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Google Begins Work On Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle Charging Software

September 30, 2009

Google has unveiled plans to write software that would fully integrate plug-in hybrid vehicles to the power grid, minimize strain on the grid and help utilities manage vehicle-charging load, Reuters reported.

Dan Reicher, Google’s director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, said the company is in the preliminary stages of work for the idea.

“We have begun some work on smart charging of electric vehicles and how you would integrate a large number of electric vehicles into the grid successfully,” he said.

He added that Google had done some work on the software side looking at how they could write a computer code to manage such a heavy charging infrastructure.

In 2007, Google announced a program to test Toyota Prius and Ford Escape gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that were converted to rechargeable plug-in hybrids that run mostly on electricity.

One such experiment allowed parked plug-ins to transfer stored energy back to the electric grid, opening a potential back-up source of power for the system during peak hours.

The Internet search leader has pushed ahead in addressing climate change issues as a philanthropic effort through its Google.org arm, in which Reicher said Google has been testing its fleet of plug-in hybrids “pretty intensely” for the last couple of years.

“One of the great things about plug-ins is this great opportunity for the first time to finally have a storage technology,” he said.

The company is trying to figure out how to manage the impact of having millions of future electric vehicle owners plugging in their vehicles at the same time, Reicher said.

He warned that caution would be essential, since on a hot day in July when 5 million Californians come home, they don’t want them all plugging in at the same time.

However, Reicher said one scenario included power utilities turning on or off the charging of electric vehicles during a time of high demand. The vehicles’ owners would then get a credit from the utility in turn for agreeing to such an arrangement.

He said the grid operators might 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.”

Meanwhile, Google is also working on other green technologies, including developing its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more.

The search leader is also looking at gas turbines that would run on solar power rather than natural gas.

In a philanthropic effort to address climate change, Google said in 2007 that it would invest in companies and do research of its own to produce affordable renewable energy — at a price less than burning coal — within a few years.

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