eMobility

More than a hundred years ago, pioneers like Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla laid the foundation for the electrified world we know today. Thanks to global electricity networks, electricity is now everywhere. Lights, household appliances, power tools, industrial equipment, computers, and trains – the world would grind to a halt if we didn’t have electricity. The automotive industry is one of the few remaining industries that have thus far resisted electrification, relying for decades on fossil fuels instead.

And there is still uncertainty about whether the future of the automobile really is electric. There are some positive signs on the horizon: Toyota has successfully pioneered the hybrid car, and Tesla Motors is seen by many as the poster child for the eMobility movement. By early 2015, nearly every large OEM had unveiled an all-electric car, from the BMW i3, Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Mahindra Reva, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, Volkswagen e-Up! and e-Golf, to name just a few. With over 150,000 units sold by the end of 2014, the Nissan Leaf is leading the field by units sold. In total, approximately 350,000 all-electric cars and utility vans were sold by the end of 2014 [JC1]. However, when compared to the approximately 70,000,000 conventional cars sold worldwide in 2014 [ST1], this figure is still pretty insignificant.

Small (and even large) fortunes have also been lost in the race to develop next-generation energy sources and distribution systems for electric cars. Better Place spent approximately US$850 million of private capital on attempts to build up a network of battery re-charging and swapping services for electric cars – without success. The stakes in this global game are high. OEMs that are too slow off the mark risk losing out on sizeable market share, while those who bet on the wrong technology run the risk of massive write-offs. For example, Tesla announced that it would invest US$5bn in the construction of a vast battery plant with the goal of producing 500,000 car batteries annually by 2020 [AN1] – an investment viewed as very risky by some [WSJ1].

Despite these risks and the much-slower-than-predicted increase in the number of electric cars on the road, there is still a lot of movement and optimism in this space. The consensus from CES 2015 seems to be that the future is not just autonomous driving, it is electric driving.

Which brings us on to our next discussion, in which we will look at some of the more important aspects of the electrification of automobile transport, such as charging, vehicle management, billing, and cross-energy management; all of which are primed to play a major role in the Internet of Things. For simplicity, we will also use the abbreviation EV for Electric Vehicle.

EV Charging Services

The mileage that can be achieved by current car and battery technologies ranges between approximately 76 miles/122 kilometers (Ford Focus Electric) and 265 miles/426 kilometers (Tesla Model S 85 kWh) [WC1]. One of the main success factors for the widespread adoption of EVs will therefore be the development of widely available networks of EV battery re-charging or swapping services. In some cases, vendors themselves have started building these re-charging networks. For example, Tesla’s supercharger network numbered almost 200 stations worldwide in 2014 [WI2]. Charging speed is an issue here too, because nobody wants to wait for hours before being able to continue their journey. One way to address this is to speed up the charging process (as Tesla has done); another is to look at physically swapping batteries. As we’ve seen, Better Place already failed to deliver this, and other companies like Tesla have made various U-turns in their plans to introduce battery-swapping stations.

From an IoT perspective, the integration of charging stations has multiple interesting angles. First of all, there is the question of integrating the charging station into the communication network. For example, the charging station must be able to identify the driver and their vehicle, it must then be able to validate the driver’s credentials and account details via a backend system before the charging process can begin. In return, many different backend applications also require access to the charging stations, in order to access the station’s status plus the battery load level of currently connected cars, for example. This means that the charging station acts as an intermediary between the car and the backend. One obvious use case that would require this kind of access is shown in the figure below. This app can be used by EV drivers to easily locate charge spots across different charge point operators, directly start and stop the charging process – without the need for cumbersome RFID cards – and last but not least, process payment directly via PayPal.

According to Daniela Hartmann-Ege, Vice-President of Bosch Software Innovations, “Electric driving has huge potential to contribute to clean, hassle-free mobility especially in urban areas. An interconnected public charging infrastructure based on the eRoaming initiative would be one way of overcoming range anxiety and increasing general acceptance of electromobility. This is a perfect example how IoT solutions can help enhance quality of life.”

For more information about another, perhaps less obvious, use for this kind of information, see the chapter on Cross-Energy Management.

