Weekly Brief: Powerful alliance forms to help EVs and the grid get along

Weekly Brief: Powerful alliance forms to help EVs and the grid get along

In this week’s Brief: Electric Power Research Institute, Ford, BMW, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Toyota, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Northeast Utilities, Southern California Edison, PG&E, Sygic, UK Association of Chief Police Officers, BMW, The Register, Google, the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation, Cadillac, IHS, Harris Poll and Nielsen.

Imagine every driver in the world owning an electric vehicle — great for carbon emissions, potentially horrible for the power grid, with possible blackouts sweeping neighborhoods whenever too many car owners plug in for a charge at the same time.

To counteract this possibility, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has brought eight of the world’s most influential automakers — Ford, BMW, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, and Toyota — together with 15 major utility companies — including DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Northeast Utilities, Southern California Edison, and PG&E — to develop technology that would allow plug-in EVs to exchange messages with energy providers and thus avoid the possibility of grid overload.

The project aims to create a standards-based communications platform for use by plug-in EVs and the electric grids. This platform will enable the utilities to contact vehicle customers who have opted-in to the program, sending a request for those cars to stop charging temporarily to help manage a grid that is becoming overloaded. Participating utility companies are prepared to offer financial incentives to owners who make their cars available to the grid, similar to utilities offering customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of high demand.

“This innovative platform provides a critical enabler for the next step in vehicle electrification,” says Mike Tinskey, associate global director, Electrification Infrastructure for Ford. “It’s a way for plug-in electric vehicle drivers to be financially rewarded for their willingness to help manage the electric grid.”

In other news, navigation firm Sygic released a new update to its GPS navigation app that lets drivers create video recordings of what’s happening on the road in front of them via dash cam technology. The idea is to empower drivers with essential evidence that can pinpoint a perpetrator in the occasion of a road rage incident that leads to an accident. Sygic BlackBox is available as an in-app purchase for $10.99 (9.99 €) and can be used simultaneously with Sygic GPS Navigation for iOS.

The UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) released a statement in response to broad allegations that it has issued orders to seize drivers’ mobile phones after all crashes. The ACPO clarified that it is standard practice for officers to seize mobile phones from drivers only at the scenes of very serious collisions for some time as part of the information and evidence gathering process. It further stated that officers are expected to know the best means of using information within a driver’s mobile phone when building evidence for a successful prosecution, “such as finding from call or text logs if the phone was in use at the time of an incident.”

BMW drivers in the UK and Germany experienced a complete outage of the ConnectedDrive app, which connects a smartphone to the in-car infotainment system to enable remote services like locking and unlocking, blowing the horn and flashing the lights. The UK- and Germany-wide outages were caused by a BMW upgrade gone wrong. BMW is migrating all the data from an old system to a new one, which impacted the application part of its website, reported the UK publication The Register. BMW UK doesn’t know yet when services are likely to be resolved.

Google came under fire from the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which claims that the tech giant broke Indian laws during a “Mapathon” mapping competition in India last year. The goal of the competition was to encourage people to map their neighborhoods with a focus on nearby restaurants and hospitals. Problem is, some sensitive defense information ended up getting mapped, details of which are supposed to remain strictly out of the public domain. Google is yet to issue a response, although the situation highlights the challenges of mapping in emerging countries like China and India, where mapping data is restricted.

Cadillac announced that it will launch its Powermat wireless charging system in the 2015 Cadillac ATS sport sedan and coupe, both out this fall. The Powermat is a rubberized pad that cradles a smartphone and recharges it via an electromagnetic field. A recent survey from IHS revealed that 70 percent of consumers charge their mobile phone at least once per day, with 30 percent charging more than once. Cadillac plans to add wireless charging technology to the CTS sport sedan this fall and to the Escalade SUV at the end of 2014.

Finally, a Harris Poll from ratings firm Nielsen out last week found that most U.S. consumers have little idea what the connected car is and equally little interest in owning one. The sobering numbers included only 14% having familiarity with the connected car and 15% expressing interest to own, while 31% said no thanks, they’re quite fine without a connected car in their garages. Interestingly, consumers had greater familiarity and interest in specific connected car services like voice-activated controls, in-car apps and connected navigation. The results suggest that a heavy marketing push is still needed from OEMs to bring connected features to a point of ubiquity; also, perhaps “the connected car” is not destined to be the buzzword outside the industry that it is within.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.

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