The Renault-Nissan Alliance has been striking one deal after another with utilities and governments in recent months, revving up for the launch of its first electric vehicle in 2011. Today, with the announcement of a new agreement with French utility EDF to deploy a charge management system, we’re getting a glimpse of how at least one of the auto alliance’s planned car-charging networks will actually work. According to releases from EDF and the Renault-Nissan Alliance this morning, the state-owned utility has developed a secure system for transmitting sensitive data between vehicles and charging terminals — including vehicle identification and billing information — using power line communication.
Last year, when Renault and EDF first announced plans for massive EV infrastructure buildout, starting in France, the partners said they would jointly develop a commercial charging network — but kept the project open to third parties and eventually created an “Electric Mobility Operator” to manage the system. If all goes well in Renault’s trials with integrating the power line communication system with its vehicles (built with batteries produced by Nissan’s joint venture with NEC), it could be a key tool for other companies, such as Better Place and IBM, hoping to provide software for handling EV charging data. EDF and Renault aren’t providing many details about plans for the technology, but from the release it sounds like EDF plans to provide a system for sending sensitive data over its power lines securely. The idea is to allow companies to send and receive “digital signals via the power cable without the need for additional wires,” as Green Car Congress explained last fall when infrastructure startup Elektromotive started integrating EDF power line communication technology into its charging stations the UK.
Renault-Nissan has already teamed up with utilities in San Diego, Calif., Oregon, Ireland and Switzerland for similar projects, and also formed partnerships (some of them along with EV infrastructure startup Better Place) with national, state and local governments, including Portugal and Israel.
But while the Renault-Nissan Alliance has been leading the industry pack in striking deals for EV infrastructure development ahead of its 2011 launch, the next two years hold significant hurdles for the team. Today’s news about progress with EDF comes at a time when it faces mounting financial hurdles. As Reuters reports, Standard & Poor’s has just downgraded the automaker’s long-term credit rating to junk territory as a result of low demand in Europe — a move that could make it much more difficult for Renault to finance investment in new technology or infrastructure.
Electric vehicle infrastructure graphic courtesy Renault