By Tina Casey
IBM’s Ehningen Innovation Center campus in Germany is about to become ground zero for the development of an advanced personal transportation system that combines Hertz’s car sharing know-how with distributed renewable energy, electric vehicles and smart microgrid technology.
The new system, announced earlier this week, will piggyback on an existing car sharing agreement between the Ehningen campus and nearby Stuttgart Airport, through Hertz’s online self-service renting portal.
The new field test illustrates IBM’s accelerating embrace of renewable energy and electric vehicle technology. Last month, Idea Lab reported that IBM has been developing an advanced lithium-air battery that could be instrumental in lowering the retail price of electric vehicles.
The Ehningen test dovetails with IBM’s EV battery research and with its participation in the EDISON research consortium, which the company joined in 2009. EDISON is a Denmark-based project (it stands for Electric Vehicles in a Distributed and Integrated Market using Sustainable Energy and Open Networks) designed to build a pathway to mass market use of electric vehicles.
A key goal of EDISON is to enable EV users to prioritize renewable energy when recharging their cars. Similarly, the Ehningen smart grid will enable drivers to use any available renewable energy before tapping into conventional sources.
IBM also recently joined the EcoGrid EU project, which expands software-based renewable energy prioritization to cover household energy use as well as electric vehicles, including heating equipment and large appliances.
Hertz is also no stranger to the renewable energy and electric vehicle fields. The company has been leveraging its airport business to introduce multiple consumer groups to electric and hybrid-electric vehicles and it has embarked on a long-term EV business plan that depends on forming technology partnerships, according to its press materials:
“Hertz plans to increase its global EV presence by deploying vehicles in other countries in the coming months. Hertz Global EV will continue to leverage the company’s rental and car sharing locations as bases for vehicles and charging stations, and tap into its technology - including sophisticated fleet management tools and consumer-facing GPS systems, including Hertz NeverLost in the U.S. - to help form an EV grid.”
In terms of renewable energy, IBM’s Ehningen campus is described as a pioneering real estate and energy concept by the company Bilfinger Berger Facility Services, which manages the campus.
Bilfinger worked with IBM to develop the Smarter Buildings concept, in which all office processes and functioned are linked in a shared microgrid.
Computers can account for about 25 percent of energy use on the campus, so one significant element of the Smarter Buildings concept is an online dashboard that enables every computer user to track the campus’s overall energy consumption. When a needle in the onscreen meter gets into the red zone, employees know that the system is peaking and it’s time to switch to battery power.
A fleet of electric vehicles could also play a key role in reducing peak loads. Bilfinger is already anticipating that a rented EV fleet could be fully charged during non-peak periods (especially when renewable energy is available), and the EV batteries could be used as a significant source of auxiliary power source for the campus grid during peak periods, or when renewable energy is unavailable.