IBM and ESB pioneering a smart charging IT system for electric vehicles in Ireland with Peter O’Neill, IBM country general manager Ireland; ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty; and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, TD, launching details of the project.

For years (literally) I have been griping and whining that vendors and utilities are spending too much time on electric vehicle hardware and not enough on smart charging. Smart charging, after all, is what can unlock the benefits of EVs for consumers and utilities alike. Smart charging is essential if we want to use EVs to take advantage of late night wind energy, for example. And if we want to avoid excessive peaks and other potential EV problems.

My power engineering friends tell me that I’m some combination of impatient and naive. That the industry first had to settle on the easy stuff like plugs and basic standards. THEN they could get to work on smart charging.

Here’s one example of progress: IBM is working with ESB ecars to set up a smart charging infrastructure in Ireland that will manage about 1,000 public charging points. Much of the effort is around payment options and infrastructure monitoring, but some of it touches on the utility-side software needed to properly manage EVs when they start to show up in volume. If successful, it could become a template for future, larger EV infrastructures.

According to the announcement (which you can read on page 2), the IBM EV platform will connect ESB Networks with the energy retailers and the charge-points, allowing all three to communicate energy usage and financial data directly, providing the analytics and intelligence needed to better forecast and balance the load on the power grid.

“Infrastructure readiness and consumer acceptance are and will continue to be imperatives to the success of electric vehicles, however the industry must now focus on the management aspect. It will be how we support EV market growth from an interoperable and scalable level,” noted Allan Schurr, Vice President, Strategy and Development of IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities Industry.

“For utilities, this project tackles both front and back office operations by addressing business services such as billing, yet at the same time, also provides continued access to real-time data needed to monitor and forecast the impact on the grid,” Schurr added.

Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry’s oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.