Someday, electricity meters attached to the sides of houses will need to talk to plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles parked in garages. Google is working on it.
The Internet search giant is experimenting with software to control car charging, and sees "potential intersections" for that software and its PowerMeter home energy management platform.
That's according to Dan Reicher, Google's director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, speaking Wednesday on the sidelines of the Renewable Energy Finance Forum-WEST conference in San Francisco.
"The plug-in car will be the largest appliance in the house" in terms of power consumption, Reicher said.
Sophisticated software will be needed to keep those plug-in cars from straining the electricity grid during times of peak power demand - not to mention using them as distributed electricity storage systems to give maxed-out grids a boost, he said.
Those fundamental challenges are driving plenty of work on car charging software, and not just by would-be charging station network startups like Ecotality, Better Place and Coulomb Technologies (see Ecotality to Build, Install Charging Stations in China, Better Place Demonstrates Battery Swapping Stations and Green Light post).
Smart grid startups like GridPoint, major automakers like Ford and a host of partnerships involving various utilities are focused on the problem (see Ford Deploys Electric-Car-to-Grid Charging Communication System and A V2G Test: Pool Electric Cars for Grid Needs).
Google's experimentation into car charging isn't new, Reicher said. It started working on it in its RechargeIT experiment with a fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids converted to plug-ins. It also worked with utility Pacific Gas & Electric to try out using car batteries as power sources for the grid, he said (see Are the Benefits of Plug-In Hybrids Overstated?).
But Reicher wasn't ready to talk at more detail about the work Google is doing on car charging, though he did say that it would make sense to link it with its work on PowerMeter. That Web-based energy measurement and presentation portal is Google's attempt to give homeowners a free window into their energy consumption.
Google has partnered with smart meter maker Itron and nine utilities to integrate PowerMeter into sources of electricity data, and may be working with Italian utility Enel in the future (see Enel Considering Google's PowerMeter for Pilot Project).