Electric Car Chargers for Central Parking System with 2,200 Locations

Electric Car Chargers for Central Parking System with 2,200 Locations

No Parking EV ExceptedBy John Addison (9/21/11)

Central Parking System and its subsidiary USA Parking have announced the rollout of electric car charging. Central Parking, with 2,200 locations and over one million parking spaces, clients include some of the nation’s largest owners and operators of mixed-use projects, office buildings, hotels, stadiums and arenas as well as airports, hospitals and municipalities.

Car Charging Group (OTCBB:CCGI) will install, own and operate the charge points. The chargers are made by Coulomb Technologies. Central Parking charge points will be part of the ChargePoint® Network so that drivers can locate the charge points through Google, chargepoint.net, smart phones, and EV navigation systems.

As a Nissan LEAF owner, I often use Coulomb chargers at various locations. For example, Saturday my wife and I wanted to meet friends 40 miles away for dinner. Using chargepoint.net I located a convenient charging location, then used Yelp to find a good restaurant nearby. At the charger, I held my RFID ChargePoint card near the location, authorized the charging unit unlocked, I connected the charger to my LEAF and went off to dinner. ChargePoint even sent me a text when the LEAF was fully charged.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a Networked Smart Grid panel with Richard Lowenthal, Founder and CTO of Coulomb Technologies. I complimented him on never having a problem with his chargers and with the internet map being accurate. He told me that Coulomb now has over 5,000 charge points installed in over 20 countries. He regularly uses the ChargePoint network to save gas. Richard had driven his Chevrolet Volt from his home in Cupertino to the San Francisco Airport where he charged with one of 14 Coulomb charge points. Then he went to downtown San Francisco and again charged. When he returned home after 110 miles of driving, he displayed that 102 miles were in electric only-mode.

United States will Soon Have 10,000 Electric Car Chargers

“There are close to 17,000 parking garages in the U.S., and they will play one of the most vital roles in the development of a national EV charging infrastructure,” said Brian Golomb, Director of Sales of Car Charging. “By partnering with two of the most important companies in this sector – companies that understand the benefits of electric vehicles – we will move much quicker in the rollout of this nationwide infrastructure.”

Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, is also having Car Charging Group install Coulomb Chargers at a number of locations. Car Charging Group provides EV charging stations at no charge to property owners/managers while retaining ownership, thus allowing their partners to offer their customers, tenants and employees charging services without incurring any outlay of capital. In addition, Car Charging Group’s partners realize a percentage of the charging revenue generated by the charging services paid for by the EV owners.

As part of the agreement, Central Parking has the right to purchase five percent of the Common Stock of Car Charging Group. “We are very excited about this partnership, because it will greatly expand the reach of our nationwide EV charging network,” said Michael Farkas, CEO of Car Charging Group.

This rollout will take us to over 10,000 car chargers installed in the United States. In comparison, there are over 100,000 gasoline stations, most with multiple pumps. “Electric vehicles are no longer a mirage – they are becoming an ever increasing presence on our roads and we are proud to be working with such an innovator in the EV sector,” said James Marcum, CEO of Central Parking Systems.

Through the end of 2012, Nissan is building 100,000 electric cars and GM is building 80,000. According to a new report from Pike Research, cumulative sales of plug-in electric vehicles will reach 5.2 million units by 2017. Car Charging Group uses the forecast of 40 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

Electric Cars with Lowest U.S. Prices

Electric Cars with Lowest U.S. Prices

Smart electric drive in car2go

Smart fortwo electric drive can be purchased from dealers in Spring 2013 for $25,000. After a federal tax credit of $7,500, the net cost is only $17,500. There are 300 of these 2-seat all-electric city cars in San Diego’s Car2Go car sharing and more in other cities such as Portland, Oregon. I was impressed with my test drive of the 2013 smart electric drive, now with a larger motor and new lithium battery pack.


2013 Nissan LEAFNissan LEAF is the sales leader of all-electric cars. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. Nissan is now making the 2013 LEAF in Tennessee for the U.S. market with options that include Level 1 charge, Level 2 charge at 6.6 kW/hour, and 25-minute DC fast charge. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,800. LEAF Test drive.


Mitsubishi iMitsubishi i MiEV is an all-electric city car starting at $29,125, before federal tax credit. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5-door micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that few U.S. cars can take. The more powerful U.S. version has an electric range of EPA adjusted 62 miles with a 16kWh lithium battery.


Pruis Plugin HybridToyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $7,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHV’s 15-mile. After federal tax credits, the difference narrows to only $3,000. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit. Prius PHV Test Drive and Review


Chevrolet Spark EVChevrolet Spark EV is less than $32,500 and eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. This sleek 4-seat all-electric city car shares much of the drive system design of the best selling and award winning electric Chevrolet Volt. 2013 sales will only be in California, Oregon, and Korea.


Ford C-Max EnergiFord C-MAX Energi, an exciting new Crossover SUV can seat five. C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the Sanyo lithium-ion prismatic battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius v. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745.  Ford C-MAX Energi


2013 Ford FusionFord Fusion Energi is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi goes on sale in early 2013 starting at $38,700, a big premium over the Fusion Hybrid’s $27,625.


Fiat 500eFiat 500e goes on sale in Spring 2013 and prices have not yet been announced. This 4-seat all-electric version of the popular Fiat 500 city car should have an electric range of 80 miles and be fun to drive.


Honda Fit EVHonda Fit EV looks just like the popular Honda Fit 5-door, 5-seat subcompact hatchback. The 2013 Fit EV officially has an MSRP of $36,625. Only in select pilot programs can it be leased f or $389 per month. The Fit EV Level 2 charges at double the speed of the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i.  Honda Fit Electric


CODA is $37,500, but discounts of over $14,000,  for an all-electric car with a larger lithium battery than offered by Nissan and Ford. My test drive of the new CODA showed that this new electric car is similar in handling and performance to the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric which I have also driven. CODA has more electric range than the LEAF and Focus Electric which each have 24 kW lithium batteries in comparison to CODA’s 31 kW lithium iron phosphate battery. CODA Review


ford focus electricFord Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and vans. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric


Chevy VOLTChevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automotive Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with 40 miles of electric range and total range of 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt starts at $39,145 with nice tax credits or $350 monthly lease.


