Ford unveils intelligent grid communications system for PHEVs

Dearborn, Mich. — Ford Motor Company has developed an intelligent communications and control system, with its utility partners, for its plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). The system enables the vehicles to communicate with the electric grid via smart meters through wireless networking.

The new vehicle-to-grid technology, leveraging Ford’s technologies such as SYNC, SmartGauge with EcoGuide and Ford Work Solutions, allows the vehicle operator to program via the touch screen navigation interface and Ford Work Solutions in-dash computer when to recharge the vehicle, for how long and at what utility rate.

“This vehicle-to-grid communication technology is an important step in the journey toward the widespread commercialization of electric vehicles,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman in a statement.

Ford and its utility partners are testing the communications and control systems, which is said to enable electric vehicles to interface with the grid for optimal recharging. The first of the specially equipped plug-in hybrids has been delivered to American Electric Power in Columbus, Ohio. Eventually, all 21 of Ford’s fleet of plug-in hybrid Escapes also will be equipped with the technology, according to Ford.

“Broad commercialization of electric transportation is not something a car company can achieve on its own,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies, in a statement. “Developing and producing the vehicles is just one part of the electric transportation equation. We are well on our way to delivering the vehicles, but for widespread adoption the infrastructure to support the technology needs to be in place and we need to ensure that the national electric grid can support increased electric demand.”

Over the past two years, Ford and its energy industry partners have logged more than 75,000 miles on the plug-in hybrid test fleet, focusing on battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage and grid infrastructure. Ford and its partners will now focus on making it easier and more efficient for consumers to recharge the vehicles.


Ford has formed several key partnerships in the area of hybrid and electric vehicle development. For example, Ford has worked with Southern California Edison to look at ways to make plug-in hybrids more accessible to consumers, reduce petroleum-related emissions and understand issues related to connectivity between vehicles and the electric grid.

Ford also has expanded its partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent nonprofit organization, with a three-year plan to develop and evaluate technical approaches for integrating PHEVs into the nation’s electric grid system.

Other key partners include:

  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • New York Power Authority
  • Consolidated Edison of New York
  • Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala.; and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
  • Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C.
  • DTE Energy of Detroit
  • National Grid of Waltham, Mass.
  • Pepco Holdings
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, a state agency
  • Hydro-Quebec, the largest electricity generator in Canada

Ford’s key supplier partnerships for EV development include Smith Electric Vehicles, Magna International, and Johnson Controls-Saft.

In addition to PHEV development, Ford is also working on hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV) programs. The car company plans to invest nearly $14 billion in advanced technology vehicles over the next seven years, which includes retooling its U.S. plants more quickly to produce fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ford recently was awarded two grants — $30 million and $62.7 million — from the Department of Energy (DoE) under its fleet electrification program, which was created to accelerate the commercialization of electrified vehicles and vehicle-to-grid infrastructure development. The DoE recently handed out over $2.4 billion in grants for advanced battery and electric drive projects.

The $30-million grant will help fund Ford’s collaboration with utility partners to expand their vehicle demonstration and grid integration program, while the $62.7 million grant, matched by Ford, will be used to produce an electric-drive transaxle.

DoE grant funds also will support production of electric-drive system components at Ford supplier Magna, for the Ford Focus battery electric vehicle, as well as Johnson Controls-Saft, which will supply high-voltage batteries for Ford’s plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012.