Nissan dials iPhone for car remote control

An iPhone application allows for remote monitoring of battery levels and control of air conditioning in electric cars

Nissan has developed a prototype iPhone application that would allow electric car owners to dial into their vehicles and check battery levels.

The application, a working version of which was demonstrated by the company at its research facility in Yokosuka, Japan, links to the car's IT system to check the status of the Lithium Ion batteries that power the car.

Using it, owners will be able to monitor charging of their cars while away from the vehicles. The system could come in handy, for example, when cars are parked at public charging stations and owners want to fully charge the batteries before driving away.

In addition to the basic monitoring of battery level, more detailed information can be sent to the phone that includes the time required for a full charge and the approximate cost.

The information also includes the current temperature inside the car and that ties into a second function of the application: remote control of the car's air conditioning system.

That might sound like a random and perhaps strange function but it's all in the name of energy efficiency.

A driver returning to their car on a hot or cold day will typically blast the air conditioning or heater as soon as they start the engine and keep it going until a comfortable temperature is reached. That doesn't pose too much of a problem on a gasoline-powered car but on an electric car it contributes to battery drain, reducing the car's range.

However if the car is connected to a charger then it makes more sense to start-up the air conditioner or heater while still connected, making use of the electricity from the charging station, for those few initial minutes of high power use. With the iPhone app, owners will be able to switch on the air conditioning before they arrive back at the car.

The system is still a prototype and part of Nissan's research towards the 2010 debut of a production electric car in Japan and North America. The car will be unveiled on Sunday.

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Martyn Williams

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