Electric Cars Get Connected


It looks like EVs (electric vehicles) of the future will be connected to much more than a charging station. Automakers Audi, GM, and Ford all have recently announced plans to add a wide range of connectivity services to future EV designs.

“What you are seeing here is that the ideas of electronics, lifestyle, and automobiles are becoming ever more closely tied,” said Rupert Stadler, Audi’s chairman of the board of management, in a keynote speech at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “In part, that is because mobility will require sustainability, especially in the future. That’s why we’re investing heavily in hybrid and electric vehicles that meet the whole range of consumer driving needs.”

In his keynote, Stadler introduced Audi’s MMI touchpad, a mobile Internet computer specifically tailored for the automotive environment. In addition to providing access to infotainment, the pad also has voice recognition capabilities, including voice search for points of interest with Google. In every other aspect of our lives, the internet and all it has to offer has become increasingly mobile,” Stadler said. “For the first time, we’re making the internet mobile in an automobile.”

At a press event attended by Connected World, GM showed off its Xiao concept car, which had several connected features. As part of a demonstration, two Xiao cars used GPS with vehicle-to-vehicle communications to follow each other’s path without the driver needing to navigate. Other connected features included the use of realtime traffic info to allow the driver to select the fastest route; wireless communications where drivers and passengers can talk hands free; and some video technology associated with distance-sending features.

Ford used CES to announce a new partnership with Airbiquity, www.airbiquity.com, which will serve as its systems integrator, providing both connected vehicle services and infrastructure for the automaker’s EV programs. Although no specific plans were announced by Ford, Airbiquity specializes in “green” vehicle solutions, which use advanced connected technologies for environmental sustainability, such as improving fuel economy and lowering CO2 emissions.

The looming question, of course, is if adding more features to an already expensive, emerging market is a smart move. Recent research from Zypryme, www.zypryme.com, indicates it may be. The group claims consumers who are interested in buying electric vehicles are also be more likely to want connected features.

According to the research and consulting firm’s “The Electric Vehicle Study,” more than one-third of respondents said they would buy an EV in the next two years. The firm also reported these potential EV drivers were more inclined to be involved in online activities, use technology to enhance their driving experience, and use a smartphone. In fact, 20.5% of them owned an iPhone, according to the study.

Regardless of whether or not connected EVs will become mainstream or a high-end niche, it seems pretty clear that they are indeed coming. And we are excited to see them.

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June/July 2014
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