Will your Utility be ready for your Networked EV?

Yes, your electric utility will be ready to charge your new electric car if you live in the right city.  Your odds improve if you live in one of 18 cities, own a house that uses air conditioning, has a garage, and have new underground power lines. If you live in an apartment with no garage, especially in a non-priority city, then get ready to be a brave pioneer.

I recently invested a day listening, interviewing, and networking with forward thinking utility executives and some of the smartest people in the smart grid business at GTM Research and Greentech Media’s Networked EV conference.

Nissan has started shipping the LEAF. Chevrolet has handed car keys to early Volt customers. Forty thousand new electric vehicles will be on the U.S. highways by the end of 2011. Charging these vehicles could be the equivalent of powering another 40,000 houses. Since the sub-prime mortgage crisis has left that many houses empty, you would think that charging 40,000 cars should raise no concerns. Charging one million by 2015, however, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Utility executives are raising concerns and conducting PR campaigns. They want to make sure that they are ready, that no neighborhood blackouts happen, and that they make money charging these electric cars. Early Prius sales were concentrated to certain communities; it will be the same story with electric cars. For example, universities and tech centers will have a concentration of EVs that will lead utilities to install smart meters, add smart grid software, and add $9,000 transformers. In many cases, public utility commissions must support these upgrades so that utilities make money charging EVs.

Even morning charging at work or public spots is fine with most utilities. Peak demand is often in the afternoon and early evening. It greatly helps that all electric cars, from LEAFs to Volts, use smart charging. Charging does not start when you plug-in. It starts based on your preferences, such as charging at lower night rates. With a couple of clicks on your smartphone app, night preferences can be overridden with your request to immediately charge.

Temporary TOU tiered pricing will be tested in cities such as San Diego to see if people are encouraged to charge off-peak. Some lucky test households will pay super off-peak rates that are only 1/6 of peak rates when charging their new plug-ins in San Diego. Money incentives and the simplicity of smart charging should lead to most charging being done off-peak.

Eighteen cities from San Diego to Seattle, from New York to Raleigh, have been preparing for the deliver of thousands of electric cars by installing 15,000 public charging stations as part of a DOE Ecotality project. Independently, thousands of home charging stations are being installed by EV drivers.

Greg Haddow with SDG&E in San Diego described how they have evaluated best locations for public charging considering geographies of early buyer interested as reported by their customers and automakers, employment centers, and strategic areas of public use. Starting this December, ten stations per week will be installed, with quantities increasing until 2,500 are installed.

Electric vehicle interest has been strong in areas of urban density, so SDG&E has engaged with many apartment and condo complexes. No two multi-unit dwellings have been the same in parking structures, renter/owner allocation of spaces, meters, panels, and power currently available to the complex. Some EV enthusiasts have been surprised to learn that their rental agreements prohibit EVs or use of parking power. Condo CCRs vary.

Electric utilities have already successfully handled bigger challenges than charging EVs.  They have added underground lines, new transformers, and distribution to handle new real estate development including hundreds of McMansions, each demanding more juice than even a Tesla. Utilities are upgrading grids and infrastructure to support megawatts of distributed solar. Electric utilities take on new industrial parks with hours of surges in demand for electricity.

PG&E with 5.1 million electricity customers was ranked the greenest utility in U.S. by Newsweek 2009 and 2010. It has developed three scenarios to support 220,000 to 850,000 plug-in vehicles by 2020 in its service area. Kevin Dasso, Senior Director of  for PG&E, contrasted two neighborhoods where there is a concentration of those ordering Nissan LEAFs and Chevrolet Volts – Silicon Valley and Berkeley. New developments in Silicon Valley will be easier. The distribution infrastructure is already there to support larger air conditioned homes, newer underground wiring, and newer transformers.  A plug-in hybrid will not equal the demand of one large home. Berkeley homes are supported with older infrastructure, less likely to have air conditioning. One battery-electric car could create more demand than one home.

