IBM and EKZ make electric vehicle charging convenient with new smartphone app

IBM Research announced that it has joined hands with EKZ, an electricity
utility provider of the Canton of Zurich in Switzerland, for a new pilot
project that will allow consumers to charge electric vehicles and monitor their
energy costs, using mobile devices.

This near real-time information will also help utility providers better
manage power grid loads during peak charging times – a challenge that is set to
grow as more electric vehicles are on the road.

The pilot combines a Web-based application designed and developed by IBM scientists in Zurich and a data recording device created by the Zurich
University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW).

The device, roughly the size of a phonebook was installed in several
electric vehicles, including a Renault Twingo to collect information on the
vehicle’s battery charge level, location and the power source.

The device transmits the data via a cellular network to an IBM cloud
based on IBM BladeCenters running DB2 and WebSphere. This monitoring capability
benefits the user and provides utility providers with insight into energy
generation and consumption.

“Electric vehicles can be used to buffer the irregular production of
electricity from future renewable sources, which will contribute to the overall
stability of the electrical network,” said Peter Franken, head of the Energy
Distribution department of EKZ and executive management member.

The project has the potential to contribute to Switzerland’s energy
policy goal of increasing the proportion of electricity produced from renewable
energy by 5,400 gigawatt hours (GWh), or 10 percent of the country’s
present-day electricity consumption, by 2030.

According to the latest statistics available, approximately 55.6 percent
of Switzerland’s overall electricity production comes from renewable sources,
with hydropower by far the biggest contributor at more than 96 percent.

This service will make electric vehicles more attractive to consumers
by taking into consideration their preferences, while still factoring in cost
and overall convenience,” said Dieter Gantenbein, leader of the Smart Grid
research project at IBM Research – Zurich.

“In this pilot, the real-time analysis of supply and demand together
with a control algorithm will create a dynamic incentive for a sustainable way
to charge an electric vehicle’s battery, putting us another step closer to
establishing a cleaner transport system,” Gantenbein added.

The IBM app runs on most smartphones, tablets and Web browsers, and
provides an integration point between the vehicle, the utility provider and the
driver. Using a simple four-button interface the app shows the vehicle’s
battery level, range of travel distance, vehicle location, charge schedule and
current energy costs in real time. 

The IBM app also 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,
allowing the utility to improve load balancing and prevent outages. EKZ
believes this will be a value added service that will gain more significance as
electric vehicles become prevalent. 

By Team