California Utility Prepares for Widespread Use of Plug-In Cars

Pacific Gas and Electric, which provides electric power to 5.1 million California households and businesses, is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure for plug-in hybrid cars. PG&E has developed the technology to distribute 10 million so-called “smart meters” to customers, with the aim of encouraging them to recharge their cars during off-peak hours at lower rates and with less strain on the electric grid. Officials at PG&E are working on technology that would allow cars to communicate automatically with the grid to determine the most cost-effective time to charge. The advent of plug-in technology is one of several important factors — including the need to accommodate electricity generated by solar and wind power — driving the need to restructure and rebuild the U.S. electric grid.