Ed Pleet says the cell phone is the center of people’s universe.
Not a total surprise, considering Pleet is a developer for Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) connectivity group, and one of the people behind a new mobile app designed to keep people in tune with their electric vehicles.
It’s called MyFord Mobile, set to be released later this year when Ford rolls out its first all-electric car, the Focus Electric, in select U.S. markets, including San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Sustainable Industries caught up with Pleet recently at GigaOM’s Green:Net conference in San Francisco, where he showed us firsthand how the new app works. Through their phone, a vehicle owner can see how much juice the car has, schedule or initiate charging, locate charging stations and plan multi-stop trips, making sure the car has enough power to get where the driver wants to go.
It also includes a “value charging” feature, developed with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), that allows vehicle owners to set charging times for when power is cheapest.
What all this represents, according to Pleet, is a new way of thinking necessitated by electric vehicles.
“With EVs there’s a new need to understand what’s going on with the vehicle when it’s not there,” Pleet said.
Ford isn’t alone in banking on drivers’ need to remotely manage their vehicles and their charging needs. A 2010 report from clean tech research firm Pike Research estimated EV IT – including data analytics, smart charging management and customer information management – will spawn more than $5 billion in investments by 2015.
Coulomb and ECOtality, two companies developing charging infrastructure and networks, created mobile apps to find and reserve charging stations.
Meanwhile, PlugShare, an app released in March by Bay Area electric vehicle software startup Xatori, is already claiming to be the country’s largest EV charging network.
PlugShare allows drivers to find places to charge their electric vehicles, both through listings of public charging stations and PlugShare’s network of people willing to share their electrical outlets.