IoT solution "Public Charging Easy to Use" (Source: Bosch Software Innovations)

IoT solution “Public Charging Easy to Use” (Source: Bosch Software Innovations)

eRoaming

Another challenge in the area of EV charging is the fact that most EV networks are limited in geographic coverage. So it is very likely that EV drivers will have to use charging stations from different charge point operators, especially if traveling away from their home town. Similar to mobile phone networks, customers expect to be able to have one contract with one dedicated network operator, but the ability to use other networks if necessary – without having to register with multiple operators or deal with multiple invoices. In the telecommunications world, this is dealt with through roaming. In exactly the same way, establishing EV roaming for customers across multiple EV charging networks makes a lot of sense.

This is exactly what Hubject has set out to build – a roaming network called “intercharge everywhere” that supports roaming between charging station operators and eMobility service providers. The company is actually a joint venture between BMW, Bosch, Daimler, EnBW, RWE, and Siemens. Hubject’s goal is to build an open platform that enables easy interconnection between the different stakeholders in these emerging mashup charging networks.

The figure below shows the main partners and stakeholders, and the interfaces between them. The eMobility provider makes a contract with the customer. The same provider also enters into a contract with Hubject, thereby simultaneously entering into a contract with all the various charging station operators. The Hubject platform then acts as a hub between the operator and the provider, ensuring smooth, secure integration between the various stakeholders.

From an Enterprise IoT point of view, this is an interesting scenario because it is an example of one of the advanced cases where the IoT solution integrates multiple different stakeholder organizations as well as the assets managed by these organizations (for more information, refer back to our discussion in the introduction about M2M versus IoT versus Enterprise IoT).

“intercharge everywhere” partner network

“intercharge everywhere” partner network

EV Remote Management

The electrification of vehicles doesn’t just have an impact on engine design and energy efficiency. Many see vehicle electrification as an opportunity to re-invent the architecture of the car as a whole. As a pioneer in this space, Tesla’s cars have often been described as being more like a PC with added driving capabilities. One important point to note here is that connectivity in electric vehicles is simply assumed, and many features – such as the connected dashboard and remote management capabilities – are designed around this assumption.

Another interesting example in this space is the Mahindra Reva car. While Tesla addresses the high-end market for electric vehicles, the Mahindra Reva positions itself as an urban, electric micro-car. The Reva also comes with built-in connectivity, which provides customers, dealers, and operators with real-time insight into car status and performance. An example of Reva’s web dashboard is shown in the screenshot below.

Reva customer portal (Source: Tech Mahindra)

Reva customer portal (Source: Tech Mahindra)

This solution monitors the health of the electric vehicle and helps field support staff to identify the root cause of potential problems. It also enables customers to access information about the vehicle as well as allowing remote access to certain parameters.

The solution is integrated with a number of different backend systems. An ERP system provides vehicle information such as the vehicle identification number (VIN) and battery information, for example. The Dealer management system (DMS) provides customer information. A web application provides access to customer-specific information/operations in the vehicle such as its status, dealer locations, charging locations, remote charging, heating and ventilation, air conditioning, and climate system (HVAC), etc.

It also provides status information about battery life, range, nearby charging stations, and remote vehicle operations like door locking and HVAC. It can also manage the vehicle’s reserve charge. Key parameters for vehicle health are also provided (135 vehicle level alerts handled) to support diagnostics and troubleshooting. Vehicle event replays provide complete transparency over the entire vehicle history. An overview of the system architecture is provided in the figure below.

AIA for Reva Remote Management

AIA for Reva Remote Management

EVs and Cross-Energy Management

One last point we’d like to mention in relation to EVs is their ability to provide energy storage capacity when not in use. Take Tesla’s Gigafactory project, for example. Tesla are predicting annual battery production of approximately 50 GWh per year. This is a significant amount of energy storage capacity. Again, this is very interesting from a Cross-Energy Management (CEM) perspective, which relies on energy storage mechanisms to help balance out supply and demand between energy consumers and different, mostly renewable energy sources. For a detailed discussion on CEM, see the Smart Energy section.