A few months ago I put together a proposition for a navigation app for drivers of electric vehicles. I submitted it for a competition that my employer ran. It didn’t win, but I’m clearly not the only individual thinking along these lines. Robert Sharpe of Evergreen Consulting is working on just such an application, and is surveying EV drivers to try to establish the potential. More information and a link to the survey here.
My own proposal is summarised below. Feel free to comment!
The Charge! application aims to get drivers of electric cars to their destination using the least energy, or in the shortest time. There are already apps in existence that show the location and availability of charging points, and a few that offer routing, but none is able to calculate the best route by optimising driving speed and charging times.
How will your idea work?
This app will use an algorithm similar to those that F1 teams use to work out their race strategy: the optimum speed and the number and timing of pit stops. It can use a generic vehicle profile, or provide a tailored route for a particular model by using data on the vehicle’s power consumption at different speeds and the rate of charging at different states of charge. By knowing the vehicle model, the app can select only charging stations that have the appropriate connector. As well as offering the fastest route, the app will also allow the user to select the route with the lowest overall energy consumption. For this to work really well, it needs to supplement the usual road network data with information on gradients. Weather is also a factor that optionally could be taken into account.
Circumstances change en route, of course, and the app will recalculate the best strategy on the fly using the latest data. For example, it might advise the driver to slow down in order to avoid having to make an extra charging stop or, worse still, running out of power. (Yes, this has happened to me!)
What problem does the app address?
Electric vehicles (EVs) are quick, quiet, relaxing to drive, and cause no local pollution in use. Studies show that electric vehicles have significantly lower ‘well-to-wheel’ carbon emissions than internal combustion engine cars, even after the effects of building and recycling batteries are taken into account. As the energy generation mix becomes greener, so will EVs.
Sales are growing rapidly, but are inhibited by potential customers’ concerns about running out of power unexpectedly – a phenomenon known as ‘range anxiety’. This is a real deterrent, even though the typical range of 80-100 miles comfortably accommodates the vast majority of daily use for most people. For the foreseeable future it will not make economic sense to build batteries to give a range of 300-400 miles, because most of that capacity would be unused for much of the time and the additional weight would itself increase power consumption. Consequently there remains a need for EV drivers to charge en route during longer journeys. Working out how to do this most efficiently is a major headache, for which the Charge! app is the analgesic.
What help do you need?
The success of this project depends on a combination of quality road network data, superior coding skills and partnerships with operators of charging networks and vehicle manufacturers.