Yes, your electric utility will be ready for your new EV. If you live in an older neighborhood with energy-efficient homes, some planning and upgrading will be needed. The impact will be less than adding new developments, new industrial parks, and even high-growth of solar power. Most charging will be done off-peak, allowing utilities to run their most efficient power plants 24/7 and make better use of nighttime wind-power. The key to off-peak charging will be the incentives of TOU pricing and the fact that your networked EV is smart enough to charge when rates are lowest.

For a nation that is 95 percent dependent on petroleum for transportation, the chance to use home grown energy should be a blessing, especially in 70 percent efficient electric drive systems, instead of 15 percent efficient gasoline engine drive systems. Done right, your electric utility will make money. Most utility generation assets are underutilized at night when home charging is ideal; generation is underutilized in the morning when workplace charging ideally occurs.

GE Bets 10 Billion on Digital Energy

By John Addison

GE Smart Charging Stations for Electric Cars

General Electric intends to be the leader in smart grid charging of electric vehicles. GE’s Watt Station EV Charger was personally unveiled today by CEO Jeff Immelt. Globally, GE already helps thousands of electric utilities be more efficient in generating power and in distributing power. With a growing family of smart grid solutions including smart charging of vehicles, GE will help utilities lead in the intelligent generation, management, distribution, and use of energy. Mr. Immelt refers to this as Digital Energy.

After attending the presentation by Jeff Immelt and other luminaries, I was able to talk with Michael Mahan, GE’s Global Product Manager of EVSE.

The GE Watt Station is the first in a family of vehicle smart charging products and services from GE. It will be piloted this year at commercial sites and universities such as Purdue and the University of California San Diego. Within a couple of months we will see the announcement of a GE home plug-in car charger. These products will be made available commercially in 2011 simultaneously in all markets including the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

Although GE’s press release positioned the Watt Station as having a faster charging rate than some competitive offerings, this Level 2 220 volt / 32 amp smart charger delivers electrons at the same speed as other Level 2 chargers such as Coulomb Technologies, Aerovironment, and Ecotality. These competitors have the early lead in installing 15,000 charging stations in the United States. GE is taking a fast-follower strategy with the intent of being the market leader.
The Watt Station complies with J1772 smart charging standards. Its attractive design will appeal to consumers, with a simply friendly interface and retractable cord protected inside the supporting pole. The Watt Station is modular and upgradeable. It can be purchased with an optional credit card reader, or that can be added later. Watt Stations also have optional smart suite communications to utilize smart metering and wireless AMI.

Where GE does have competitive advantage is in its long-term relationship with utilities, its family of end-to-end system solutions, its partnerships, and its financial prowess. Communities littered with last decades charging stations, some no longer working from bankrupt companies will find comfort in the GE brand.

GE Provides Digital Energy End-to-End

As global electric utilities modernize and embrace the added opportunity of transportation that depends less of petroleum and inefficient engines, and more on electricity and efficient electric drive systems, GE can be a major partner. Electric vehicles can be smart charged with GE charging stations, managed with GE software services. Areas with high concentration of electric vehicles can turn to GE for new substations and distribution equipment. Power plants can be upgraded with the latest GE turbines, and supplemented with GE wind turbines, solar power, and grid storage. With a digital energy demand can be shaped off-peak.

GE Unveils Nucleus™ and Brillion Home Energy Management

GE also unveiled Nucleus™, an affordable, innovative communication and data storage device that provides consumers with secure information about their household electricity use and costs so they can make more informed choices about how and when to use power. Nucleus is expected to be available for consumer purchase in early 2011 at an estimated retail price of $149-$199.
GE’s Nucleus brings the promise of the smart grid into consumers’ homes. As utilities deploy smart meters, the Nucleus will collect and store a consumer’s household electricity use and cost data for up to three years and present it to consumers in real-time using simple, intuitive PC and smart phone applications, helping consumers monitor and control their energy use.
Nucleus is the first product in GE’s Brillion™ suite of smart home energy management solutions that will help consumers control their energy use and costs. In addition to Nucleus, GE’s Brillion suite will include a programmable thermostat, in-home display, a smart phone application and smart appliances for the entire home.

