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Published: Wednesday, 8/19/2009

Electric cars from Ford to talk to U.S.power grid


DEARBORN, Mich. Ford Motor Co. said yesterday its future electric cars will talk to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in alternative energy vehicles.

The nation s second-largest automaker released details of a two-year collaboration with about a dozen utility firms as well as the U.S. Department of Energy on the design of a system that allows car owners to control when they charge vehicles and for how long.

Owners can choose to recharge at off-peak times when electricity is cheaper, or when wind, solar, or renewable energy is driving the grid, said Nancy Gioia, director of Ford s sustainable mobility technologies division. What we re doing is developing our capability.

Ford and the utility companies are testing the system and have logged 75,000 miles on a test fleet. The goal is to have a network in place so drivers can recharge their cars at preset times at home, work, or elsewhere.

The system aims to develop technical standards so that a car bought and used in Michigan can talk to an electric grid in New York if the driver moves or travels.

Ford s first battery-electricvehicle, the Transit Connect commercial van, is to go on sale next year. A battery-electric Ford Focus compact car is to go on sale in 2011.

Mark Duvall, head of the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., said that although the nation s electric grid could handle widespread use ofelectric cars, there are more efficient ways to use energy. For example, drivers could recharge at 3 a.m., which is less taxing to the grid and costs less.

Ford received $92.7 million in federal grants this month for electric-vehicle projects that include a partnership with 15 utility companies. The grants were among $2.4 billion awarded to makers of batteries and electric vehicles as part of the U.S. economic stimulus.

Ford also is using $5.9 billion in U.S. loans received in June to speed work on more fuel-efficient vehicles as part of a $25 billion Energy Department program.

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