The above list of all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars expected to be selling and/or leasing in the United States in 2013 with the lowest cost. Our apologies to Honda Accord, Tesla, Fisker and others that did not make the price cut.

Future Electric Cars

Small electric city cars are becoming popular in car sharing, campuses, and cities with parking space challenges. The Smart Electric Drive is popular in car2go car sharing in San Diego and Portland. The new Scion iQ-EV was fun to drive, but Toyota is only putting 90 into U.S. car sharing and campus programs. The Mitsubishi i is in car sharing programs and city dwellers are buying this micro-compact. BMW has 70 Active E coupes in DriveNow’s San Francisco car shring program and is preparing for sales of the i3 hatchback.

Nissan, GM, Toyota, Honda, and Ford will all expand the number and variety of electric vehicle offerings. All major automakers are all testing electric cars for 2013 and beyond. Tesla and Fisker are working at more affordable electric cars that fit on this “lower cost” list, although Tesla is selling the Model S with 265 mile electric range for $79,900 as fast as it can make them.

By 2020, Europe with higher fuel prices and fewer oil subsidies is forecast to have more electric cars by 2020 than the United States. Better Place may deliver 100,000 of the Renault Fluence with its switchable battery to Israel, Denmark, and other countries. Volkswagen may teach everyone how to extend range by making vehicles light. The concept Up Light weighs just over 1,500 pounds, but it’s only a concept. We loved test-driving the Volkswagen Golf Blue E-Motion, but don’t plan on buying it in the U.S. before 2014.

For three years, we have read about China’s plans to bring electric cars to the U.S. Although China’s U.S. ambitions have slipped badly, its automakers cannot be ignored. China has over 100 million light electric vehicles, e-bikes and e-scooters in daily use. It’s new 5-year plan calls for 100 million electric charging stations in China by 2020. BYD, with gold-plated investors such as Warren Buffett, has only put a few hundred electric vehicles on the road in China and continues to delay introduction to the United States. Volvo, now owned by China’s Geely has the new C30 Drive E Electric, but the Volvo electric car will be selling only in Europe in the short-term. SAIC, Chery, and hundreds of players are also preparing EVs for China.

Japan and China will not be the only Asian electric car competitors. Hyundai and Kia are now selling impressive hybrids with lithium batteries. In the years ahead, Hyundai plans to offer electric cars and even a hydrogen fuel cell SUVs for under $40,000. India might bring us a Maharinda Reva or Tata EV that under prices everyone, but not by 2012, the basis for this report.

What is certain is that you have a growing selection of electric and plug-in hybrid cars expected to be sold with starting prices between $29,125 and $39,995 in the U.S.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Test Drive and Review

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Test Drive and Review

By John Addison (9/19/11)

This new 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in (PHV) looks just like the classic Prius Liftback except in rear exterior is the cover for the electric charge port; the gasoline cap is on the left.

Sitting behind the wheel of this new Toyota Prius Plug-in (PHV), I wonder how the driving experience will compare with the Chevrolet Volt, my Nissan LEAF, and other members of the Prius family. Next month, Toyota starts the online order process for the Prius PHV with a starting price of $32,000 for dealer deliveries in early 2012.  Online, buyers can configure their Prius PHV, start the order, and then select a Toyota dealer to continue the process.

When I touch Start the useful LED displays light and I’m ready to drive. The car’s default driving mode is ECO for fuel economy. At any time while driving, three buttons on the dash allow convenient driving mode selection – EV, ECO, and Power. I touch EV, step lightly on the accelerator and glide away.

In EV mode, the Prius PHV is only propelled by one of two electric motors. One motor is for propulsion, the other for electricity generation. This Prius PHV is quieter than a Liftback, but unlike the Nissan LEAF, I hear the gasoline engine, which can sometimes idle even in EV mode. I accelerate up to 45 mph before the Prius PHV automatically switches me to ECO mode; 45 is better than I achieved in my previous PHV test drive, thanks to coaching from my test drive partner, Bill Moore, Publisher of EV World. In theory, the Prius PHV has a maximum of 62 mph in EV mode, but reaching that requires adequate lithium battery charge, and a couple of other journalist had already taken this car for a spin.

When not driving in EV mode, the Prius PHV delivers about the same fuel economy as the Prius Liftback. The Prius PHV averages 49 mpg in ECO hybrid mode and is rated at 87 mpg overall.  In ECO mode the hybrid drive system will at times only use the electric motor. The Prius PHV is designed to be in EV mode 15 miles per charge.

I smoothly drive over railroad tracks. This Prius has good shocks. The steering is effortless. Stopping and starting are transparent.

As I accelerate on to the freeway, I could select the Power mode. Instead, I let the Prius PHV do it automatically. I accelerate up the graded onramp and reach 65 mph before merging with traffic.

After five miles of driving, I must sadly return this beautiful car so that the next auto journalist can take it for a spin.  This Prius PHV feels like the two million other Prii (yep, that’s the official plural of Prius) now on the road. The Prius Plug-in is ready for prime time.

Prius Plug-in Drive System and Lithium Battery

The Prius PHV now has an estimated 15-mile electric range, a modest improvement from 13-mile prototype range. The Prius PHV drive system is based on the proven Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive well in its hybrids for over a dozen years. The full series-parallel hybrid drive system uses imbedded computer chips to automatically engage, as needed the 80-horse power (60 kW) electric motor and/or the 1.8L 98-horsepower (73 kW) gasoline engine.

Managing the engagement of electric motors and engine is a Hybrid Transaxle, which combines power split planetary gear set ring with speed reduction planetary gear set ring. The car gets great mileage because energy is captured, whenever possible, from braking and energy resistance. On a long downhill, you can shift into “B” for added regen.

The Prius PHV includes a 4.4 kW lithium-battery pack, a bit smaller than the pack tested in 600 vehicles. A second electric motor (MG1) is used to generate electricity. Both motors are air-cooled permanent magnet.

Prius PHV drivers will most fuel with gasoline. Chevrolet Volt drivers are mostly fueling with electricity. Pure-electric drivers like me only fuel with electricity. For my Nissan LEAF, I had a Level 2 charger installed in the garage so that I charge at the rate of about one hour for each 12 miles of driving. Before the Level 2 charger was installed we use the Level 1 charger and a garage outlet and charged at the rate of about 4 miles per hour.

