Swiss people have traditionally been very precise, civilized and conscious (one can even say eco-conscious, judging by how their country runs). Now, a Swiss firm, EKZ, working with IBM, is trying to “civilize” how electric cars will charge, even if electric cars haven’t made it to regular Joe’s garage… yet.
EKZ has already developed a web-based app that can automatically facilitate a connection between you, your car and the energy company, so you can choose to charge your car when renewable resources are used to produce the energy. This, they say, should mean cost savings for the car owner and less stress applied to the grid.
“Electric vehicles can be used to buffer the irregular production of electricity from future renewable sources, which will contribute to the overall stability of the electrical network,” said Peter Franken, head of the Energy Distribution department of EKZ, in a news release. “With this project we can show how electric vehicles can create a balance between supply and demand for smarter energy grids.”
So, basically, what you’re going to need for the system to work in your car will be a small device connected to the car’s battery and IBM’s cloud network through the cellular system, which in turn is connected to the utilities’ networks to gather information about how the energy is being produced at a certain moment and what’s the cost per kilowatt.
Then you’ll need a smartphone or a laptop to access EKZ’s web-based application and decide when you want the car to charge based upon the information provided by the utilities.
Now let’s talk about Joe a bit. Joe is a guy who thinks in terms of savings. Not only he likes to save, but he needs to, because he has kids to feed, credits to pay and the mortgage on his house isn’t looking beautiful, either. Say Joe goes and buys an electric car – he only does it for the savings it can get him. He thinks “ok, the car can pay for the price difference to a regular gasoline-powered one in about two years. After that I’m saving.”
Two years (more or less) is about the perfect time one can bear the extra costs of an EV for seeing savings afterwards. Most probably, lots of Joe’s won’t think about charging when the grid is powered by the Sun or the wind, they’ll think in terms of economy.
So I’m not saying the EKZ project will be a total failure, but I guess it’s thought out for Sweden, their high life standard and for people who think it’s fancy to use renewable energy instead of dirty energy, but as they presented it, the system’s strong spot it not its practicality.
I’d like – no, I’d love to be a dreamer, too, but in real life it’s much harder than it looks. Until people will get electric cars for cheap prices, systems like EKZ’s will surely have time to adapt and evolve, but until then they’ll be just another greenwash reason for many companies and just like Steve Jobs said at a D8 conference in 2010 about the iPad he was going to launch: it had not been the time for a tablet, the iPhone had to come first. Until the time had come, he kept the tablet “on the shelf.” Secret, of course.