Transportation | September 21, 2009 |
IT Leaders Pave the Way for Electric Vehicles
As referenced in my new research report for GigaOM IT and Networking Issues for the Electric Vehicle Market (subscription required), having companies like Cisco, IBM, GE and AT&T playing significant roles make sense because of their experience. Many of the challenges are strikingly similar to those faced when the Internet became a mainstream vehicle for business and commerce.
This revolution will likewise require first time interoperability between a myriad of operating systems, appliances, and proprietary and open protocols and standards. You could easily swap out the names of many of the challenges that large networking/computing companies have already stared down to today's EV-IT world. Instead of packets, it's power that is being transmitted over an increasingly congested network (transmission lines) that continually adds resources. Instead of ATMs, local area networks and airport kiosks that must be internet-enabled, it's now charging systems, vehicles, and smart meters.
Renewable energy is a double-edged sword for electric vehicles. In theory, an excess of solar power could be stored in vehicle batteries, which could then be either used for transportation or uploaded to the grid during times of peak power. However, EVs are largely away from home when solar power is most abundant (daytime), and are ready to receive power at night. So the question of how to effectively shift and balance loads (something that networking engineers are all too familiar with) will require developing new algorithms and resource management tools.
Solar charging stations, like those being developed in Denmark could become self-sufficient islands that with local storage wouldn't need to be grid connected. Batteries could store any surplus solar power for filling vehicles 24/7. Because the stations are remote, it is easier to justify a higher price for the energy, which could enable the extra cost of batteries to be absorbed while still running a profit.
Hawaii, with its high energy cost of petroleum-powered electricity could set the standard for powering EVs with renewable energy. Figuring out how to smart charge EVs while relying primarily on wind and solar power won't be easy, but it could create a model for the rest of the world.
John Gartner is Editor in Chief of Matter Network and an Industry Analyst for Pike Research