Collaborating with Partners

Clearly, electric vehicles (EVs) will have an impact on electric utilities and on consumers’ use of electricity in their homes. We are working with utilities and municipalities to address impacts of EVs on the electrical grid. We are also working with other industry partners to maximize the efficiency and benefits of charging EVs for vehicle owners.

Working with Utilities and Municipalities

If EVs are charged during times of peak electricity demand, they may stress the current grid and require the construction of additional electricity supply. Furthermore, charging vehicles during peak demand would significantly reduce the operating cost benefits expected from electric vehicles. To maximize recharging efficiency and minimize stress to the grid, “smart grid” technology that allows communication between recharging vehicles and the electrical grid will be required. Automakers and utilities must continue to work together to develop this “smart” vehicle-to-grid communication system. Overcoming these challenges will require significant collaboration between automakers, electric vehicle supply equipment manufacturers, electric utilities, regulatory agencies and legislators.

Because utilities and automakers have not had to work together in the past, effective collaboration requires developing new relationships and learning about each other’s business and regulatory challenges. For example, utilities and automakers have very different business models: utilities operate regionally and have little to no direct competition within their markets, while automakers operate and compete globally. Furthermore, automakers are primarily regulated at the national level, while utilities face more local and state regulations, which increases the difficulty of establishing a national strategy for vehicle-to-grid interaction. It will be important for automakers and utilities to understand and address these kinds of differences as they work together on vehicle electrification issues.

In 2007, Ford was awarded $10 million by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of an effort to identify a sustainable path toward the successful mass production of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. This included collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and several utility partners in the evaluation of a demonstration plug-in hybrid prototype fleet. Real-world driving and charging performance was evaluated in different geographical locations. This demonstration was completed in December 2012, having successfully logged over 800,000 miles. Many of the results from this demonstration have been made publically available through collaboration with Idaho National Laboratories (INL). The INL has analyzed the vehicle data collected from nearly 20,000 charge events and 50,000 drive events and created summary reports which are available on the INL advanced vehicle technologies website.

All plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in this demonstration fleet were equipped with vehicle-to-“smart-meter” communication capability. Working with a collaborating utility, EPRI conducted vehicle-to-grid connectivity testing and successfully demonstrated that vehicle-to-smart-meter communications are feasible. Lessons learned from this testing, as well as from the entire demonstration, helped support the production introduction of our two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: the Ford C-MAX Energi and the Ford Fusion Energi.

We are also working with utilities, municipalities and states across the country to develop and facilitate the use of EV implementation best practices. Some of the key issues we are working on with local utilities and municipalities include the following:

  • Time-of-use electricity rates: We are encouraging utilities to adopt a “time-of-use” rate structure, which would enable them to charge different rates at different times of the day based on overall electricity demand. Under a time-of-use structure, electricity rates would be lower at night when there is lower demand on the electrical grid. Since most EVs charge at night, this increases the benefits of electrified vehicles for consumers. For example, a 20-mile trip on electricity at national rates of 0.12 cents/kWh costs about $1. If a customer is able to switch to a time-of-use rate, this trip could cost as little as 50 cents. Time-of-use rates also help utilities by giving customers an incentive to charge at times when electrical demand is already low, which helps to balance out utilities’ electrical loads.

  • Maximizing the publicly accessible recharging infrastructure: We are working with municipalities and utilities to develop additional public recharging stations and to encourage a thoughtful and holistic approach to planning for publicly accessible charging. PlugShare, a website that tracks publically accessible charging stations, currently includes at least 12,000 public charge stations in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, up from about 5,000 a few years ago. This is an important step in fostering electrified vehicle use. However, the placement and design of publicly accessible charging stations requires careful consideration to maximize their usefulness to EV drivers. We are endorsing a holistic urban-planning approach to charging station development in which local officials actively plan the locations for publicly accessible EV charging based on traffic patterns and the locations of other charging stations. This kind of approach will result in charging locations that are used more often and will make more-efficient use of investment dollars. We are also encouraging standard rules and signage for public refueling infrastructure that would tell drivers what type of charging is available, the hours when EVs can use charging stations, the length of time an EV can remain plugged in and how rules for charging stations are enforced.

  • Standards for private, third-party charging stations and the resale of electricity: In many cases, publicly available refueling stations will be installed and run by private businesses, such as gas stations and restaurants. In most states, when a third party resells their electricity, as they would to an EV driver, they are considered a regulated utility and face the same stringent regulations a utility must follow. We are working with states to encourage updating regulations so that reselling electricity for transportation would not be subject to utility-like regulations. This will encourage the development of more publicly accessible recharging stations.

  • Home EV charging station permitting process: Homeowners are required to get a permit from their municipality and/or utility to install a home EV charging station. Historically this process can take more than two weeks. We have been working with utilities and municipalities to encourage modifications to streamline the permitting process to make it easier and shorter for consumers.

  • Promoting EV incentives: Through our work with cities and utilities, we have identified a range of actions that will help consumers make the transition to electrified vehicles – for example, infrastructure incentives to offset a portion of customer costs for hardware and installation.

  • Building codes for new construction: We are working with municipalities to develop codes for new building construction that would make them “EV ready,” with best practices such as wiring for EV chargers.

We are working on these issues in a variety of ways, including with utilities and municipalities in key EV markets across the U.S. We are also serving in a formal advisory role to utilities in several states. Ford is also an active member of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, an industry group that is working to implement EVs in the U.S. And, we are testifying before state legislatures around the country to endorse legislation that will facilitate the successful implementation of EVs.

