Google is writing software to make plug-in hybrid vehicle recharging more efficient and less dangerous to the power grid. Partnered with Ford and Toyota, it's also looking at using plugged in hybrid vehicles as backup power storage during times of grid stress.  (Source: ETH)
Search engine giant is testing software that would manage charging of electric vehicles

It's a well known fact that the U.S. electrical grid isn't exactly up to snuff.  As it has become more strained, its age has shown and brownouts have started popping up around the country.  The sad state of the grid is holding back several expanding fields including alternative energy (our nation recently lost its largest planned wind farm due to lack of grid support) and plug-in electric vehicles.  Unfortunately, fixing the grid won't be cheap and there seems to be little enthusiasm about embarking on such an endeavor.

Until the power utilities and the federal government decide to fix this situation, we're stuck making due with the grid we have.  That's exactly where Google's new electric car initiative comes in to help.  Google, whose internet search software and other online applications made it the most dominant site on the web, is looking to write software to help plug-in EVs interface with the grid in a smarter fashion and avoid putting too much stress on it.  The technology is part of Google's diverse green grid initiative, which also includes PowerMeter technology to help homeowners monitor their personal consumption and cut their monthly power bills.

Dan Reicher, Google's director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives describes, "We are doing some preliminary work.  We have begun some work on smart charging of electric vehicles and how you would integrate large number of electric vehicles into the grid successfully.  We have done a little bit of work on the software side looking at how you would write a computer code to manage this sort of charging infrastructure"

Google first began working on the problem in 2007, using retrofitted Toyota Prius and Ford Escape gasoline-electric hybrid plug-ins.  Among the ideas Google looked at was plugging in the vehicles when they were parked, giving the grid a series of battery backups to reduce strain on it.  Electricity would be returned to vehicle before the driver hit the road again. 

Mr. Reichner says the testing has been proceeding "pretty intensely".  He describes, "One of the great things about plug-ins is this great opportunity for the first time to finally have a storage technology."

He says that great consideration must be taken to prepare for the strain on the grid before millions of electric vehicles hit the roads and plug-in for daily recharges.  He states, "We got to be careful how we manage these things.  On a hot day in July when 5 million Californians come home, you don't want them all plugging in at the same moment."

Google is looking at the possibility of turning off charging to EVs in times of peak grid demand.  Mr. Reichner describes this format, stating, "The grid operators may well be indifferent to either putting 500 megawatts of new generation on or taking 500 megawatts off.  The beauty of plug-in vehicles is that with the right software behind them, you could manage their charging."

Aside from cooking up EV solutions, Google's green initiative has invested heavily in alternative energy startups -- everything from high-altitude wind to geothermal power.  It is also cooking up a new mirror for solar farms that looks to affordably increase yields and lower the cost per kWh of solar generation.  It is also developing gas turbines that would run on solar power rather than natural gas.  The projects are all part of, the philanthropic arm of the wealthy corporation.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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