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.