What’s really up with Ford’s MyEnergi Lifestyle collaboration of electric vehicle (EV), solar and smart appliances that was so highly touted at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month? GreenTech Advocates has been interviewing the participants, and we’ve found out a bunch of cool stuff about the program, some of which was not initially reported.
The Ford MyEnergi Lifestyle is a collaboration with Ford, SunPower solar, Whirlpool appliances, Eaton electrical, and to lesser extent Infineon semiconductors and Nest Labs, maker of the retro-cool Nest Learning Thermostat. The partners plan to offer their energy-saving home products that can work with one another, but don’t have to. The products will be marketed separately by their companies.
A computer model conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology predicts a 60 percent reduction in energy costs by using all of the MyEnergi products. At GreenTech Advocates, we’ve long touted that EVs will have a huge impact on energy management in homes, and we love the idea of “PV to EV,” or EV charging powered by solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Though 60 percent energy savings is a lofty goal to reach.
Test House First
That projected energy savings will be put to the test this year in house chosen through a contest announced this quarter. The house will be retrofitted with all of the products, including a new Ford C-Max Energi electric vehicle with an EV charger, and a baseline of their energy use will be determined. Solar panels, smart appliances, Eaton products, a Nest thermostat, and an energy monitor will be added. Then the family’s energy use will be tracked throughout the year, according to Donna Bell, Ford’s manager of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
If all goes well, next year the MyEnergi platform will be available to others.
What Will Be Offered?
All Ford plug-in vehicles will work on the platform, including the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi. Whirlpool will offer smart appliances like clothes washers, a dishwasher and refrigerator. Eaton will provide a 240-volt Level 2 EV charger, a Solar EV Ready Load Center with Whole-Home Surge Protection (an electrical service box with solar inputs and room for 20-amp or 40-amp circuit breakers for EV charging), a generator and a Green Transfer Switch that automatically sheds non-vital loads when the generator comes on. SunPower will offer the solar panels, likely for sale or lease where available. Infineon will provide the semiconductors used some of in the products. And the goal with the Nest thermostat, says Bell, will be to understand Nest’s analytics on how people make energy decisions by using the learning thermostat, and take that to an across-the-board solution that can help manage all the energy in your home.
Hmmmm, now that has serious potential.
Each App in the Cloud
The beauty of the MyEnergi products is that each has its own cloud-based app to be used on smartphones and the like. And each will have access to Ford’s value charging technology that includes a utility rate database of variable Time of Use pricing being rolled out by utilities as part of their smart grid programs. Time of Use rates are typically more expensive during peak load periods in the afternoon and early evening, and cheaper overnight.
Drivers of Ford EVs can turn on value charging via a MyFord mobile app to charge the cars at the cheapest times overnight. Leave value charging off when you plug in to charge, and the car will charge immediately.
“You don’t want to get up at midnight to plug in your car,” says Jeremy Novotney, product manager for the Eaton’s Energy and Residential products Division. “It’s almost a necessity to have an automated way to understand when and how long to charge a car. If you plug in your car at 5 pm, but it starts auto-charging at midnight, you’re using your energy at right times of day and shedding loads at peak times.” Novotney says EV charging is a catalyst to push homeowners to want to manage loads.
The power of Ford’s utility database is that it doesn’t need a two-way communicating smart meter to deliver that rate info, as many utilities are still working toward rolling out smart meters. This also bypasses having to commission products like smart appliances to communicate with a utility’s smart meter.
A smart appliance, for example, would simply access the database via the cloud. And Bell says for now, Time of Use rate changes tend to be announced well before they’re implemented.
“A smart meter is an enabler for taking this product a step further,” says Bell.
A utility can figure how they want to activate or deactivate different loads via a demand response program, and a smart meter could take other actions.
Novotney says the consortium is working together to have one singular app that everything feeds into.
The Power of PV to EV
Add solar panels to a house with EV charging, and you can essentially power a car from the sun.
Solar systems like that with MyEnergi would be grid-tied, without battery storage, so a typical home will be selling power produced back to the utility during peak times during the day, then using cheap energy overnight to auto-charge a car.
States a Ford release:
For our project, solar makes a lot of sense because we are shifting loads to nighttime hours, so a customer that generates excess electricity during the peak hours can sell it back to their utility at high rates, and then pull electricity off the grid during the night hours a low rates.
“People want to get as close to Net Zero [to produce as much energy as they consume] as possible,” says Novotney. “This allows someone buying an EV to be able to port this lifestyle and get a true smart energy home of production and consumption, to get the best of both worlds.”
It will be interesting to see how Ford and its partners do with the MyEnergi Lifestyle collaborative. Platforms like this could help pave the way for energy management in the home, and get people excited about it.