Connect commercial van, will be available next year. A battery electric Ford Focus compact car will go on sale in 2011.

"At the end of the day this has to be easy for our customer," said Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr., at a company round-table on electrification efforts. "This can't just be an interesting science experiment. This has to be something that makes people's lives better and easier and that is what our dialogue is all about."

Utility companies say their grids already are ready to handle , although some drivers are likely to need additional equipment installed in their garages, depending on the vehicle's voltage requirement.

"The grid is ready now but on a lower technology basis," said Mike Ligett, director of emerging technology at Progress Energy Inc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based energy company. "We are not concerned about , but more about when it's used."

With connectivity between Ford vehicles and power grids in certain areas, owners can choose to recharge at off-peak times when electricity is cheaper, or when wind, solar or renewable energy is driving the grid, said Nancy Gioia, director of Ford's sustainable mobility technologies division. "What we're doing is developing our capability."

Ford and the utility companies are testing the system and have logged 75,000 miles on a test fleet. The goal is to have a network in place so drivers can recharge their cars at preset times at home, work or elsewhere.

The system aims to develop technical standards so that a car purchased and used in Michigan, can "talk" to an electric grid in New York if the driver moves or travels.

Vincent Dow, Detroit Edison's vice president of distribution operations, said there are "more questions than answers" about how electric car owners will seek to recharge their vehicles.

"Will they charge at home, or work?" he asked. "What's the pattern going to be for them? We need to understand what the needs are going to be for consumers."

Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., said that although the nation's current electric grid could handle widespread adoption of electric cars, more things can be done to use more efficiently. For example, drivers could recharge a car at 3 a.m. so it doesn't tax the grid and costs less.

Shares of Ford rose 27 cents, or 3.7 percent, to close at $7.64 Tuesday.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 11

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TJ_alberta
2 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2009
why does this sound like an improvised answer to "better place"? ... as long as they don't try and use BPL
otto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 18, 2009
Why couldnt you charge batteries by induction with part of the grid imbedded in or near roadways? Theyre doing this with personal electronics now. You could do it on portions of heavily trafficed commuter routes with predictable loads.
PPihkala
4 / 5 (2) Aug 18, 2009
Charging without wires is lossy. If one can reach 50% that is good value. So why would someone want to pay for 2x the amount of electricity when they can recharge by wired connection with almost 100% efficiency? Then there is the question of who will pay for the installation of all those induction tracks into those roads. They are expensive. With small personal devices it does not matter if they use 10W instead of 5W for charging. And you only have one inductive charger that does work with small power levels.
kerry
4 / 5 (2) Aug 19, 2009
Yeah induction seems like a bad idea... It'd also be difficult to account for energy use with induction (who is using it, and how much). You'd basically get people freeloading off the grid.

Plus, charging by induction requires high-strength magnetic fields. This could pose a negative effect for nearby plants and wildlife that may be more sensitive to magnetic fields than humans are.
Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2009
I look forward to next decade.
N8graph
4 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2009
Induction could work If tied to static environments such as metered parking spaces with electronic debt collection or a mat in your garage. When monetary value vs convenience, convenience always seems to win. If the majority of electricity being proceeded is excess as in wind or solar for the period of time it is being provided, it would be intelligent to offload the excess energy from the grid in a structured fashion to a storage medium such as batteries when it would be considered lost power to maintain a constant 60hz frequeny and not exceed it. If it was done in some intelligent manner with the storage reporting back to the supplier, I think you would have a net gain even with loss. Better stability and efficiency if avoiding ramp up and ramp downs of power generation stations.
Lord_jag
not rated yet Aug 19, 2009
"The grid is ready now but on a lower technology basis," said Mike Ligett, director of emerging technology at Progress Energy Inc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based energy company.

At least now I can say "I told you so" to all the naysayers that screm that the grid is not ready.
Velanarris
4 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2009
"The grid is ready now but on a lower technology basis," said Mike Ligett, director of emerging technology at Progress Energy Inc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based energy company.

