Ford, Microsoft align to recharge cars

Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally smiles as he speaks to members of the media at the 2010 New York International Auto Show in New York March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co and Microsoft Corp on Wednesday announced an online application designed to help owners of Ford plug-in electric vehicles manage home electricity use while the vehicles recharge.

Microsoft Hohm will be offered to Ford car owners for free, the two companies said at the New York International Auto Show. Ford will introduce five electric vehicles by 2013, starting with a Transit Connect Electric later this year.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said the goal is “to make the electric vehicle viable, charging affordable and interaction with the utility grid smarter.”

The application will help vehicle and home owners decide when to power up electric vehicle batteries, in the hope that consumers will draw power from the grid at night, when energy use and costs are low, said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, speaking from a video hookup to reporters in New York.

The new service is “a significant step in the development of the infrastructure that will make electric vehicles successful,” said Ballmer.

The move also expands the link between Microsoft and Ford. Ford’s Sync voice-controlled communications and entertainment system is also based on Microsoft technology.

Ford has installed its Sync voice-controlled systems in more than 2 million vehicles since the company began offering the feature about three years ago.

Developed in conjunction with Microsoft, Sync is standard or optional on most U.S. Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models and offers voice command features and hands-free calling.

Editing by Derek Caney