In some communities, electric utilities and building inspectors are friendly towards the installation of electric vehicle chargers. In other places, and especially for those living in large apartments or co-ops, adding a charger can be difficult, expensive, and/or impossible. Since the Prius PHV only takes 3 hours max to charge Level 1 and only 1.5 Level 2, many Prius PHV buyers will skip the hassle of installing a charger and simply Level 1 charge from any 15 amp dedicated circuit. Toyota is partnering with Leviton to offer a Level 2 charger installed for $995, but be careful to get a quote for any added electrical work. Whether or not a home charger is installed, the Prius PHV can use public Level 2 chargers.

Prius Plug-in Features and Price

The Prius PHV is a 5-door, 5-passenger, liftback with a midsized interior. Inside and out it is as roomy as the best-selling Prius Liftback. The PHV’s 4.4kW lithium battery is well-placed, so that the 60/40 back seats can be lowered to provide plenty of room for trips to big box stores, luggage, work boxes, skis and boards, even a couple of bicycles. The small lithium pack enabled Toyota to make the PHV only 123 pounds heavier than the Liftback. When the backseats are up, a convenient armrest can be lowered.

The Prius PHV is priced starting at $32,000 but you should be eligible for a $2,500 federal tax credit. This plug-in hybrid may be eligible for added incentives from your employer or from your state.

The Prius PHV Advanced starts at  $39,525, with a Premium HDD Navigation with Entune, plug-in hybrid apps, LED headlamps with auto level control, Safety Connect, dynamic radar cruise control, head up display (HUD), and pre-collision system.

There was a time when people would pay up to $3,500 extra in California for a Prius with an HOV sticker, allowing them to save hours of commuting gridlock. As an incentive for early adopters, only so many HOV stickers were issued. In California that old HOV Yellow Sticker is gone, but there is a new HOV White sticker for plug-in cars. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid qualifies, the classic Prius Liftback does not.

Is the Prius PHV the best car for you?

You now have a choice of three different Prius models. This time next year, you will have four choices:

  • Prius Liftback – Midsized interior, 50 mpg, starts at $23,500
  • Prius V – Crossover SUV, 42 mpg, starts at $26,400
  • Prius C – smaller hatchback, best hybrid mpg, priced Summer 2012
  • Prius PHV – Midsized interior, 87 mpg, starts at $32,000

Prius Family – the Prius PHV will be the best if you want a plug-in hybrid. Its starting price is $8,500 more than the best-selling Prius Liftback. The gap narrows to $6,000 after a federal tax credit. Your employer or state may give you added incentives to get the plug-in. The Prius PHV includes a touch-screen navigation system with backup camera and other features, which would be optional extras on the base Prius Liftback. If you get stuck in nasty rush-hour commutes an HOV sticker can have real value. Electric charging is cheap; gasoline fill-ups are expensive. The Prius PHV might pay for itself in a few years compared to the Liftback.

Chevrolet Volt will be tough competition for the Prius PHV.  GM will deliver 16,000 plug-in hybrids in 2011 and 65,000 in 2012. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHV’s 15-mile. After federal tax credits, the difference narrows to only $3,000. Prius PHV drivers may neglect to always recharge. Volt drivers that I interview always recharge. The extra $3,000 for the Volt may pay for itself in less than five years of saved gasoline. The Prius PHV seats five, the Volt only four. I have been impressed test-driving both. They are both worth your taking a test drive.

Ford C-MAX Plug-in Hybrid. Later next year, Ford will start selling a five-door, five seat plug-in hybrid hatchback that will compete head-on with the Prius PHV.  The Ford C-MAX Plug-in is expected to have a 40 mile electric range versus the Prius PHV’s 15. Ford has not yet announced pricing. Ford is also selling the Focus Electric with 100-mile pure electric range.

Nissan LEAF is the best selling electric car, delivering 50,000 in 2011. My experience as an owner is that this pure battery electric has an electric range of up to 140 miles on 30 mph streets, but only 60 miles when cruising the freeway while running your air conditioner. My wife and I share the LEAF and also have a hybrid which we use a couple of days weekly and on long-trips. By itself, the LEAF with its limited range would only meet 80 percent of our needs, but with two cars it has never been a problem. It cost us $40 monthly in electricity to run the LEAF, the cost of one fill-up at a gas station. The 2012 LEAF starts at $3,200 more than the Prius V, but after federal tax credits is $1,800 less and can save you about $500 to $1,000 annually in gasoline.

As the world leader in hybrid cars, Toyota is fighting to extend that leadership in both plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars. In plug-in hybrids, GM plans on first mover advantage with the Chevy Volt. In electric cars, the Nissan LEAF has a sizable lead over the Toyota’s 2012 pure-electric offerings, the Toyota RAV4 EV and the Scion IQ EV. But Toyota has more cars on the road with electric motors, advanced batteries, and electric drive systems than all competitors put together. Toyota does not like second place.

In 2012, will have no trouble selling the 15,000 Prius PHV planned for production. The 2012 Prius PHV will be an appealing alternative to many who first consider the less expensive Prius Liftback. With only a 15-mile electric range the PHV will not be for everyone. Toyota Motor Corporation is now offering customers a wide-range of choices including the Toyota RAV4 EV, the Scion IQ EV, a family of four Prii, the Camry hybrid, the Highlander 4WD hybrid, five Lexus hybrids, and a growing range of fuel economy offerings for most drivers.

2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid SPECIFICATIONS

Hybrid Drive System

  • Hybrid Net System 134 horsepower
  • 2ZR-FXE (Atkinson cycle)
  • 4-cylinder aluminum block and head, double overhead cam (DOHC) 16-valve VVT-i
  • 4-valve/cylinder with VVT-i
  • Displacement 1,798 cc
  • Bore x Stroke 3.17 x 3.48 in.
  • Compression Ratio 13.0:1
  • Horsepower (SAE Net) 98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
  • Torque 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • Recommended Fuel 87-octane unleaded
  • Emission Certification SULEV (with AT-PZEV) Tier 2 Bin 3
  • Toyota Estimated Fuel Economy*
  • 87+ MPGe
  • Hybrid 49 MPG
  • Electric driving range 15 miles
  • Charging time 1.5 hours (240V) / 3 hours (120V)

Electronically Controlled continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)


  • Drives front wheels, regeneration during braking
  • Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor
  • Max Voltage DC650V
  • Electric Motor Power Output 80 hp/60 kW
  • Torque 153 lb.-ft.


