International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) said it would partner with the U.S. unit of Honda Motor Co. (NYSE: HMC) and PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) to use the cloud for optimium charging of electric cars.

The goal is to use data analysis to determine the best times for car-charging, detect pressures on the power grid and conserve energy, the partners said.

It takes just four cars charging to cause problems on the grid, said Clay Luthy, IBM's global distributed energy resource leader in its energy and utilities sector, in an interview.

Because Honda expects to sell a lot of its new FIT electric vehicles (EVs) in California and Pacific Gas & Electric is the dominant utility in that state, both were anxious about how the rollout will work as drivers start to recharge their cars at home.

Honda designed into the FIT EV chips that transmit data back to the manufacturer, Luthy said. The data can be transmitted to PG&E and IBM for analysis. A simulation of as few as 3,000 cars should provide guidance to the power company about peak loads and off-peak times.

IBM will use simulations and other tools to predict increased demand loads, Luthy said.

Honda's data will be transmitted over the cloud to an IBM electric vehicle enablement platform, which will also know about the car's battery status to prepare charging schedules and advise PG&E.

We'll be using the pool of vehicles to set up a schedule , Luthy said.

3 Million EVs By 2017

The Armonk, N.Y. company will also seek to provide similar services to other car makers and utilities, he added.

Nearly 3 million EVs are expected worldwide within five years, so getting knowledge now about charging and patterns of usage will be helpful, the IBM executive said. Over time, it's expected there will be charging stations at businesses and in parking lots, so both drivers and power companies must anticipate demand.

Meanwhile, the Internet services provided by the cloud are essential, Luthy said. Without it, it would be impossible to collect as much data as anticipated for analysis.

The IBM executive declined to say how many people will work on the smart charging project or its cost. IBM spent $6.26 billion on research last year.

Shares of IBM rose $2.55 to $205.13 in afternoon trading, while PG&E shares gained 41 cents to $42.61 and Honda's American Depositary Receipts also rose 41 cents, to $36.44.