From: Kathleen Neil, Contributiing Editor,ENN
Published May 11, 2011 03:31 PM

Put up your data and step away from the car

Your driving and charging habits mean a great deal to companies selling Electric Vehicles (EV), to government when developing policy, to firms developing wireless communications or charging stations and to utility companies that will be required to supply the electricity. All of them want to know when/where and how much electricity is needed and how it is obtained as more and more people buy EV. Most likely your decision to buy an EV might depend on how far you will be driving regularly. BEV gives more range, but HPEV save you from range anxiety.

Either way, you are only going to spend the extra money to own an EV if you know you can drive/charge the way you want. Whether we like it or not, that means it is as important to us as it is to utilities, car companies or the government that good vehicle charging data become available. 

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Americans have always been leery of intrusions into their privacy. Use data from personal electric vehicles, be they BEV or PHEV, will become only more important to the development of policy and marketing for greener driving goals. Think about your EV. You leave home one morning after having charged it up overnight. You go to work, where your employer provides a parking bay with an EV charger and charge it again. This charge will be what you need to get home, but what happens when your daughter calls and asks you to pick up your grandchild from daycare for her? Well, that's across town and you need extra battery range for that. But, you check your iPhone app and see that Walgreens has installed chargers at the store near daycare, so you figure you'll pick up your granddaughter and the two of you can get her the stuffed animal you promised her while the car charges again. Any other day maybe you'd only charge at home and work.

And in order to get the tax credits or the subsidy from the car manufacturer or government for installing your charging station at home, which might cost you as much as $2,500, most likely you will have to part with use/charging data. Part of the deal may be you agreeing to provide data on your personal charging station at home. At work, your employer gives you access to charging, but again, data from your charging habits are in some form passed on to the utility company or the government. That visit to Walgreens may have involved a charging subscription or a smart chip or some other device that allows the utility or Walgreens to collect charging data from you also.

I recall Toyota, a year ago at the Sustainable Mobility Seminar, discussing how valuable real-time data would be in evaluating the demonstration Prius PHEV and it was only during this year's Toyota Sustainable Mobility Seminar that it was announced an agreement had been reached and Qualcomm would be teaming with Toyota to install "GERTIE" in the demo cars, it had just begun. GERTIE is a VPL, or Vehicle Performance Logger that transmits encrypted data wirelessly in real-time. But, the resistance to providing personal charging data is real. Many purchasers of EV are not willing to accept any benefit available, paying for the charging station and keeping their information to themselves is more important. All of the data from the fleet EVs (even all of the federal vehicles envisioned by President Obama by 2015 as he announced at George Town University the other day) is not going to have the same value as real data from real drivers.

A good example of why that data matters so much can be seen in San Diego's announced goal of installing 60 fast charging stations throughout the city (county) by 2012 (http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/chargingMap/index#/leaf-electric-car/chargingMap/index & http://www.theevproject.com/overview.php). The money to install these comes thanks to the Department of Energy's $114.8 million nationwide program and then the matching funds provided by partners such as Nissan, Chevy, San Diego Gas & Electric, San Diego Association of Governments and many more communications providers, utilities, and state and municipal governments.

The problem is that once there are enough charging stations available in public settings the electrical demand at any one time could eventually pose the threat of destabilizing an electrical grid, and the only way to plan for that will be to collect personal charging data, where do you live, where do you drive, when do you charge and where do you charge? So, relax and get ready, it’s got to be coming....put up your data, and step away from the car.

Photo credit: Kathleen Neil, ENN

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