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The Internet of Everything, Including Smart Charging of Electric Vehicles

The Mobile Internet has exploded over the last few years and the next area for innovation will come from making the Internet of Everything a reality. Wireless is going to be embedded into sensors that are all around us that will help us manage and monitor many aspects of your life.

Many of us are aware that electric vehicles (EVs) can help decrease our country’s (and the world’s) dependence on oil while also reducing emissions. While this is a positive, there are many challenges that come with operating an electric car. These challenges include: the time it takes to “fill up the electric tank” (anywhere from 2-16 hours) and the distances that can be traveled in the current EVs on a single charge, which is significantly less than current combustion engines.

In addition, there is an innate fear that coincides with running out of an electrical charge in your vehicle called, “range anxiety.” This fear itself represents a very real barrier for broader adoption electric vehicles in the near future. The ability to locate and reserve charging spots is a major hurdle for the industry to overcome. Since EV charging can take so long, the last thing a driver wants to endure is waiting for a “filling station” to become available on their road trip or when running errands. Drivers need to know real-time which charging stations are vacant and make sure they will remain available as they arrive.

To help solve that problem, today at the Plug-In 2010 conference in San Jose, Qualcomm is announcing a collaboration with ECOtality to enable charging stations with cellular connectivity. Such a collaboration envisions that in the future, mobile communications will help drivers locate and reserve charging spots along their trips in their EVs, helping save drivers from “range anxiety” and saving precious time while on the road.

This is only a small portion of the role that real-time, always-connected cellular networks can play in enabling tomorrow’s EVs; cellular connectivity should also play a role in managing the power delivery of the electric infrastructure. For example, if a neighborhood has five electric cars charging at the same time, it may overwhelm the capacity of the local distribution transformer. As EVs become more popular, updated grid infrastructure and power sources will be required. These issues could be minimized with an intelligent coordination of the charging process called Smart Charging, where essentially there is a central nervous system for the grid that distributes energy and decides when the best time to charge EVs is. This method is designed to help alleviate stress on the grid while other renewable sources of energy continue to be discovered.

One cannot overlook the pervasiveness of cellular networks and the benefits they can provide for connecting tomorrow’s EV infrastructure. No other technology is comparable is terms of coverage, which is highly relevant in this case because we don’t know yet where charging stations will need to be installed. Newer networks based on 3G and 4G technologies offer advantages in terms of real-time operation – including very low latency and long-term availability.

Electric power is in a good position to revolutionize transportation. And cellular technologies, like in many other areas of our lives, should play a critical role. Tomorrow, the experience of fueling your car with electricity could be largely driven by the cellular experience.

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