Qualcomm’s Technology Inside Ecotality’s Electric Vehicle Chargers

7/27/10Follow @bvbigelow

At the Xconomy Smart Energy Forum in San Diego just a couple of months ago, Qualcomm’s Manuel Jaime emphasized that 100-percent electric vehicles (EVs) like the Nissan Leaf will need to be integrated with EV charging stations—and the charging stations have to be integrated with a local power grid. Once they’re integrated, Jaime explained, EV owners will know whether a specific EV charging station will be available when they need it—and electric utilities can begin to manage the “clustering effect” of energy demand that could occur when a bunch of EVs are recharging in the same neighborhood.

Against that background, San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) and Ecotality (NASDAQ: ECTY), which moved its headquarters last month from Phoenix, AZ, to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center, announced an agreement today that will add cellular connectivity to Ecotality’s EV charging stations.

With cellular connectivity, the EV charging stations can begin to share the kind of information that Jaime outlined in June. “Cellular networks will play a critical role in connecting the charging stations with ECOtality’s control systems,” Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read says in a statement issued by the two companies. Using a commercial cellular network will help Ecotality and local utilities manage all kinds of data about EVs and the charging stations, providing what Read describes as “real-time monitoring, command, and control.”

The deal between Qualcomm and Ecotality is part of a broader effort to build out EV charging infrastructure. It also puts Qualcomm in the pole position among the technology giants vying to get their IT, chips, and software inside the charging stations and related power grid infrastructure that utilities will need as EVs become more commonplace on U.S. roads. Ecotality is leading a federally sponsored pilot program that is intended to demonstrate how the rollout of EV technology can be accomplished without disrupting the local power grid.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a grant for almost $100 million to Ecotality, which plans to deploy almost 15,000 EV charging stations in 16 cities (in six states), including San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, OR. The program is intended as a real-world study of … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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