Road Trip: The Journey to Electric Vehicle Charging At-Scale

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We are in the midst of a quiet revolution; the shift from an oil-based economy to one based on renewable energy sources. Nowhere is more evident than in the shift to electric vehicles and the creation of supporting infrastructure for electric charging. According to Research and Markets, the EV charging infrastructure market is expected to grow at over 30% from 2020-2026. Investments are taking place across both the public and private sectors in many countries. The whole infrastructure of fueling stations built up over a century is now set to be joined, and then eventually replaced, by automated, interactive and real-time based infrastructure for electrical charging.

In the early days of the automobile, drivers depended on information from service stations for route planning – you were not guaranteed to have a petrol station at every corner. In fact, free road maps promoting gas station locations appeared with the first drive-in gas stations in the United States in 1913. We are in much the same place today with electric vehicles but instead of an annually updated paper map EV drivers expect up-to-date information on charging station locations and real-time information on availability.

For drivers of EVs, it is vital to know the location and status of charging stations along their route; diverting to an alternative at the last minute might not be feasible. And, given the time it takes to charge, current availability and the ability to reserve time is also an increasing expectation.

Flipping our perspective, deployers of EV charging systems have their own list of needs from their charging stations. EV charging systems need to stay connected, be accessible for remote monitoring, management, and ongoing maintenance to ensure high reliability and lengthen their lifespan. If a station is showing as not operational, deployers need to act if there is an actual issue or if a connection issue means that a charger is not responding and hence is “mislabled” as non-functional. They need data from the EV charger to inform operational and business decisions, and they want to ensure high up-time on all parts of the system.

These needs of both EV drivers and deployers of EV charge points are pulling on all the capabilities of modern connectivity management, consumer application development and leading device management to deploy a distributed, data-centric, automated system.

Recently, Pelion joined a newly formed consortium led by Toshiba and the Data Communications Company (DCC), and including charging firm and chargepoint manufacturer Vestel, to address barriers to EV charging including security, interoperability and load management. Deploying EV charging networks at scale requires device management and a robust connectivity solution, and the consortium will explore the potential of bringing EV charging infrastructure onto a secured, unified and standardized national network.

Pelion’s solution applies its expertise in secure Internet of Things (IoT) device life cycle management and edge application orchestration to this proof-of-concept EV charging system. At this early stage in the pilot project, Pelion along with the partner organizations, will outfit a Vestal charge point at DCC’s Manchester testing facility with improvements to demonstrate how their tech can be used to create a secure, scalable and reliable national charging network.

The data gathered from this initial program will be extremely valuable in determining the best way forward to the rollout of nation-wide, unified EV charging infrastructure. Goals of the pilot include enhanced security to protect user information and to guard the system from cyberattacks, and the ability to make charging points more environmentally friendly by enabling the system to make full use of renewable energy sources. The true aim is to create a better, more seamless charging network to reduce driver hesitancy around moving to electric and to guide the UK into the era of the EV.

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