NEW YORK, NY — Software and automobiles take the next step forward with the announcement that Microsoft will partner with Ford Motor Co. to bring smart energy management to electric vehicles, beginning with the all-electric Focus in 2011.
"Ford and Microsoft are teaming up once again," Alan Mullaly, Ford's president and CEO, said during the announcement yesterday, "this time to make electric vehicles viable, affordable, and their interaction with the grid smarter."
The two companies announced the partnership today at the New York Auto Show, and highlighted the need for smarter energy management for vehicles as all-electric autos become more common -- and place significant strain on the utility grid.
With Hohm installed in cars and homes, it will help owners determine when and how to most efficiently and affordably recharge battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). It also should help utility companies manage the added demands of electric vehicles on the electrical grid.
When an electric vehicle is charging at a home, it will immediately become the largest energy-user in that home, and without smart policies for charging cars, they will rack up major energy bills. And with nearly half of all respondents to a recent Accenture survey expressing a desire to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle in the next two years, energy management for vehicles will soon become a much-needed tool to keep the electric grid working.
"IT is going to be a critical part of supporting the entire energy ecosystem," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during the announcement. "By automating and optimizing the process of when and where and how to charge your electric vehicle, and by working with utilities, Hohm can help you lower your energy costs," he added.
Ford and Microsoft also plan to continue to work with utility partners and municipalities to help further develop the "energy ecosystem." Ford has already collaborated with a dozen North American energy companies to road-test a fleet of 21 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid vehicles, Derrick Kuzah, Ford's VP of global product development, explained. The research has accumulated more than 160,000 miles of real-world data, which laid the groundwork for the new Hohm vehicle application.
Yesterday's announcement showcases the confluence of IT with energy management, and is one step further down the road to a smart, connected grid. As small, home- and office-based renewable energy systems come online in large numbers, supplying power to the grid, and electric vehicles hit the streets in even larger numbers to draw more power from utilities, information technology will be needed to manage the increased complexity of the grid.
Microsoft's Hohm joins Google's PowerMeter and a recently uncovered home energy management patent from Apple as one of three tools put forth by IT leaders to help individuals manage and optimize their energy use.
"Hohm will help everyone benefit by reducing costs and allowing traffic on the grid to move smoothly," Troy Batterberry, the business leader for Hohm, said in New York yesterday.
Hohm is available for download for free from Microsoft-Hohm.com.