At least now I can say "I told you so" to all the naysayers that screm that the grid is not ready.


"But on a lower technology basis" means our current grid technology cannot handle the infrastructure conversion. The grid can certainly handle electric cars if say you and I bought one each and plugged them in. Probably even a few thousand or perhaps hundred thousand could be accomodated no problem, but the grid could not handle electric needs for all cars and if you want to say "you're ready" you have to be ready to handle ALL demand when dealing with resource grids.



Think of it this way, do you have brownouts when summer starts up? That's just simple air conditioning. Try running cars off it as well and you see the inherent problem.
Lord_jag
not rated yet Aug 19, 2009
Think of it this way, do you have brownouts when summer starts up? That's just simple air conditioning. Try running cars off it as well and you see the inherent problem.


It's all in the transition. Its going to take decades for enough cars to be plugged in to be noticable, evne if we made a B-line for electric cars this year.

My infrastructure in my town is already ready. My power meter shows a price differnece due to the time of day it's used. It also wouldn't be hard for people to put timers on their cars to charge them during off peak hours for the short term (over the next decade) until the infrastructure catches up.

Also, The peak demand could be easily curtailed by installing solar on peoples roofs. That way, when the AC uses the most energy, the solar is also producing the most cooling.

There's more than enough room on a single family dwelling roof to install solar for all your power needs during the day. As energy becomes more expensive and solar is mass produced, it will become a more viable option.

The transition is happening. Change is hard, but it is coming.
Chomer
not rated yet Aug 19, 2009
Would that capability open the door for hacker to hack into out power GRID system which is not already secure enough to begin with?
Velanarris
5 / 5 (2) Aug 19, 2009

It's all in the transition. Its going to take decades for enough cars to be plugged in to be noticable, evne if we made a B-line for electric cars this year.
You're looking at it from a power station viewpoint. From the station viewpoint we have enough generation to handle 70 percent of the cars in America according to some sources. Here's the problem: transformers, and I'm not talking Optimus Prime. The transformer system we utilize today is designed to scale out to 1 transformer per 10 average sized houses. Electric cars are alleged to utilize power at about the rate of 3 cars to one house at trickle charge rates, meaning, you plug into a standard 110 US outlet. So if the average American household has 2.28 cars then the grid is going to have to double in size to accomodate the excess load. This ignores the fact you'll need to add more generation systems to handle this load. Lots of people are saying you can just "valley-fill" the grid (charge during off hours), but that doesn't work. America is a 24/7 society and leaving your car idle for certain extended periods of time is not feasable for most families, especially if you have kids or work two jobs, which the majority of Americans fit one category or the other.

Also, The peak demand could be easily curtailed by installing solar on peoples roofs. That way, when the AC uses the most energy, the solar is also producing the most cooling.

Ok, Who's paying? only 68% of Americans live in a house they own, 25% of which are condos and not traditional homes. (Us Census). That number is a historic high and is dropping rapidly in this economy. Couple that with the expense and relatively paltry gain to be had in most residential solar systems as well as the Homeowners Associations that have banned them and you have an even greater conundrum.

You're looking at this very optimistically, and that's not a bad thing, but for this image to become a reality a lot of wealth will have to be utilized to produce everything necessary to double the American power grid. This will cause an even greater reliance on filthy methods of energy generation in the short term and potentially create an unstable energy grid, which potentially can cost productivity, GDP, economic health, and lives.

So, rather than just scoffing at the idea and moving on here's a better one. Nuclear based generation with a hydrogen storage medium.

This does two things:

1) utilizes current vehicular infrastructure to combat the problem with foreign oil and domestic coal

2) provides a clean, safe medium for generation with a proven storage mechanism.

The difference here is, you can still utilize solar or wind or any other "renewable" medium you chose while maintaining a clean infrastructure based on storage in simple water. Hell the water could be waste water or heavily saline and you're still going to get a perfect pumpable storage medium.

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