How Blockchain will power the Electric Vehicle industry
4 minutes | 13 Dec 2018
Blockchain is a decentralised database. A record system based on Blockchain not only stores data transactions chronologically, but also uses a complex cryptographic signature to ensure that each transaction is irrevocably linked to the last one.
Users can make fast, secure transactions. It’s tamper-proof, which is why the financial industry were among the earliest adopters. According to a report from CompTIA, its uses are varied.
- 51%: digital identity
- 49%: asset management and tracking
- 49%: regulatory compliance/auditing
- 48%: distributed storage
- 45%: smart contracts
- 44%: cryptocurrency/payments
The automotive industry has been exploring and using blockchain for the last few years for its data accuracy.
Blockchain data insights are essential for:
- Maximizing vehicle resale value
- Determining spare parts’ authenticity
- Achieving increased accuracy and cost efficiency in insurance claim management
- Optimizing insurance operations
- Monitoring compliance with regulations and recommendations made by business partners
- Enforcing contractual relations
While this is relevant to electric vehicles (EVs), blockchain offers this niche industry even more possibilities.
Blockchain and condition monitoring
As cars are becoming more and more computerised, data collected from its instruments can reveal the history of the car. That data is even more critical with an EV because the battery – the costliest part of the car – is extremely sensitive to abuse.
Accidental or intentional misuse can lead to a battery being exposed to less than desirable operating conditions, impacting its performance. Blockchain can maintain an immutable record of the battery’s condition, which will help in estimating its ‘health’. That record then forms the basis of the contract between the battery supplier and the end user. If the battery doesn’t live up to how it should, the end user can point to the record. The contract actually replaces the warranties that we use today.
Insurers can look at the record, too, using it to calculate
premiums instead of making decisions based on educated guesses. It can also help dealers, who can more accurately price an EV for the second-hand market based on actual usage and operating conditions.
Blockchain and the grid
A report from Green Tech Media reveals that the charging infrastructure market is building upmomentum in an effort to serve the global electric vehicle (EV) market.
By 2030, 40 million public and private charging points will be added, while electric vehicles will make up 11% of new car sales, up from currently around 3%. In North America alone, 12 million residential and 1.2 million charging points will be installed, with California leading the way. Europe is expected to follow similar trends. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates EVs will lead in new car sales, with 55% by 2040, and account for 33% of the global vehicle market.
What does blockchain have to do with all of this?
To attract all those EV buyers, current charging infrastructure needs to be enhanced. This doesn’t simply mean faster charging solutions, but also the ability to allow EV chargers to be grid interactive, making EVs part of a better-connected, distributed energy network.
Blockchain and peer-to-peer sharing
The Blockchain in Energy, 2018 study reports that 59% of blockchain energy projects focus on developing a peer-to-peer (P2P) grid network. The idea is to cut out the middle man. Individuals and entities trade and buy excess energy between them, without a wholesaler, or central, organisation. Individuals who produce their own energy at home can trade it with others. Replacing retailers with a blockchain-based platform can reduce consumers’ energy bills by around 40%.
Blockchain can promote a larger and more efficient EV charging network, streamline energy payments and even configure maps of charging stations. With P2P EV charging platforms, people can make their chargers available to others when they’re not using them. In effect, their idle chargers become cash in the bank. EV drivers simply look for available chargers in the area and charge their cars before they run out of battery power. The homeowner decides the rate and the blockchain verifies what the driver owes and digitally transacts payment.
Blockchain and EVs: it’s already happening
The P2P charging market is pretty much an Airbnb for EVs, says Green Tech Media. Smart-charger start-up eMotorWerks in California uses the Share&Charge platform developed by another startup called MotionWerk. Share&Charge uses
blockchain to track the charging transactions and payment exchanges between customer and seller. It's already in use in Germany.
eMotorWerks doesn’t charge a fee for their service, which makes their chargers more affordable, because customers can earn extra cash for their chargers. Over a year, this can mean a real difference. According to eMotorWerk’s CEO Val Miftakhov, typical public charging rates come to $3 to $5 per hour. Now consider that the typical EV owner in California spends $1,000 on charging each year. “The revenue from renting out a charger could zero out that customer's annual EV fuel bill.”
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It also makes the idea of owning an EV more attractive. More available charging points address drivers’ fears about range, thus encouraging more uptake of EVs.
This approach can also help make new EV manufacturers competitive. Commercial charging stations are specific to car manufacturers such as Tesla, who’ve made significant investments in infrastructure. The more P2P sharing spreads with the use of blockchain among individuals, the better poised new entrants are to the market.
P2P charging: a short-term solution?
In the opinion of Power Technology Research, P2P charging is a great solution in the short to medium term only. More money is constantly being invested in commercial EV charging infrastructure. With more commercial charging stations, drivers can charge their EVs quickly, instead of relying on normally slow private charging infrastructure. “For now, blockchain is certainly going to act as a driver of increased EVs through P2P charging of electric cars.”
One aspect to consider is cost. If P2P charging saves drivers more money, some will be happy to put up with slower charging times.