IBM Research is working with EKZ, the electricity provider in Zurich in Switzerland, on a pilot project that will allow consumers to manage the charging of their electric vehicles using mobile devices. The IBM app, which runs on most smartphones, tablets and web browsers, brings together information from the vehicle, the utility provider and the driver.
Using the application electric vehicle owners can use their mobile device to check whether their car’s battery level is sufficient for its next journey. The app can also be programmed to start battery charging at a particular time, for example when rates are lowest or when a trip is planned.
IBM has developed the web-based app, which uses a data recording device created by the Zurich University. The device was installed in several electric vehicles to collect information on battery charge level, location and the power source. This monitoring capability not only helps the electric vehicle user, but also provides the utility with insight into energy generation and consumption, which can help to better manage power loads during peak charging times.
Electric vehicles can be used to buffer the irregular production of electricity from renewable sources and create a balance between supply and demand. The app even allows vehicle owners to delegate the responsibility of recharging the battery to the utility provider, which can schedule charges based on the availability of renewable resources, such as sun and wind. The pilot project transmits real-time production data from photovoltaic solar panels to the cloud service, so that the vehicle is charged when solar electricity is being produced.
In this way the project could help Switzerland achieve its goal of increasing the proportion of electricity produced from renewable energy by up to 10% of the country's present-day electricity consumption by 2030. (Approximately 55% of Switzerland's electricity production already comes from renewable sources).
In sounds futuristic, but it’s not. Smart grids are coming and electric vehicles are coming – there’s a significant inter-dependency between the two. And electric vehicle users will need to be confident about remaining vehicle range, when and where to recharge, costs, etc. Its ICT that will bring all this together in a familiar and easily accessible solution – there’s nothing that fits the bill better than a smartphone app. This is the sustainable future that is only really going to work thanks to green IT.
(PS The press release says that the system will ‘allow consumers to conveniently charge electric vehicles and monitor their energy costs using mobile devices’. Charge an electric car with a smartphone? That’s further off!)