  • Lithium-ion
  • Weight (lb.) 176
  • Capacity (kWh) 4.4

* 2012 Toyota MPG estimate. Actual mileage will vary.

Suspension – Front Independent MacPherson strut suspension with stabilizer bar
– Rear Torsion beam
Electric Power Steering (EPS); power-assisted rack-and-pinion
– Turning circle diameter, curb to curb (ft.) 34.2 ft.
Brakes –

  • Ventilated front disc (hydraulic with power assist) with standard Anti-Lock Brake (ABS) system and integrated regenerative brake system
  • Front Diameter 10.0 in. rotor
  • Rear Solid disc (hydraulic with power assist) with standard Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • – Rear Diameter 10.2 in. rotor
  • Parking Pedal brake
  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • Standard Wheel Size 6J x 15 in.
  • Wheel Type and Material 10-spoke aluminum alloy
  • Tire Size P195/65 R15
  • Tire Type All-season
  • Spare Tire/Wheel = Tire repair kit


  • Overall Length 176.4 in.
  • Overall Width 68.7 in.
  • Overall Height 58.7 in.
  • Wheelbase 106.3 in.
  • Tread Width (Front/Rear) 60.0/59.8 in.
  • Front Overhang 36.4 in.
  • Rear Overhang 33.7 in
  • Ground Clearance 5.3 in.
  • Coefficient of Drag 0.25


  • Seating Capacity 5
  • Headroom (Front/Rear) 38.6/37.6 in.
  • Legroom (Front/Rear) 42.5/36.0 in.
  • Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 54.9/53.1 in.
  • Hip Room (Front/Rear) 52.7/51.2 in.
  • Passenger Volume 93.7 cu. ft.
  • Cargo Volume 21.6 cu. ft.


  • Curb Weight 3165 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity 10.6 gal.


  • 15-in. 10-spoke alloy wheels and P195/65R15 tires
  • Color-keyed power outside mirrors with folding feature
  • Projector-beam halogen headlamps with auto-off feature
  • LED tail and stop lamps
  • Rear spoiler with LED center high-mount stop lamp
  • Rear window defogger with timer
  • UV reduction glass windshield
  • Washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers
  • Intermittent rear window wiper
  • Charge port with illumination and charging indictor light
  • Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced (in addition to or in place of standard grade features)
  • LED headlamps with auto level control, auto-on/off feature and headlamp cleaners
  • Integrated fog lamps


  • Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth® hands-free phone and voice-command controls
  • Multi-Information Display with fuel consumption history, average fuel economy, distance to empty, average speed, trip distance, charger timer, EV Driving Ratio, Hybrid System Indicator, ECO Savings Record and energy monitor
  • Digital instrumentation with speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, instant fuel consumption, shift-position indicator and EV/ECO/POWER mode indicators
  • Automatic climate control with air filter, dust and pollen filter/filtration mode, electric compressor, humidity sensor and push button controls
  • Remote Air Conditioning System
  • Power windows with auto up/down, jam protection in all positions and retained power features
  • Remote keyless entry system with lock, two-stage unlock and panic functions
  • Smart Key System on three doors with Push Button Start and remote illuminated entry
  • Front door storage pockets with sculpted bottle holders
  • Fabric-trimmed heated front seats with seatback pockets; 6-way adjustable driver’s seat; 4-way adjustable front passenger seat
  • 60/40 split fold-down rear seat with adjustable headrests
  • Fold-forward rear outboard headrests
  • Rear fold-down center armrest with two cup holders
  • Dual sunvisors and illuminated vanity mirrors
  • Power door locks with shift-linked automatic locking feature with anti-lockout feature
  • Two front 12V auxiliary power outlets
  • Cruise control
  • Touch Tracer Display
  • Overhead console with driver and front passenger maplamps and shift illumination
  • Electronic shift lever with Hybrid Synergy Drive® blue accent
  • Center console with armrest, storage compartment, front dual cup holders, removable utility tray, wire-management feature and 12V auxiliary power outlet
  • Passenger-side dual glove compartment
  • Remote hood and fuel-filler releases
  • Charge cable for 120V outlet
  • Rear dome lamp and cargo area lamp
  • Retractable assist grips at all doors
  • Cargo area under-floor storage and side panel storage
  • Cargo area tonneau cover with clasp for under-floor stowage

Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced

(in addition to or in place of standard grade features)

  • Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display, Bluetooth® hands-free phone, voice-command and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) controls
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink® universal transceiver
  • SofTex-trimmed heated front seats with seatback pockets; 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support; 4-way adjustable front passenger seat


Display Audio with Navigation and EntuneTM — includes 6.1-in. touch-screen with integrated backup camera display, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio (includes 90-day trial subscription to XM Select Package), HD RadioTM with iTunes® Tagging, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity and control, vehicle information with customizable settings, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, advanced voice recognition, text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology

EntuneTM — includes BingTM and Pandora®; real-time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. Apps available spring 2012 at no charge include iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable®. Access to EntuneTM services is complimentary for three years. See toyota.com/entune for details.

Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced (in addition to or in place of standard grade features)

Premium HDD Navigation with EntuneTM, Plug-in Hybrid Applications and JBL® — includes 7-in. touch-screen with split-screen capability and integrated backup camera display, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, eight JBL® GreenEdgeTM speakers with amplifier, SiriusXM™Satellite Radio (includes 90-day trial subscription to XM Select Package), HD RadioTM with iTunes® Tagging, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity and control, vehicle information with customizable settings, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, advanced voice recognition, text-to-speech with programmed and customizable text responses, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology

EntuneTM — includes BingTM, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable® and Pandora®; XM Data Services including NavTrafficTM, NavWeatherTM, Fuel, and Sports & Stocks; EntuneTM Plug-in Hybrid Applications include Charge Management, Remote Air Conditioning System, Charging Station Map, Vehicle Finder and Eco Dashboard. Access to EntuneTM services and Plug-in Hybrid Applications is complimentary for three years. See toyota.com/entune for details.


