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IBM, Honda, PG&E Launch Smart EV Charging Project

IBM, Honda’s American arm and Pacific Gas and Electric will collaborate on a pilot project to allow communication between electric vehicles and the power grid, the companies have announced.

The project aims to demonstrate and test an electric vehicle’s ability to receive and respond to charge instructions based on the grid condition and the vehicle’s battery state. With visibility into charging patterns, energy providers will have the ability to more effectively manage charging during peak hours and create consumer-friendly programs to encourage adoption, the companies hope.

During the pilot, Honda Fit EVs (pictured) will initiate a charge request once plugged into a charge post. This request gets sent to IBM’s Electric Vehicle Enablement Platform, where vehicle data such as battery state is combined with grid data received from PG&E to create an optimized charge schedule, which is then communicated back to the vehicle. Using this aggregated data, the vehicle has the intelligence to charge to the level that is needed while factoring in any current grid constraints, IBM says.

The energy requirements for electric vehicles will challenge the current power grid as plug-in vehicle counts continue to grow to an expected 2.9 million worldwide by 2017, IBM says. If successful, the project has the potential to ease the infrastructure and consumer concerns associated with the mass adoption of EVs, by adding another layer of agility to the EV charging process, IBM says.

This is not PG&E’s first foray into electric vehicles. In January, the company unveiled an extended-range electric pickup truck designed especially for utilities, jointly developed with VIA Motors. The eREVs run their first 40 miles on electricity, before switching to gasoline, and can provide on-site power to shorten small outages, eliminate some planned outages, and boost the electric grid when needed.

In October last year, GE and Nissan launched a two-year collaboration to develop smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. The effort is focusing on the integration of electric vehicles with homes and buildings and on the future impact on the electric grid once millions of EVs are on the road.

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