Protecting the power grid from electric vehicles

Honda, IBM, and a major utility has joined forces to solve the issue of what happens when many people with electric cars decide to plug-in at the same time.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor
An overview of the IBM's cloud management platform. (Image Credit: IBM)

Stakeholders from automakers to utilities are planning for a future where more households own electric vehicles. A pilot project is now underway to develop new technology that will uphold the power grid's reliability when it's time to plug in.

American Honda Motor Co., IBM, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) are jointly working on a pilot project, announced today, to test "smart" charging solutions to manage electric vehicle charging. Think of it as energy rationing.

"Rationing" might sound harsh, but today's power grids simply cannot handle an influx of EVs plugging in during peak hours. The solution manages charging for each vehicle taking battery state and grid conditions into account. It also aims to make it easier to find a charge while on the road.

"This pilot project with IBM and Honda will help us demonstrate that third-party providers have the systems and capabilities to help meet some of the challenges that electric vehicles could place on the power grid as their adoption increases in the coming years," said Saul Zambrano, senior director for consumer products for PG&E. "With updated charging patterns for EVs, we have the ability if needed, to shift demand to non-peak times to ensure the reliability of the grid so that we can continue to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy to our customers."

Big Blue is handling the software side of the solution. IBM is developing a cloud-based application that it is calling an "Electric Vehicle Enablement Platform." The platform communicates with PG&E systems and guides drivers to the nearest available charging station when the time is right for a refill.

Energy management is a strategic business for IBM, which now has 150 smart grid engagements worldwide. It chose to highlight energy technology initiatives at its centennial celebration last year. IBM is a sponsor of SmartPlanet.

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