Automaker to utilities: Get your EV act together! We're waiting on you!


By Jesse Berst


I've blogged in the past about the dead stupidity of our industry's approach to electric vehicles (EVs). Instead of joining forces to create a common system of smart charging, we waste time on hundreds of single-system pilots. Those pilots largely duplicate each other. Even worse, they typically don't tackle the tough problem -- namely how to control when vehicles charge to avoid peaks and to take advantage of low-cost energy while ensuring that the cars are fully topped off when needed.


General Motors is telling the world -- well, telling Green Car Reports at least -- about the shortcomings of the utility industry when it comes to EV charging. It is so fed up that earlier this year it demonstrated its own charging software in partnership with Google and PJM. "We took a renewable energy signal that PJM has created,” explained Paul Pebbles, Business Service Manager for Fleet - Volt at OnStar, a GM subsidiary.  "We were able to show, with a high level of confidence, that we could actually control the charging of the Volts to match that renewable energy signal.”


Pebbles was actually kinder to utilities than I would have been. He told the magazine that part of the delay comes because utility companies have to work with the public utility commission to gain approval for a pilot, then for a larger test, then wait for evaluation before they can roll it out.


True enough -- but that doesn't explain why so many of our pilots are aimed at the wrong target. It astonishes me (and irks me) that we have 50 different variations on EV charging hardware -- the easy part -- and painfully few examples of EV charging software -- the hard and important part.


Use the Talk Back form below if you can suggest why the U.S. utility industry is failing to step up to the smart charging challenge and how we might join forces to solve it together.