We can thank the arrival of the Toyota Prius, Al Gore, and a few summers of flirting with $4 gas prices for the current rise in consumer interest in vehicle efficiency and reducing emissions. While every year the vehicles – hybrids and ICEs alike – gets more efficient, the 2010 crop of plug-in vehicles will be accompanied by new tools that help drivers to further shrink their consumption and footprint to ballerina size.
Intelligence built into the vehicles and charging equipment as well as Web and mobile applications will enable EV owners to stretch their electric miles, enhance driving comfort, and minimize their cost of driving. Nissan recently announced that its Leaf EV would include an information system powered by software from Microsoft. (In a move that may not be surprising to the IT community, Microsoft has already announced a newer version of its Windows Embedded Automotive software, so it’s already outdated.)
In the vehicle and through their mobile phones, drivers will be able to view nearby charging stations, see their remaining miles, pre-warm or cool the car, and start or stop charging on demand. As part of its Information and Communication Technology system, Nissan has developed web applications for tracking charging history, estimating carbon reductions, planning routes to optimize electric miles, and electricity costs. This new field of “green telematics will offer a significant benefit to fleets looking to slash fuel consumption.
Nissan is the second EV customer for Microsoft, which began working with Ford on its Focus EV. GM, Mitsubishi, and all of the other auto makers that will be releasing plug-in vehicles will provide similar tools for drivers to extend the range of their vehicles and maximize their efficiency, like the hybrid “hypermilers.”
Canadian company CrossChasm has developed a hardware/software combination that tracks real world driving data of individual vehicles and drivers to estimate savings if the driver were to switch to hybrids or EVs. This sensitivity to efficiency and emissions has reached the proverbial “tipping point” and will only grow more important as fuel prices go higher. Plug-in vehicles will send data about charging to servers hosted by their automotive companies, which are likely to share the aggregated data with utilities to help them adapt to the increased energy demand.
Established IT companies like Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Oracle are likely to be among the winners as data from vehicles and charging equipment begins pouring in. While utilities aren’t expecting their ability to meet the increased demand from plug-in vehicles to be impacted in the next 18-24 months, when significant numbers of plug-in vehicles are on the roads, they will be looking to manage EV charging to prevent increases in peak demand.
Pike Research’s recent report Electric Vehicle Information Technology Systems projects that investments in EV IT (spanning utilities, automakers, and charging equipment, and everything in between) in the U.S. will reach $371.9 million in 2015.
Just as IT revolutionized commerce and banking, they will be driving the change in the automotive and utility industries (via smart grid upgrades). It’s about time.
EV IT Investment by Segment, United States, 2010-2015
Article by John Gartner, appearing courtesy Matter Network.