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10 November 2020

Project drEVen supports efficient smart grid operation during photovoltaic energy production

Can we determine the best timing for EV charging? Yes - based on photovoltaic energy production, storage capacity and market conditions, says Pedro Diogo in his interview with the IMET initiative. Pedro is Telecom RDI Manager at Ubiwhere, Tech Lead at EVektra and Head Of Software Development and Integration at Smartlamppost.com. 

Pedro Diogo

What is the drEVen project about? 

In short, drEVen is about managing demand for Electric Vehicles (EV) charging to support an efficient and balanced smart grid operation during peak photovoltaic (PV) energy production.

drEVen is an innovative idea by Ubiwhere, implemented under the second Open Call of the VICINITY project, funded by Horizon 2020. The motivation behind the project was Ubiwhere’s commitment to designing, building and implementing sustainable solutions, which either materialise in fully operational new products or new features of existing solutions. In this case, the intention was to create a new service to be exploited under initiatives such as Smartlamppost (smart and future-proof urban furniture, targeting always-evolving Smart Cities). However, the solution was proven to be very valuable to the market, resulting in the creation of a new startup called EVektra.

In a nutshell, Ubiwhere has created a solution which collects IoT data from sensors integrated into VICINITY’s platform and determines the best timing for EV charging, based on photovoltaic energy production and storage capacity as well as market conditions (grid energy injection). This way, EV drivers are incentivised to put the excessive energy production into fair use, by charging their vehicles from clean energy and at a reduced tariff. Through a dedicated mobile app which the drivers have to download, they receive notifications about the best period in which they can benefit from pure and lower EV Charging tariffs.

"In a nutshell, Ubiwhere has created a solution which collects IoT data from sensors integrated into VICINITY’s platform and determines the best timing for EV charging, based on photovoltaic energy production and storage capacity as well as market conditions (grid energy injection)"

The settlement and billing solutions are powered by an open and public Blockchain, adding transparency and trust into the process, through openly accessible and auditable Smart Contracts. Therefore, drEVen’s integration with the EV charging industry OCPP protocol (Open Charge Point Protocol), and the move to open and public blockchains, has enabled the basis for a completely decentralised EV charging ecosystem. All billing functions, settlements and agreements are supported by the mobile application, with an integrated cryptocurrency wallet.

VICINTY

What were the main results of the project?

The solution proved to be a valuable one not just for Smart Cities and EV Charging Operators, but all sorts of Mobility Service Providers and owners of OCPP-compliant EV charging stations. This confirmation showcases how any energy provider can double as EV Charging Operator, adopting any OCPP-compliant EV charging station, fostering a new decentralised circular economy. As a result, it unlocks a new revenue stream for these new players, enabling a higher use of electric transportation and motivating drivers of this type of vehicles to manage their energy consumption efficiently. Furthermore, it allows energy providers to balance the grid more effectively, ensuring the clean re-use of surplus energy.

As a follow-up, Ubiwere has created a new startup called EVektra which takes drEVen as the baseline, albeit being an utterly decentralised one. As such, it follows a C2C business model, when compared to drEVen’s B2C.

"DrEVen would charge entities with cloud hosting costs to run and maintain the software to manage all OCPP-compliant EV chargers. As these costs would be marginal (not to create an entry barrier), drEVen has been designed to profit by taking a fee from all transactions in this network."

drEVen would charge entities with cloud hosting costs to run and maintain the software to manage all OCPP-compliant EV chargers. As these costs would be marginal (not to create an entry barrier), drEVen has been designed to profit by taking a fee from all transactions in this network.

What were your main challenges and lessons learnt?

While the technical solution worked as intended, the main lesson learnt was that the adoption of public blockchain technology for direct payments might be more challenging to be accepted by the industry, given the existing regulation. This challenge was, in fact, the reason behind EVektra’s creation - to allow any person (not a legal entity) to transact in a peer-to-peer fashion when providing and consuming energy from different peers.

"...the adoption of public blockchain technology for direct payments might be more challenging to be accepted by the industry, given the existing regulation."

What do you need to scale up or replicate your solution?

We would be interested in replicating drEVen with other clean energy producers, allowing them to operate a network of EV charging stations which can deliver clean energy under the right conditions and at a lower tariff. There are multiple situations when this selling of clean energy for a low price is ideal, such as during peak energy-producing hours, when energy storing and transport costs are high or not efficient and when market prices are low. For this, we would need to interact with the right partner willing to integrate their ICT system with drEVen (which already exposes easy-to-use interfaces).

As a way to a more efficient scale up, we have adapted drEVen’s original business model and created EVektra, which breaks the typical barriers imposed by B2C business models in highly regulated markets and countries. For this reason, we need to reach communities which benefit from this need of having facilitated access to a decentralised network of highly-available EV charging stations.

What are your recommendations to policy makers?

We believe policymakers should be more active in promoting incentives or rewarding mechanisms for sustainable behaviours, within their communities, namely regarding the transportation of goods and passengers, as we are encouraging both in drEVen and EVektra. In order for such incentives to work and scale up, the implementation of these ideas must follow best practices in interoperability (and open standards) as well as in trust and transparency (from public blockchains).

Regardless of the procurement process, when acquiring this type of technology, public authorities cannot remain committed to the industry provider, which is only possible when complying with open standards, and promoting open interfaces for the data and services, both aiming at the implementation of the EV chargers, the incentives network and the data exchange between ICT systems and platforms.