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3/31/2010
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Microsoft, Ford In Electric Car Venture

Software maker will tie its energy management platform to Ford's vehicles in effort to boost power efficiency.

Microsoft is working with automaker Ford to develop an application that will help consumers better manage the power required to charge electric vehicles.

Under the plan, Microsoft will add a module to its Hohm energy management portal that will aid electric car owners in determining when it's cheapest and most efficient to recharge their vehicles.

"Electric vehicles will play an important role in the global effort to improve energy efficiency and address the issues of climate change and sustainability," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in a statement.

The companies noted that electric vehicles could add considerable dollars to consumers' utility bills and could also strain power grids if the bulk of owners recharge their power cells at roughly the same time in the evening.

"Ford and Microsoft will deliver a solution that will make it easier for car owners to make smart decisions about the most affordable and efficient ways to recharge electric vehicles, while giving utilities better tools for managing the expected changes in energy demand," said Ballmer.

Ford executives said the Focus Electric will be the first vehicle to make use of Hohm. "For Ford, this is a needed step in the development of the infrastructure that will make electric vehicles viable," said Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally, in a statement.

Microsoft launched Hohm last year. The Web-based service relies on an advanced analytics engine, developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S.

Department of Energy, to generate money-saving ideas and other feedback based on the information consumers provide.

Hohm is designed to receive data inputs directly from energy companies' smart meters. Microsoft so far has partnered with Puget Sound Energy, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light, and Xcel Energy to create compatible offerings.

Microsoft is offering a software development kit to other utilities that want to participate.

Hohm can offer numerous conservation recommendations—from sealing windows to installing a programmable thermostat. The suggestions are based on the user's individual circumstances. Hohm can also make recommendations based on local and national usage data.

Hohm was one of the first major offerings to run off of Microsoft's Azure cloud operating system.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on cloud computing and service-level agreements. Download the report here (registration required).

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