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January 31, 2013

Cars and Refrigerators Can Work Together

We've sure come a long way since Henry Ford.

Ford has unveiled a partnership with Eaton, SunPower, Whirlpool, and the thermostat company Nest Labs that aims to launch a collaborative tool for consumers called MyEnergi Lifestyle, linking EV technology with on-site solar and home appliances, something that can revolutionize the experience of powering our homes and cars.

The idea is made possible by a cloud-based mobile app that deciphers the time of day utility rates are lowest and takes advantage of them, thus decreasing EV charging costs for the driver and easing stress on the electrical grid for utilities. Ford's database holds information on utility "time-of-use" rates that EV owners will be able to access to get the most out of their charge.

Myenergi_sm final

Now Ford will share this data with its new partners so that appliances, such as a smart refrigerator for example, can enjoy the same type of efficiency that the plug-in car gets while it charges overnight. A Georgia Institute of Technology computer model found that this system could reduce energy costs by 60 percent. How huge is that? Imagine: if every home in the U.S. did this, it would be like taking all the homes in California, New York and Texas off the power grid.

Meanwhile, as shown in this video, SunPower's solar-powered EV charging unit offers people the opportunity to charge their vehicles, like Ford's plug-in Focus, using sunlight, making it truly a zero emissions vehicle.

"We know that a great many people are interested in making both their homes and vehicles more efficient," said Sierra Club's Director of Green Fleets & Electric Vehicles Gina Coplon-Newfield. "These kind of smart appliance and vehicle innovations can’t roll out fast enough and are going to transform the opportunities people have to live lower carbon lifestyles."

Technology that connects phone, house, and car is still maturing, but the tea leaves are exciting. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the "connected car theme loomed large," reported this GigaOm reviewer who drives a Chevy Volt. "We're in the early stages of the connected car market, but all the pieces are there for big growth and adoption: wireless technology, voice or touch interaction and smartphone apps to make our cars smarter."

What are other ways smart technologies are already allowing you to live a less carbon-intensive lifestyle?

-- Brian Foley

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