  • Star Safety System™ – includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
  • Daytime Running Lights (DRL) with on/off feature
  • Driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System
  • Driver and front passenger front seat-mounted side airbags, driver knee airbag and front and rear side curtain airbags
  • Driver and front passenger active headrests
  • Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS)
  • Front and rear energy-absorbing crumple zones
  • Side-impact door beams
  • 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions; driver-side Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR) and Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractor (ALR/ELR) on all passenger seatbelts
  • Adjustable front seat shoulder anchors, driver and front passenger seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters
  • LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) includes lower anchors on outboard rear seats
  • Child protector rear door locks
  • Energy-absorbing collapsible steering column
  • Engine immobilizer
  • Tire Repair System
  • Vehicle Proximity Notification System
  • Additional year of roadside assistance for a total of three years of roadside from date of purchase
  • Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced (in addition to or in place of standard grade features)
  • Safety Connect® — includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification. Available by subscription. (Complimentary three-year trial subscription).
  • Pre-Collision System (PCS)
  • Head-Up Display (HUD)

– Blizzard Pearl
– Sea Glass Pearl
– Winter Gray Metallic
– Classic Silver Metallic
– Clearwater Blue Metallic

  • Basic: 36 months/36,000 miles (all components other than normal wear and maintenance items).
  • Lithium Battery and Hybrid-Related Component Coverage: Hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles. The HV battery may have longer coverage under emissions warranty. In states that have adopted the California Emission Control Warranty, coverage is 15 years/150,000 miles for performance and defect, and the hybrid battery is covered for 10 years/150,000 miles. Refer to applicable Warranty and Maintenance Guide for details.
  • Powertrain: 60 months/60,000 miles (engine, transmission/transaxle, drive system, seatbelts and airbags).
  • Rust-Through: 60 months/unlimited miles (corrosion perforation of sheet metal).
  • Emissions: Coverages vary under Federal and California regulations. Refer to applicable Warranty and Maintenance Guide for details.
  • Toyota Care – Complimentary maintenance plan with the purchase or lease of every new Toyota. For 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, every new Toyota will be covered for all normal factory scheduled service, as well as 24/7 roadside assistance
Lexus RX 450h – Excellent Hybrid SUV with Optional AWD

Lexus RX 450h – Excellent Hybrid SUV with Optional AWD

By John Addison (9/12/11)

Lexus RX 450h and AWD Review and Prices

Now you can have an excellent SUV without sacrificing premium features, comfort and good fuel economy. The Lexus RX450h is a stylish 5-seat, 5-door, SUV that delivers 28 miles per gallon (mpg) city, 32 highway, and 30 overall. For an extra $1,590 you can get the all-wheel drive (AWD) version for better handling on snow and ice and still get 28 city, 30 highway, and 29 overall.

The FWD 2011 Lexus RX 450h has a suggested starting price of $44,735 and the 2012 are $500 higher. The 2011 Lexus RX 450h AWD has a suggested starting price of $46,325 and the 2012 are $500 higher. Both models run about $6,000 more than their non-hybrid counterparts, the Lexus RX 350 FWD and AWD, but the 450h saves you 40 percent at the pump. If you can negotiate a good price on a dealer sale of the 2011 RX 450h, there’s no reason to wait for a 2012 model.

With this midsized premium SUV (Lexus brands this as luxury) you will enjoy a smooth and quiet ride. It does not have the sports car feel of the Lexus 200h or the acceleration Lexus 600h. This is a stylish SUV for those who enjoy room, comfort, and the Lexus status. With optional packages you can surround yourself with luxury appointments of leather and wood, up to 12 sound speakers, and dual display entertainment system for the back seat.

Seating is comfortable for five people. The rear cargo space is 40 cubic feet. Lower the back seat and you have 80 cubic feet – enough for home projects, lots of luggage, or a couple of bicycles.

Lexus Hybrid Drive System

The Lexus hybrid drive system is smart enough to know when to only use the electric motors, when to engage the 3.5 liter engine, and when to use both. The full series/parallel hybrid drive system is based on the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive, a proven success in over 3 million Prius. The FWD has two electric motors. One acts as a generator, the other drives the front wheels. The AWD has a third electric motor for the rear wheels. Although Toyota Motors has switched to lithium batteries for its new electric cars, it is staying with the proven NiMH batteries for its Lexus hybrids.

Most of the time, you will probably want to be in Eco mode to save gas. Touch Normal for freeway acceleration or passing a slow truck on a two-lane road. EV mode will let you travel a short distance in silence with only the electric motor engaged, receiving electricity from the NiMH battery pack.


The Lexus RX is a top safety pick with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Lexus RX safety features include:

  •  Active headrests for front seats
  •  Advanced technology airbag system Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) for driver and front passenger:
  •  Driver dual-stage airbag uses factors including crash severity and seat track position to choose one of three possible deployment speeds.
  •  Front passenger dual-stage twin-chamber airbag uses crash severity sensors to choose one of two deployment speeds. Airbag is designed to not deploy for passengers under 68.3 lbs. or when child seat is detected. (Advanced airbags in compliance with FMVSS208)
  •  ALR/ELR seat belt retractors on all outboard-seating positions except driver (ELR only)
  •  Brake pedal regression prevention mechanism helps reduce leg injuries in head-on impacts
  •  Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
  •  Driver and front passenger knee airbags
  •  Enhanced side-impact protection
  •  Enhanced-VSC (Vehicle Stability Control)
  •  Force-limiting seatbelt pre-tensioners for the driver’s and front passenger’s seats
  •  Four-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA)
  •  Front and rear seat-mounted side airbags
  •  High-strength sheet steel components
  •  Roll-sensing front and rear side-curtain airbags
  • Side impact door beams
  •  Three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners for outboard rear seating positions
  •  Tire pressure monitoring system

The optional Premium package includes Lexus Enform® with Safety Connect®:

  • Automatic Collision Notification,
  • Stolen Vehicle Location,
  • Emergency Assist Button (SOS),
  • Enhanced Roadside Assistance,
  • Destination Assist
  • eDestination (Complimentary one-year trial subscription included)

The AWD version improves fuel economy with a part-time AWD. When accelerating from a stop or if front-wheel slippage is detected, the AWD system on the RX 450h is designed to electrically power the rear wheels, delivering up to 50 % of torque to the real wheels, helping to provide additional drive force to propel the vehicle forward.

