IBM Puts Electric Car Plan In Drive

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Big Blue will help a Danish group with smart grids to power electric vehicles, while Google has also backed green transport.

IBM has become the latest organisation to join a consortium developing technology to tackle the supply issues thrown up by large numbers of electric vehicles being connected to grid fed by renewable energy.

In a statement released this week, the tech giant announced that it has joined the Edison research group based in Denmark. The consortium includes Denmark’s largest energy company DONG Energy, the Technical University of Denmark, Siemens and the Danish Energy Association. The project – which stands for Electric Vehicles in a Distributed and Integrated Market using Sustainable Energy and Open Networks – has also received funding from the Danish Government.

The initial aim of the group is to develop technologies for a test project on the Danish island of Bornholm. The island is well suited to the test as it already gets a significant amount of its energy from wind power.

Edison wants to see how an electricity grid based on renewable energy will cope with the demand from a large number of electric vehicles. The group is keen to point out that the tests will be “simulation-based” and not impact the electricity needs of the island’s 40,000 inhabitants.

For its part, IBM will be supplying “smart” technologies that synchronise the charging of electric vehicles with how much electricity is being supplied to the grid through wind power. IBM has also contributed hardware to the Technical University of Denmark to run simulations of how the energy grid on the island will be impacted by large numbers of electric vehicles.

“Electric vehicles have enormous potential for creating a cleaner energy system as well as a cleaner transport system,” said Tim Mondorf, IBM nordic business development executive, Energy & Environment. “We look forward to creating a working, intelligent management system first on the real-life test laboratory of the island of Bornholm, and in the longer term for Denmark as a whole.”

IBM is not the only technology company investigating the interaction between electric vehicles and electric grids. US web search giant Google is already pushing ahead with its own scheme based around plug-in technology called RechargeIT. Google has about six vehicles with plug-in hybrid engines and plans to include more than 100 plug-in hybrids in its corporate fleet as demand grows and cars become commercially available.

Google is also touting the potential of plug-in hybrids to allow electric car owners to sell energy back to the grid during times of peak demand. “Plug-in hybrids will often recharge at night using excess power from base-load power plants that are already running, so they won’t generally add to peak electricity demand,” the company states on its RechargeIT site. “During daytime peak power usage, plug-in hybrids may be able to sell power back to electric utilities, potentially earning drivers as much as $2,000-$3,000 per year”

The Danish government claims investment in smart technologies could see 10 percent of the country’s vehicles being all electric or hybrid electric during the coming years.

“Electric vehicles are one of the technologies we can use to incorporate renewable energy into transportation,” said Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard. “That is why we are making it possible for electric cars to enter the market in order to replace conventional fuel. Projects like Edison show how it’s possible to create sustainable solutions in real life.”