Global giants Ford and Microsoft have confirmed a strategic partnership on electricity management, in a major announcement on the first day of the New York International Auto Show.

The two companies are to work together to develop energy management software for electric cars, which will allow consumers to closely monitor their electricity usage and recharge their vehicles in the most practical and cost-efficient way.

The partnership is likely to provide a significant boost to both home energy monitoring and the rollout of an electric charging infrastructure to support electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Ford CEO Alan Mulally described the announcement as a "needed step in the development of the infrastructure that will make electric vehicles viable."

The software, to be based on Microsoft's "Hohm" platform, will closely monitor consumers' electricity usage, providing electric vehicle users with recommendations on when to charge their vehicles. By aggregating usage patterns, the software will provide recommendations on conservation to save consumers money.

Critically, data will also be fed to energy companies to assist in supply planning. The predicted boom in electric vehicles and associated strain on the electricity grid is seen as one of the key challenges to developing an all-electric vehicle infrastructure that reduces reliance on fossil fuels. It is thought that the addition of an electric vehicle could double the energy consumption of a household if it is recharged daily.

"As the market for electric vehicles expands, it will have a significant impact on home energy consumption and demand across the nation's energy grid," said Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.

"With Microsoft Hohm, Ford and Microsoft will deliver a solution that will make it easier for car owners to make smart decisions about the most affordable and efficient ways to recharge electric vehicles, while giving utilities better tools for managing the expected changes in energy demand."

Ford currently plans an aggressive electrification plan, introducing five electric vehicles in North America and Europe by 2013. The Ford Focus Electric, to be introduced in 2011, will be the first car to feature Microsoft Hohm, initially in North America.

Search for used cars