Other SUVs with Good Fuel Economy

Ford Escape Hybrid is over $10,000 less than the Lexus RX 450h. The Ford Escape Hybrid delivers better FWD mileage with 32 mpg overall with and 29 mpg with AWD. A range of premium options are available for the Escape Hybrid.

Toyota Prius V Crossover SUV. Lexus is the premium/luxury brand of Toyota Motors. The Prius is becoming a brand family as well.  Going on sale in 2012 is the Prius V, which offers as much room for 5 people and even more cargo space flexibility than the Lexus RX450h. The fuel economy is wonderful for a crossover with 44 mpg city, 40 highway, 42 overall. Although the Prius V lacks the luxury styling and appointments of the Lexus RX 450h, it is likely to save you $15,000 purchase price. The Prius V does not have an AWD option.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a larger SUV that can seat up to 7 people and still deliver good fuel economy with 28/28/28 mpg. It is about $6,000 less than the Lexus RX 450h and comes standard with electronic on-demand 4WD. A well appointed Premium version is available.

Toyota RAV4 EV can be ordered from dealers in 2012. This 5-seat, 5-door SUV, has about the same passenger and cargo space as the Lexus RX450h. The new RAV4 EV is a pure battery-electric with an estimated range of 100 miles. You’ll never pay a nickel at the gas pump. Toyota has not yet published a price. Toyota owns 2% of Tesla, which is supplying the lithium battery pack and working with Toyota on the electric drive system.

2011 and 2012 Lexus RX 450h Specifications


  • Wheelbase 107.9 in.
  • Overall Length 187.8 in.
  • Overall Width 74.2 in.
  • Overall Height (unloaded) 66.3 in. (without roof rack)
  • Tread Width – Front 64.2 in.
  • – Rear 63.8 in.
  • Ground Clearance 6.9 in.
  • Approach Angle 28.5 deg. – FWD 28.6 – AWD
  • Departure Angle 24.6 deg.
  • Breakover Angle 14.4 deg.


  • Seating Capacity 5
  • Headroom – Front (with moonroof) 39.1 in.
  • – Rear 37.7 in.
  • Legroom – Front 43.1 in.
  • – Rear 36.8 in.
  • Shoulder Room – Front 58.0 in.
  • – Rear 57.6 in.
  • Hip Room – Front 55.6 in.
  • – Rear 54.5 in.
  • Total Interior Volume 139.7 cu. ft.
  • Cargo Volume – Rear seats up and rearmost 40.0 cu. ft.
  • – Rear seats folded down 80.3 cu. ft.


  • Curb Weight 4,652 lbs. – AWD; 4,520 lbs. – FWD
  • GVWR 5,974 lbs. – AWD; 5,765 lbs. – FWD
  • Max Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs. (with appropriate hitch) – AWD
  • Not Applicable – FWD
  • Fuel Capacity 17.2 gal.


Type Series/parallel system with gas engine and electric motors

Total System Power 295 hp


  • Type, Materials V6, aluminum block and heads
  • Designation 2GR-FXE
  • Valvetrain DOHC 24-valve with VVT-i
  • Displacement 3.5 liter
  • Bore x Stroke 3.70 in. x 3.27 in.
  • Compression Ratio 12.5:1
  • Horsepower (SAE) 245 hp @ 6,000 rpm (not including hybrid drive)
  • Torque 234 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm (not including hybrid drive)
  • Maximum Engine Speed (redline) 6,000 rpm
  • Fuel System Port Fuel Injection (SFI)
  • Fuel Requirement Performance numbers achieved with 91-octane unleaded fuel
  • Emission Certification SULEV II (California); Tier 2 – Bin 3 (all other states)
  • Evaporative Emission Certification Zero evap.


  • Motor Generator 1 (MG1) – Function Generator, engine starter, transmission ratio control
  • – Type Permanent magnet motor
  • – Max. voltage AC 650V
  • Motor Generator 2 (MG2) – Function Drives front wheels, regenerative braking
  • – Type Permanent magnet motor
  • – Max. voltage AC 650V
  • – Max. output 167 hp (123 kW)
  • Motor Generator Rear (MGR) – Function Drives rear wheels, regenerative braking
  • (AWD Model Only) – Type Permanent magnet motor
  • – Max. voltage AC 650V
  • – Max. output 68 hp (50 kW)


  • Type Sealed Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
  • Nominal Voltage
  • Power Output
  • 288V
  • 37 kW


  • Layout Front gas engine with hybrid transaxle and front and rear electric drive motors, electric all-wheel drive
  • Transaxle/Transmission Type Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
  • reduction and power splitting, electronic all- or frontwheel-drive control system
  • Designation P313


  • Body/Frame Unitized steel
  • Suspension – Front MacPherson strut, coil springs
  • – Rear Double wishbone type, coil springs
  • Steering – Type Electric Power Steering (EPS): rack and pinion with
  • electronic power assist
  • – Overall Ratio 14.8:1
  • – Turns (lock to lock) 2.79
  • – Turning Circle (wall to wall) 40.0 feet
  • Brake System Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB2) system with
  • regenerative control and incorporating Anti-lock
  • Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force
  • Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Vehicle
  • Dynamics Integrated Management system (VDIM)
  • Brake Rotors – Front – type/diameter Ventilated disc/12.9 in.
  • – Rear – type/diameter Disc/12.2 in.
  • Anti-Lock Braking System 4 channel, 4 sensor
  • Wheel Size/Type 18-in. x 7.5-in. (standard)
  • 19-in. x 7.5-in. (optional)
  • Tire Size/Type 235/60R18 (standard)
  • 235/55VR19 (optional)
  • Spare Tire/Wheel Compact