By 2012, US utilities are expected to install more than 40 million smart meters. These digital meters enable utilities to charge “time-of-use” rates for electricity throughout the day. When demand is low, electricity will cost less, and when demand is at its “peak,” utilities will charge more to encourage off-peak consumption.

Future Brillion options will also include alerts to assist consumers with daily tasks, such as when to change the refrigerator’s water filter or when the dryer cycle ends. Software upgrades will further enable Nucleus to monitor water, natural gas, and renewable energy sources, as well as plug-in electric vehicle charging.

$10 Billion Ecomagination R&D

GE is driving a global energy transformation with a focus on innovation and R&D investment to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology. Since its inception in 2005, 92 ecomagination products have been brought to market with revenues reaching $18 billion in 2009. With $5 billion invested in R&D its first five years, GE committed to doubling its ecomagination investment and collaborate with partners to accelerate a new era of energy innovation. The company will invest $10 billion in R&D over five years and double operational energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption.
CEO Immelt expects over 30 new ecoimagination product announcements in the next 24 months, including the GE Watt Station EV charger.

Electric Car Charging and Smart Grid Reports

By John Addison. Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker.

Coulomb Technologies Smart-Charging for Ford Electric Vehicles

By John Addison – June 3, 2010

Ford is promoting smart charging as it now takes orders for the Ford Transit Connect, next year for the 2011 Ford Focus EV, and in 2012 the Ford Plug-in Hybrid. Ford is partnering with Coulomb Technologies to provide nearly 5,000 free wall-installed charging stations for some of the automaker’s first electric car and electric delivery van customers.

Under the Ford Blue Oval ChargePoint Program, fleets and residents in nine designated markets could receive a free ChargePoint® Networked Charging Station with the purchase of a Ford Transit Connect Electric vehicle. The nine markets designated by Coulomb Technologies include Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Redmond, Wash., and Washington D.C. The installation of ChargePoint charging stations will begin immediately.

Ford plans to introduce five new electrified vehicles in North America by 2012, providing a range of products to meet a variety of customer needs. These include:

• A Transit Connect Electric small commercial van. Test Drive Report
• A Ford Focus Electric passenger car debuting in 2011. Test Drive Report
• Two next-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid-electric vehicles and a plug-in hybrid by 2012

If 5,000 Transit Connect Electrics are sold in the target cities prior to Focus EV sales, then charging units may all go to those customers. This will help accelerate early adoption of electric vans in fleets such as utilities, universities, goods delivery, and contractors.

New USA Jobs for Plug-in Cars and Advanced Batteries

Ford’s increased use of lithium-ion batteries is also increasing jobs in the United States. Ford will make its own battery packs in Michigan, using Focus EV cells from nearby Compact Power, an LG Chem company. The plug-in hybrid cells will be made in Wisconsin by Johnson-Controls Saft. The U.S. made new lithium-ion batteries will be used instead of the currently Mexican made nickel metal hydride batteries. Over 6,000 new jobs are coming to Michigan just for advanced batteries. “Michigan will be the place where the electric vehicle and battery-powered vehicle will be researched, developed, produced, manufactured and assembled,” said Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Ford Blue Oval ChargePoint Program is part of Coulomb Technologies’ $37 million ChargePoint America charging station infrastructure project made possible by a grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the Department of Energy.

Coulomb Technologies Leads in Smart Charging Build-Out

Coulomb Technologies is a fast-growing venture capital backed firm headquartered in California. Coulomb’s ChargePoint® Network, is open to all plug-in electric vehicle drivers and provides authentication, management and real-time control for the networked electric vehicle charging stations. The network of electric vehicle charging stations is accessible to all plug-in drivers by making a toll-free call to the 24/7 number on each charging station, or signing up for a ChargePoint Network monthly access plan and obtaining a ChargePass™ smart card. Other future payment options include using any smart (RFID) credit/debit card to authorize a session or using a standard credit or debit card at a remote payment station (RPS) to pay for charging sessions. To locate available charging stations, visit and click “Find Stations.”

