By Volker W. Fricke and Clay Luthy
What would Scotsman Robert Anderson say if he could comment on the history of electric vehicles? As the supposed inventor of the first vehicle with an electric motor back in 1836 he might have been a bit frustrated over the triumphal procession of the combustion engine for the last 100 years. However the progress and raising interest in electric mobility in the last couple of years might put a smile on his face.
Driven by technology breakthroughs, increasing oil prices and a raising environmental awareness, electric vehicles (EV) are moving into the center of interest for consumers, enterprises and governments. For example, the European Union (EU) has set an ambitious goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 percent by 2050.
More specifically, Germany aims for a 40 percent CO2 reduction within the next 12 years – also with the help of one million electric vehicles on German streets by 2020. Even though electric mobility technologies have made significant progress, a number of challenges still remain: limited battery range and the lack of a consistent nationwide charging infrastructure – a factor significant to European drivers constantly crossing borders into new territories.
While IBM researchers are working hard in the Battery500 project to produce lithium air batteries with a range of 500 miles, IBM developers in Germany are bringing their knowledge and expertise into the EU sponsored project Green eMotion. Launched in March 2011, the project aims to lay the foundation for mass deployment of electric vehicles, Europe-wide, with the help of 43 partners ranging from technology companies, energy providers, electric vehicle manufacturers and universities.
The members are working to develop the systems, communications, and market models to help overcome the complexity of European electric mobility, such as grid control issues, international billing challenges and many more.
Imagine that you want to travel with your electric vehicle from Stuttgart, Germany, to Barcelona, Spain – a distance of approximately 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). To do it today, you would need to access a charging infrastructure that is part of a different utility’s electricity network, operated by a different charge point operator than the one you contracted with at home, and which potentially utilizes a different business model. This is not only a headache for the consumer, but also a management challenge for utilities.
What is needed is an information and financial clearinghouse which enables roaming between different charging point operators and energy grid providers, similar to the concept used today when using mobile phones abroad. This system would enable access to charge posts regardless of the operator, provide a transparent billing and payment system for your recharging bills, and provide end users the ability to locate charge posts among other services.
To make this happen, the Green eMotion project is implementing a cloud-based, pan-European B2B Marketplace demonstration that provides the critical services needed for seamless electric vehicle charging. The IT platform is based on open standards and protocols making it easy for participating companies to add future services without major development and integration efforts.
As a result, drivers will be able to charge their vehicles and pay in any location across borders and geographies, regardless of their energy provider. Utilities will also benefit, as the IT platform provides interoperable standards and payment support, reducing potential management issues with financial settlement and international conversion.
Today, about 2,000 electric vehicles are operating in the Green eMotion demonstration regions relying on a network of more than 2,500 charging points. The number of EVs will grow to about 70,000 in 2015, with the number of charging points increasing to more than 80,000.
The B2B marketplace is a major step into the electric mobility future of Europe. Robert Anderson would be proud.