Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars?

Q: I'll repeat the question - Do androids dream of electric cars?

A: I don't know, but I do.

With apologies to the Philip K Dick novel that inspired Blade Runner's spinners (air cars), while they may not fly, the propulsion systems of mainstream automobiles are about to undergo a major transformation. Over the next few years our everyday vehicles are poised to make the leap from Popular Science to Car and Driver. But the implications for critical electrical infrastructure go far beyond quiet motors and cleaner air; the grid itself will transform to accommodate the new loads, and grid IT systems will be upgraded to take advantage of some exciting new grid management capabilities Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) will enable.

To whit, see the North American ISOs and RTO's "Assessment of Plug-in Electric Vehicle Integration with ISO/RTO Systems." Below are a couple of security related snippets from this report, but the whole thing makes exciting reading for anyone interested in building and/or using the energy future.

Recommended standard communication interfaces:
  • DNP3
  • ICCP or IEC 60870-6/TASE.2
Recommended encryption standards:
  • Secure ICCP
  • Secure DNP3; compliant with IEC 62351-5 for Secure Authentication
  • HTTPS with digital certificates
The authors make it plain that there's a ton of work to be done and that these are just a few baby steps when they note:
In addition to the identified communication interfaces and security requirements (including standards in development for smart grid and the NERC CIP 002-009 Standards), there are other integration requirements either not covered or partially covered by existing standards or developing standards.
Jack and I will be beating a drum ... and watching ... to make sure software security requirements get prioritized. But from complex systems and business process engineering perspectives, not to mention the attention paid to interstate coordination and market signals:
Because PEVs are mobile loads, and because aggregators will serve as liaisons between PEVs and ISO/RTOs, consistency across ISO/RTOs is a concern. As such, standard processes, including validation and settlement processes, and common communication protocols, including security requirements and communication interfaces, are desirable. Therefore, the project team recommends continued participation by the IRC in ongoing standards development, such as with SAE, NIST, NAESB, IEC and IEEE. The project team also recommends ISO/RTO investments in IT and communications infrastructure to meet the unique needs of PEV resources and aggregators and ultimately to enhance system reliability and enable participation of PEV resources in ISO/RTO markets.
It may not be a moon shot, but the scale of this project, especially when as we go from hundreds, to hundreds of thousands, to many millions of electric cars, sometimes seems similar. Suffice it to say, keeping it all secure, while getting all the other parts right, will be a grand challenge.

Photo Credit: Tesla Model S at

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