As electric cars start to ship with the new J1772 smart charging capability, Coulomb has taken the lead in installing a smart charging infrastructure with over 700 networked charging stations worldwide shipped to more than 130 customers in 2009. The ChargePoint Network provides multiple web-based portals for Hosts, Fleet managers, Drivers, and Utilities, and ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations ranging in capability from 120 Volt to 240 Volt AC charging and up to 500 Volt DC charging.

Smart charging will allow customers to save money by charging off-peak when rates are low. Major utilities also plan to inform smart charging station customers that excess renewable energy is available if that is their charging preference. Electric Utilities Facilitate Smart Grid
ChargePoint America will offer home and public charging stations to individuals and businesses. Businesses interested in applying for free public charging stations or consumers exploring an electric vehicle purchase can visit for more information.

Three automakers have committed to deliver electric vehicles in designated US regions. The Chevrolet Volt, the Ford Transit Connect Electric and Ford Focus Electric through the “Ford Blue Oval ChargePoint Program”, and the smart fortwo electric drive will be introduced along with this program. ChargePoint America plans to provide 4,600 public and private ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations by October 2011.

Clean Fleet Reports about Electric Cars

Top 10 Electric Car Makers for 2010 & 2011

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker.

Electric Cars Facilitate Smart Grid 2.0

By John Addison (original post Clean Fleet Report)

The electric car will facilitate the smart grid and a renewable energy charging infrastructure. The electric car will help make the smart grid relevant to consumers. Right now most cars use inefficient engines fueled with gasoline or diesel. In the coming decades, many cars will use electricity. With a smart grid, renewable energy will do much of the charging.

New electric cars from Nissan, Toyota, GM, Ford and others will use a charging standard J1772. The new charging units at home and work will include a smart meter chip. When a driver plugs-in, charging will follow preferences pre-established by the car owner. Many will prefer to save money and charge at night when rates are cheaper.

States with the earliest adopters of electric cars are also states where utilities face big renewable portfolio standards (RPS). The lowest cost renewable per megawatt is wind, but much of the wind turbine power is delivered at night when winds are most constant. With a smart grid and price incentives, electric cars will be charged off-peak using renewables.

The promise of smart grid electric vehicle charging was discussed at the GreenBeat 2009 conference last week by technology leaders such as Google and Cisco, and utility leaders such as Duke Energy and Southern California Edison. Al Gore presented smart grid and super grid findings from his comprehensive new book about climate solutions – Our Choice.

The current Smart Grid 1.0 is frankly boring. Smart Grid 2.0 promises to make our life better with less use of damaging coal power emissions.

With Smart Grid 1.0, new electric meters are being installed. Utilities save because they no longer need to send people out to read meters. Services can start and stop without rolling trucks to make manual connects and disconnects. Utilities are saving while the consumers pay for the new meters with rate hikes.

Electric utility industry has shifted from years of falling costs to rising costs. Utilities need to shift energy use and vehicle charging off-peak to avoid unnecessary investments in expensive peaking power plants. A smart grid is needed to fully utilize renewable energy and moderate fossil fuel emissions.

Smart Grid 2.0 could help some people over $1,000 per year by automating their preferences in heating, cooling, running smart appliances, and even doing jobs like running the dishwasher when excess renewable energy is available. Energy efficiency and demand management is already saving some enterprises millions per year. Most state public utility commissions (PUC) are afraid of implementing consumer time-of-use (TOU) pricing to give people the incentive to use energy when it is plentiful not scarce. The latest class action lawsuit hardly encourages PUCs to act more boldly.

Public utility commissions are more willing to allow pricing incentives for vehicle charging. Electric cars will help move us to Smart Grid 2.0. Through web browsers, smartphones, and vehicle displays, drivers will select smart charging preferences and get feedback on how to use less electricity and save money. Early electric cars will cost more than their gasoline counterparts, but their electric charging will cost a fraction of the cost of gasoline fill-ups.

Currently, there are only 40,000 electric cars running in the United States. As exciting new offerings are being tested and sold, 1.5 million electric cars are expected in the U.S. by 2015 presented Sharon Allan, the Senior Executive, North American Smart Grid Practice, for Accenture.

Charging these electric cars will help transform the promise of a smart grid into a convenient cost-saving reality.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.