  • 0-60 mph Acceleration (mfg. results) FWD – 7.8 seconds AWD – 7.4 seconds
  • 0-1/4 Mile Acceleration (mfg. results) FWD – 16.0 seconds AWD – 15.6 seconds
  • Top Track Speed 112 mph – electronically limited
  • EPA Estimated Fuel Economy* (City/Hwy/Combined) FWD – 32/28/30 AWD – 30/28/29
  • Coefficient of Drag (Cd) 0.33


Overall Exterior Styling/Body Design

  • 18-inch x 7.5-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels
  • 235/60R18 tires
  • Blue highlights added to front and rear “L” logo, engine cover, headlamp lens cover, rear combination lamp cover
  • Front fog lamps integrated into bumper
  • “HYBRID” badge incorporated on side molding of rear doors
  • Integrated color-keyed rear spoiler with rear-windshield wiper
  • LED brake and tail lights
  • “Lexus Hybrid Drive” engine cover
  • Pronounced wheel wells give rugged stance
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Rear tail light housings merged with back window glass
  • Side mirrors with integrated LED turn signal lamps
  • Standard integrated rear spoiler that hides windshield wiper mechanism
  • Water-repellant front door glass

Body Structure and Paint

  • Acoustic glass windshield to reduce noise
  • Anti-chipping paint applied to rocker panels and wheel housing arch sections
  • Exterior colors (9): Matador Red Mica, Tungsten Pearl, Nebula Gray Pearl, Obsidian, Satin Cashmere
  • Metallic, Stargazer Black, Black Opal Mica, Cerulean Blue Metallic, Starfire Pearl
  • High level of rust protection with zinc-plated steel on hood, doors and front fenders
  • Highly rigid body, monocoque construction
  • Measures to limit noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) have been applied throughout the vehicle
  • Rear bumper protector
  • Soft chip primer applied to hood for improved anti-chipping
  • Sound insulation placed in door panels, instrument panel and floor mats
  • UV-reducing glass used for all windows

Convenience Features

  • Auto on/off headlamps
  • Auto-dimming and foldable electro-chromic outside mirrors
  • Heated outside mirrors
  • Integrated front fog lamps
  • Rear intermittent wiper
  • SmartAccess key system
  • Variable intermittent windshield wipers


Interior Trim

  • Carpeted floor mats (carpeted trunk mat optional)
  • Chrome inside door handles
  • Coat hooks
  • Fabric covered sun visors with adjustable-illumination vanity mirrors and slide extensions
  • Fabric-trim seats in Light Gray
  • Genuine Walnut or Bird’s Eye Maple wood trim on console and switch plates
  • Leather-trim three-spoke steering wheel and shift knob

Seats and Cargo Area

  • 10-way power driver’s and front passenger’s seats: fore-aft slide; fore-aft recline; front vertical height; rear vertical height and power lumbar support
  • Driver’s seat Easy Exit (auto away/return)
  • Rear center arm rest with cupholders
  • Rear seat one-touch fold levers
  • Reclining/sliding fold-down rear seats with 40/20/40-split
  • Tonneau cover for rear cargo area

Instrumentation and Controls

  • Organic white Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) multi-information display
  • Scheduled maintenance indicator light


  • 12-volt power outlets (3): center console box (1), lower console area (1), cargo area (1)
  • Assist grips: front (2), rear (2)
  • Auto on/off headlights
  • Automatic dual-zone climate control
  • Center console with cupholders (2) and storage bin
  • Courtesy lights mounted on doors
  • Dust and pollen particle and deodorizing interior air filter
  • Electrochromic rearview mirror with compass (without Navigation)
  • First aid kit
  • Front and rear map lights; cargo area light
  • Front seatback pockets
  • Incandescent dome light with white LED spot lights
  • Incandescent foot lights
  • LED illuminated center console and glove box
  • Lexus Personalized Settings (LPS) to allow certain vehicle settings to be tailored by owner
  • Manual front seatbelt anchor height adjusters
  • Power door locks with anti lock-out feature
  • Power tilt-and-telescopic steering column
  • Power windows with one-touch auto up/down feature with jam protection for all windows
  • Programmable garage door opener (HomeLink)
  • Pull-out front door storage pockets
  • Rear air conditioning vents mounted on rear of center console
  • Steering wheel audio controls
  • Tool kit


  • Lexus Premium Audio
  • 9 speakers
  • AM/FM antenna integrated into rear spoiler
  • In-dash six-disc CD auto-changer
  • Integrated SiriusXM Satellite Radio receiver (complimentary 90-day trial subscription included)


  • Entry system with lock, two-stage unlock, trunk open and “panic” features, volume-adjustable confirmation tone and rolling code technology
  • Headlight off delay feature
  • Multi-function SmartAccess remote with engine immobilizer and remote window “down” feature
  • Remote-activated/key-linked illuminated entry: dome light and ignition key cylinder ring
  • Safety Connect® with Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance (complimentary one-year trial subscription)
  • Vehicle theft-deterrent system


  • 19-inch split five-spoke wheels with All-Season 235/55/VR19 tires
  • Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) projector headlamps with Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS)
  • Heads-Up Display (AWD model only; Requires Navigation Package)
  • Heated and ventilated front seats (Requires Premium Package)
  • Intuitive Park Assist
  • LED headlamps with headlamp washers, Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS) and Intelligent High Beams
  • Mark Levinson® Audio System with 15 speakers and DVD changer (Requires Navigation Package)
  • Pre-Collision System and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (AWD model only; Requires Premium or Luxury Package)
  • Rearview mirror backup monitor (non-navigation equipped vehicles only)
  • Towing hitch (AWD model only)
  • Towing Package (AWD model only)
  • Wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob

Premium Package

  • Driver’s seat memory – three settings (steering wheel, mirror, seat)
  • Electrochromic outside mirror (auto-dimming)
  • iPod® headunit control / USB
  • Leather-trimmed seats
  • One-touch open/close, tilt and slide moonroof
  • Power rear door
  • Rear armrest storage w/lid

Luxury Package (Requires Comfort and Navigation Packages and LED Headlights) AWD models only Includes all Premium Package contents plus:

  • 19-inch split five-spoke wheels
  • Auto recirculation
  • Front seat cushion extender
  • Illuminated scuff plates (front only)
  • Power retractable outer mirror
  • Semi-aniline leather-trimmed seating
  • Wide-view front monitor system
  • Wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob

Comfort Package (Requires Premium or Luxury Package; and Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) projector headlamps or LED headlamps with headlamp washers)

  • 12 Speaker Premium Audio System
  • Auto wipers (Rain-Sensing)
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Navigation Package (Requires Premium Package)
  • Backup monitor
  • Bluetooth® hands free phone and phonebook download capabilities
  • HDD Navigation (Generation 6 system)
  • Lexus Enform® with Safety Connect®: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button (SOS), Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Destination Assist, and eDestination (Complimentary one-year trial subscription included)
  • Lexus Insider™
  • NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports, and Stocks (complimentary one-year trial subscription included)
  • Remote Touch Navigation controller
  • Voice command casual-language voice recognition system
  • Dual-Screen Rear Seat Entertainment with Navigation (Includes Navigation Package)
  • 120V AC outlet in rear passenger compartment
  • Audio/video inputs
  • Dual wireless headphones
  • DVD rear seat entertainment system
Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Networks

Electric Vehicle and Smart Grid Networks

Solar EV ChargingBy John Addison (updated 1/17/12; original 9/7/11)

Thousands of electric cars are now communicating with owner’s smart phones, charging stations, and service networks. These EVs are plugging into smart grids that use network communications to charge off-peak, monitor and improve reliablity.

When I use my Blink EVSE to charge my Nissan Leaf, the charger sends a packet of info to the charging network every 15 minutes using Sprint. The charger is communications-ready supporting CDMA, Wi-Fi, and powerline communications (PLC). With the Nissan LEAF app on my Droid I can remotely monitor charging, or pre-heat or pre-cool the car while still plugged-in, saving battery range. My Droid uses Verizon.

While driving, the LEAF’s navigation system uses GPS. If I want to listen to Pandora, my smartphone communicates with the LEAF via Bluetooth. When I park at a ChargePoint for public charging, the Coulomb ChargePoint uses RF to talk with my member smartcard. When charging, the ChargePoint uses various wireless carriers in different countries with protocols such as GPRS and CDMA. The charger even sends me a text when charging is completed or if someone disconnects my car.

Smart Grid Uses Wireless and Mesh Networks

A DOE study identified how we can charge 170 million electric cars in the U.S. before needing to add generation such as renewables, natural gas, nuclear, or coal. Charging needs to be done off-peak. With smart charging communications that is easy to do. I have preset charging my LEAF off peak. When I connect the charger, no electrons flow until the nighttime hour is reached. State utility regulators need to allow utilities A low rate for off-peak charging and higher for on-peak charging and electricity use. No benefits occur until utilities upgrade their old one-way grid communications to two-way smart grid.

As utilities install smart meters, such time of use (TOU) pricing and demand response become realities. Beyond what is visible to their customers, electric utilities are becoming more reliable and efficient with smart grid technology that communicates: advanced meters, smart transformers, sensors, distribution automation, and intelligent energy management.

When I charge and use electricity at home, my PG&E utility smart meter uses RF mesh technology to route the data along with sensor data so that they can manage the grid, collect billing information, and allow me to view home use through an internet browser.

As wireless carriers lower their rates to compete with mesh networks, other utilities take different approaches. Texas utility TNMP is including a CDMA modem in all of the 241,000 smart meters that it is installing.

Transformers and distributed automation are smarter so that sudden changes in load can be better managed and an outage in one location does not take down the neighborhood. SDG&E is charging thousands of electric vehicles with a smart grid.

SDG&E is installing smart transformers and distributed automation that more quickly isolates and handles problems. These devices communicate with centralized GIS and IT applications that keep everything running. Cisco 1000 Series Connected Gird Routers are integral to the field area network.

Duke Energy’s David Masters writes, “Duke Energy defines the digital grid as an end-to-end energy Internet powered by two-way digital technology. It is comprised of an Internet Protocol (IP) based, open standards communication network that allows for automation and the exchange of near real-time information as well as enabling the adoption of new technologies as they become available. Duke Energy’s digital grid will have more efficient and reliable transmission and distribution systems; it will leverage energy efficiency programs to reduce wasted energy; it will integrate more distributed energy resources into our grid and decrease carbon emissions.” Duke Energy is co-locating 3G and 4G cellular communication nodes with transformers. These WAN nodes communicate with RF and PLC to smart meters, charging stations, demand response appliances, street light systems, grid sensors and capacitor banks.

EPB, Chattanooga, Tennessee, not only delivers electricity to the home, it delivers broadband fiber optics for fast internet access and streaming video. While most utilities are slowly deploying smart grid, starting with smart meters, EPB installs a broadband router in the home with far more capability than a meter.

Our use of energy will get smarter as utilities fully-deploy smart grids and regulators encourage them share more information. For example, automakers are already demonstrating smart apps so that owners could program preferred charging to occur when high-levels of renewable energy is delivered to the grid, such as wind blowing at night. Smart apps and RE price incentives would encourage the growth of clean and safe energy.

Instead of firing-up dirty peaker plants on hot afternoons when air conditioning is blasting, a smart grid could draw power from utility fleets that are glad to sell power at premium rates. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) has been successfully tested. V2G is part of our future.

The Networked Electric Vehicle

On October 20, utility and automotive executives will attend GTM and Greentech Media’s The Networked EV Conference  to review the details of the convergence of electric vehicles and smart grids. GTM has published a new research report – The Smart Utility Enterprise 2011-2015: IT Systems Architecture, Cyber Security and Market Forecast

The ongoing deployment of smart grid infrastructure (i.e., smart meters and distribution automation) in the U.S. is prompting utility strategists to re-evaluate their organizations’ back-end enterprise architectures in order to enable next-gen utility business and operational services, such as dynamic pricing, grid optimization, self-healing grids and renewables integration. Utilities are just now beginning to understand the implications of outfitting their dated enterprise architectures with current information (IT) and operations (OT) technologies required to offer next-gen smart grid applications.

It will take years for most utilities to deploy smart grids. The cost will be in the billions. The savings will be in the trillions as drivers use less foreign oil and as level demand and energy efficiency replace the need for new coal and nuclear power plants.

Growth is strong for electric vehicles, renewable energy, and smart grid. The growth of one benefits the other. With smart communications, we are enjoying efficient transportation, energy independence, and clean air.