Our collaborations with utilities and municipalities are yielding key lessons that we are incorporating into our continued efforts to make electrified vehicles successful in the real world. Some of the key learnings so far include the following:

  • Electric vehicles provide additional impetus to develop smart communication systems between vehicles and grids. These systems will allow the consumer to know if and when lower electricity rates are available and help prevent additional loads on the infrastructure. Smart communication systems could alleviate the need for expensive infrastructure upgrades, the costs of which may be passed back to customers by utilities (e.g., if a transformer needs to be upgraded).

  • Smart vehicle charging will require that utilities and automakers develop a common standard for vehicle-to-grid and grid-to-home meter communications. Currently, utilities tend to operate regionally, but electric vehicles will increase the need for common national and even international standards. We have worked to develop a common charging standard in the U.S., and we are now focused on fostering the development of an internationally common charging standard.

  • Widespread use of electric vehicles will likely require that vehicle power consumption be measured separately from home electricity use, requiring either additional meters or smart meters. In addition, the pooling of electrified vehicles in a particular region may require upgrades to the transformers and/or substations that form the electrical grid in that area. Utilities are already installing smart meters at a rapid pace: As of early 2013 approximately 42 million smart meters had been installed in the U.S., up from about 36 million in spring 2012. Currently about 30 percent of the 130 million homes in the U.S. have smart meters; utilities in 16 states have fully deployed the technology.

  • There are interesting possibilities for vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home power flow. However, there are also significant challenges to making these possibilities a reality. For example, technical, safety, codes/standards compliance, legal, robustness and business case issues need further study prior to commercialization.

  • Vehicle owners will likely want to be able to charge their vehicles at any geographic location and – in those cases where another payment method isn’t used – have the cost applied to their home energy bill. In addition, vehicle identification and home meter association must be seamless for the customer. This kind of mobile or remote billing for vehicle charging services will require a paradigm shift in the utility industry’s current billing processes and tools.

  • Automakers and utilities both benefit from working together on outreach to local, state and federal regulators and legislators. Ford and our utility partners are already working with legislators and regulators on national standards for vehicle charging infrastructure, and incentives and strategies to bring costs down.

  • Utilities and automakers need to work together to educate consumers about the differences between electric vehicles and traditional vehicles so that consumers understand how to make the most of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

We are also working to develop common charging technology for electric vehicles so that all electric vehicles will be able to use a common plug-in charging system for both AC and DC fast charging. In North America, the Society of Automotive Engineers, with Ford’s participation, successfully developed and approved a standard charge connector and communication protocol, enabling all plug-in vehicles to use common charge points. This will be a key enabler for adoption in North America; the same connector is under consideration in other global markets.

In January 2013, we signed onto the U.S. Department of Energy’s pledge to increase vehicle charging infrastructure available in workplaces across the country. The Workplace Charging Challenge is a collaborative effort to increase the number of U.S. employers offering workplace charging by tenfold in the next five years. To fulfill this pledge, Ford is assessing our workforce electrified vehicle charging demands, and developing and implementing a plan to install workplace charging infrastructure for at least one major worksite location. By installing stations for use by employees and visitors to supplement, not replace, their home charging, this program will help EV owners maximize their miles driven and increase the usability of their vehicles.

Working with Other Industries through the MyEnergi Lifestyle Project

The continued adoption of plug-in vehicles that share the same energy source (electricity) as the home creates a unique convergence between the transportation and residential sectors. In 2013 we launched the MyEnergi Lifestyle project to demonstrate how plug-in vehicle technology can be applied in conjunction with efficient household appliances and renewable energy generation for an energy- and money-saving lifestyle.

The Ford-led project, which currently includes Whirlpool, Eaton, SunPower and the Georgia Institute of Technology, shows that more efficient and coordinated use of home electricity for appliances and electric vehicles can, on an annual basis, reduce a home’s electricity use by up to 55 percent, reduce users’ electricity bills by up to 60 percent, and reduce electricity-based home carbon dioxide emissions by up to 56 percent.

These results are based on computer simulation of an average American home developed in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology. The model compares two scenarios: (1) an average home with appliances from 1995, two gasoline vehicles with a fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon each, no solar power, and no intentional off-peak electricity usage, and (2) a home with 5 kW of SunPower solar panels installed on the roof, one gasoline vehicle replaced by a Ford Focus Electric, all appliances replaced by 2012 Whirlpool appliances (including refrigerator, hot water heater, dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer), and a shift in home energy usage (including EV charging) to take advantage of time-of-use (Value Charging) reduced rates.

These improvements would be hugely significant if implemented on a broader scale. If every home in the U.S. were to implement these energy-saving technologies, it would be equivalent to eliminating the electricity usage of more than 32 million homes (or all the homes in California, New York state and Texas combined).

My Energi Lifestyle

New technology is enabling American families to reduce their electricity bills and CO2 footprint by integrating a plug-in vehicle, energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy sources and cloud computing that takes advantage of lower off-peak electricity rates.

Average US home

11,000kWh of electricity used every year

My Energi Lifestyle home

Reduces energy costs by 60%*

If implemented in every home in the US, these technologies would save the equivalent of the electricity usage of 32 million homes, or approximately the total number of homes in California, New York, and Texas combined.

* Comparing 1995 appliances and a 25 mpg vehicle to 2012 appliances and a Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid vehicle with value charging.

The next step in the project is to apply these changes to real-world homes, which we will choose through a still-to-be determined contest. The real-world homes will receive a package of appliance upgrades, renewable energy installations, other energy efficiency retrofits, and Ford Focus Electric and C-MAX Energi vehicles to parallel the changes made in our computer simulations of an average home.


Download Summary Report

Ford’s 2012/13 Sustainability Report is summarized in this 8-page downloadable document.

Visit our Downloads page for this report in full or as separate sections along with supplementary publications.