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Mercedes-Benz Working On Smart Charging

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On: Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 10:24AM | By: Chris Weiss

Mercedes-Benz Working On Smart Charging

Much of the auto-show drama and theatrics of the past several years has been centered on the advanced technologies and promising efficiency of plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids. But there's been a side plot that is equally compelling, if not quite as flashy: charging technology.

With the growth of the plug-in market comes the need for a better charging infrastructure. Companies and team-ups between automakers and electric start-ups and mainstays have been working hard to make charging as fast, intuitive, efficient, and inexpensive as possible. Technologies like wireless charging and smart homes have been undergoing testing and promise to make a better future for plug-in vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz is spearheading one large effort toward creating a smarter charging system. The system would allow cars to communicate with the greater electrical grid toward providing less expensive charging.

Far from a solo effort, Mercedes is leading a team that includes representation from all major French and German automakers, the American Big Three, and Toyota. The research will go toward developing a communications platform that will be integrated into EVs from all participating manufacturers. That platform would allow the on-board computer system to communicate with the national electric grid toward limiting the strain on the system and providing for cheaper, more efficient, off-peak charging.

Like so many technologies today, the smart-charging system would be initiated with a smartphone app. Owners would simply plug their vehicle in and, using the app, enter when they need to use it . The system would then draw electricity during off-peak times rather than straight away, saving the owner money and limiting the stress placed on the grid. The system would even be able to buy back small amounts of electricity from the car in order to supplement the greater grid. Regardless of the give and take that happens between the vehicle and the grid, it would automatically be charged by the time the owner needs it (assuming that time is within the necessary charging time of the specific EV).

Owners would enable the feature and would be able to disengage it should they prefer a simpler, more direct charging. Given the benefits, though, it seems that it would behoove them to keep it enabled.

Daimler senior manager for grid communications Werner Preuschoff explained: "The tech is particularly relevant for the US where energy companies are scared of what impact EVs could have on the grid. As soon as the EV can interact with the grid, EVs become viable as their impact can be understood and managed especially as there is going to be so many of them.”

Mercedes expects to introduce the technology on the Smart ForTwo ED next year.

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