07/13/2010 01:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Taking Charge of Building the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

While electric vehicle (EV) technology is being touted as cutting edge, history buffs know electric powered vehicles have been around for more than 100 years. In fact, in 1900, EVs were outselling steam and gasoline cars. Their top speed was only 14 mph and the battery range was 18 miles.

At the time, the only good roads were in cities and no one traveled very far outside towns, so EVs made sense for short term commuting. Eventually, a better system of roads, the desire to travel longer distances and cheap gas prices led consumers to choose internal combustion engines. More than 100 years later, things have changed and electrics are getting another look.

Today, the broader electric vehicle infrastructure is improving and it will play an important part in making electrified cars a more viable option. Current estimates place the number of public charging stations in the United States at around 2,000 units. Since these charging stations are only capable of fueling one vehicle at a time, there are hardly enough of them to serve a large number of EV drivers. Consider the comparison to the 160,000 gas stations around the country that can fuel multiple vehicles in minutes.

In recognition of the need to build up the infrastructure to better prepare our country for electric vehicles, we are seeing far more collaboration across public and private businesses and local, state and federal governments. Helping to fuel the momentum are government grants, funded through the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the Department of Energy. The result? Public charging stations are being installed at nearly 300 a month.

Automakers recognize in-home and public charging systems will be essential for the full-scale, practical adoption of electric cars. That's why we are partners in collaborative efforts to address infrastructure issues. Last month, Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with Coulomb Technologies to provide free in-home charging stations for some of our first electric vehicle customers under the Ford Blue Oval ChargePoint Program.

We at Ford also recognize there are other parts of the electric grid that need to be evaluated and readied for the mass market of plug-in vehicles. Today, in this country there are more than 3,000 utilities facing several challenges that emerge with electricity as a new fuel source. Both the automakers and utilities will want to meet customer expectations for electrified vehicles and how they are charged. To that end, Ford is pleased to be a part of several cooperative efforts with multiple utilities to seek solutions for charging standards, infrastructure and demand.

One area of real concern is the increase in demand electric vehicle charging could create on local electrical grids. Utilities, car companies and consumers understand managing demand will be important to all parties. That's why Ford and Microsoft are teaming up to use the Microsoft Hohm energy management application as a platform to help future owners of electric vehicles optimize the way they recharge their vehicle and better manage their home's energy use. The Hohm program will help EV owners determine when and how to most efficiently and affordably recharge battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. It also should help utility companies manage the added demands of electric vehicles on the electric grid.

Over the next couple years, chances are you will see electric vehicles on the road or a public charging station in your city. When you do, I hope you realize it represents more than new automobile technology; it represents a broad based collaboration and commitment to make our country's infrastructure better prepared to support electric vehicles.