Green

Smart grid's Silver Spring to unveil Prius charging technology

In the latest example of the opportunities created by the rollout of electric vehicles, smart grid networking player Silver Spring Networks announced it will unveil a prototype tomorrow of a charging station enabled with its technology for the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (pictured).

The company will show off the charging station at its headquarters in Redwood City, Calif. The charging stations are made by ClipperCreek and are a part of a smart grid and electric vehicles pilot announced last July, in conjunction with PG&E and Electric Power Research Institute. The pilot aims to integrate electric vehicle charging with Silver Spring’s smart grid platform, allowing for the charging station to relay electricity usage data to PG&E. From there, PG&E can monitor energy usage of the charger (looking at it separately from the energy consumption of the home), and also give consumers a snapshot of their charger’s energy use.

There has been some debate over whether or not electric vehicles will strain the grid, and this pilot is one of the ways companies are testing that out. GM executive Byron Shaw said at GreenBeat 2010 that it was a non-issue because most cars will charge at night. Others, like Ecotality chief executive Jonathan Read, say that advanced charging technology will allow customers to get time-of-use pricing, which could encourage them to charge them in off-peak hours (which Shaw and others say will happen anyway).

Silver Spring Networks is best known for its smart grid communications systems, which are in use by utilities like PG&E and American Electric Power. As the company has grown in success, it has expanded into other arenas, like demand response and, now, an electric vehicle charging station trial. Other startups have benefited from growing automaker, government and consumer support for electric cars — from electric car startups like Tesla and Coda to charging infrastructure companies like Better Place, Coulomb and Ecotality. Siemens and GE have also launched electric car chargers.

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