By David Kligman
SUNNYVALE — Software game developer John Hwang and his family badly needed a new car.
The Silicon Valley resident had been driving a Nissan Maxima since he was in college. Now, 16 years and 200,000 miles later, it was time for something new.
After much research last spring, Hwang and his wife fell in love with the Chevy Volt, an extended range electric vehicle.
Hwang figured out how much money he could save in gas even with the cost of the extra electricity to recharge his car’s battery. Then Hwang had an idea. What if there was an easier way to help car buyers determine the net fuel cost savings for driving an electric vehicle?
He and his business partner Jeff Tarn began working on a website called PEV4me.com. The site uses real PG&E customer information accessed via a green button on the utility’s website.
“This app is really for the potential electric vehicle owner—someone who’s in the market for a new car and trying to figure out whether an electric vehicle makes sense or not,” Hwang said. “But it’s also really relevant for new electric vehicle owners who are trying to figure out which PG&E rate plan makes sense for them.”
Hwang entered the app in the nationwide “Apps for Energy” contest. The app caught the attention of PG&E Chief Information Officer Karen Austin. Earlier this month the PG&E leader invited Hwang to join her at the White House for a special Department of Energy program.
PEV4me is available for use now. It’s just one of the apps that will soon be available to PG&E customers who want to use their devices like smart phones to help control and monitor their energy usage.
“PG&E is very excited for the app developers out there to build solutions that leverage our interval data for our customers and mash that with a whole host of information,” Austin said. “We’d love to see the creativity grow and be used to make our customers much more aware of their usage and be more efficient in their energy usage.”
Before he turned his attention to electric vehicles, Hwang created car racing and aquarium games for Facebook and smart phones. He says those were fun creations. But he hopes this new venture will have a decidedly greater impact on the world—helping Americans reduce their dependence on foreign oil.
“I really wanted to do something to help the world a little bit more and hopefully make some money,” Hwang said. “But money was no longer the key driver. It was more about building something that I felt like was going to actually help change the world.”
The Volt can drive about 35 miles on one battery charge before a backup gasoline engine kicks in, meaning that with the right planning you may never have to fill the tank with gas. In fact, Hwang hasn’t filled up since he bought the car six months ago.
Said Hwang, “I don’t even know where the switch is to open the gas cap because I’ve never even filled up since I’ve owned the car.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.