Ford's Next Hybrids Will Communicate With Electric Grid, Charge Smartly

We were pretty moved by DOW Chemical's recent "Human Element" campaign, and we're delighted to see yet another major American corporation going above and beyond the call of duty in order to better our planet. Ford, along with its utility partners, have announced that they are testing out one of the industry's first vehicle-to-electric grid communications and control systems, which enables electric vehicles to interface with the grid for optimal recharging.

Put simply, this new approach enables the vehicle operator to program when to recharge the vehicle, for how long and at what utility rate. In other words, an operator could choose to charge only during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper, or when the grid is using renewable energy. Pretty sweet concept, no? Bill Ford, Ford's executive chairman, had this to say about the development:

"Electric vehicles are an important element of our strategy for improving fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions. This vehicle-to-grid communication technology is an important step in the journey toward the widespread commercialization of electric vehicles."

And if you thought this was all just some pipe dream, think again. All 21 of Ford's fleet of plug-in hybrid Escapes eventually will be equipped with the vehicle-to-grid communications technology, with the first of the specially equipped plug-in hybrids being delivered to American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio. We're also told that the automaker'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.

Granted, we'd love to see more hybrids on the road before getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we guess any progress is good progress in this area. Greg Frenette, manager of Ford's Battery Electric Vehicle Applications, chimed in with the following:

"We are designing what plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles will be capable of in the future. 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."

The development has certainly been helped by you and yours, with Ford admitting that a $30 million grant and a $62.7 million DOE grant will help fund collaboration with utility partners across the nation with an expansion of a vehicle demonstration and grid integration program. Now, if only we could figure out that whole teleportation thing, we'd be good to go!