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Duke Energy, Toyota Motor Corp. and Energy Systems Network are partnering on a new pilot project in Indiana.

The initiative aims to test and validate the effectiveness of communication standards developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to provide a simple and affordable smart grid communication protocol between plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), the charging station and the utility company - to effectively manage vehicle charging.

The pilot will involve five Prius PHEVs driven by Duke Energy customers living in the Indianapolis area. These customers will drive the cars regularly during the pilot period, which is expected to begin in early 2013 and last for at least one year.

Toyota will provide a UL-certified home charging station and a home gateway communication system to be installed in each customer’s home, allowing the vehicle and the smart grid equipment to communicate with each other to evaluate billing and power supply control. Duke Energy will simulate price structures and demand-response events to understand the impact to customers’ bills and understand how these types of programs can aid in grid reliability as plug-ins become more prominent.

The pilot will employ the use of Homeplug Green PHY, a power-line communication standard based on SAE technical standard J2931. This method allows the sharing of data collected in a home network between the PHEV and the utility.

Toyota hopes to gain technological insight to perfect future vehicle iterations for its customers as well as for the overall advancement of the PHEV industry. “Smart charging through two-way communication with utilities will not only be a benefit to the customers, but is crucial for the promotion of transportation electrification,” says Edward J. Mantey, vice president of vehicle planning and corporate strategy at the Toyota Technical Center.

Each Duke Energy customer will use a vehicle communication system to monitor and manage optimized charging. In addition, surveys will be administered in order to gather qualitative data on customer experience and behavior related to the pilot project.

“These pilots are key to understanding what electric vehicle owners expect from their charging experience, which assists Duke Energy in maintaining overall grid reliability while minimizing costs for all customers,” says David Mohler, vice president of  emerging technologies for Duke Energy. “Standardized communications between vehicle, charging infrastructure and utility is critical to advancing the plug-in vehicle industry, and we are excited about being a partner in this project.”

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