As of August 2016, the world population reached 7.4 billion and despite factors such as high death rates, the numbers are still rising exponentially. The UN estimates that the world’s population living in urban areas is predicted to grow 66 percent by 2050. Assessments like these have become a cause of concern for world leaders, government agencies, and environmentalists. Greener initiatives like electric vehicles (EV) are being proposed as viable solutions to decrease the carbon footprint.
EVs are considered more efficient and environmentally friendly, delivering roughly 59 – 62 percent of the electrical energy to the wheels. That’s over triple the 17 – 21 percent of total stored energy that is allocated to the wheels of conventional vehicles. EVs also provide smoother and quieter alternatives to internal combustion engines, don’t emit pollutants or hazardous waste, and reduce US energy dependence on foreign countries.
However, despite these benefits to the environment, the market for electric cars has remained sluggish. Limitations to battery-related challenges have placed a damper on the EV market. Driving range, recharge time, and bulk to weight ratios also place a burden on the consumers. These factors, coupled with the lack of affordable and seamless infrastructures, bind the EV market, but the industry could be streamlined and propagated with blockchain enabled charging stations.
On January 16, 2017, multidisciplinary and international firm, Blockchainfirst, delivered the first Peer-to-Peer (P2P) vehicle charging cycle over an Ethereum blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) charging station. The Ethereum-based multipurpose charging station includes unique features such as fast charging, electric motorbike charging capabilities, payment with digital currency, and an optional IoT oracle with environmental data sensors that monitor the following:
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Acoustic light
Blockchainfirst charging stations are also enabled for persistent data capturing, which means they are able to obtain exactly how much energy was used during a charging cycle. This makes it possible for suppliers to provide only what’s required - a feature that saves money and resources.
Last year, German blockchain startup Slock.it, partnered with energy giant RWE, to create Share&Charge. Both parties collaborated to give digital wallets the ability to “talk” to autonomous electric charging stations. These stations use Ethereum-based smart contracts to facilitate tasks like rentals, making deposits, and charging and obtaining payments. Share&Charge stations are reshaping the billing process of charging stations by offering a solution that would be universally compatible between countries. The project is currently available to the German market and Stephan Tual, CEO of Slock.it, states there are future plans to expand the service to “English-speaking countries."
A collaboration between financial magnate UBS, and German-based energy company, Innogy, along with the global leader in driveline and chassis technology, ZF, recently demonstrated a new eWallet for electric cars. The car eWallet is a paperless and eco-friendly alternative that uses the blockchain to authorize vehicle access to third parties. This enables users to pay on-the-go for highway tolls, parking fees, electric charging, and collection fees for car-sharing. There are also plans to integrate a charging infrastructure prototype in the near future.
According to a report by the multinational professional firm, EY, digital grid investments are expected to increase to an estimated $500 billion worth of investments in the next 5 - 7 years. According to Global Digital Grid Leader, Paul Micallef of EY Global Power and Utilities:
“Competition from new entrants is proving particularly disruptive to utilities, which are traditionally averse to risk and encumbered by regulation. Our survey results indicate that digital grids may be falling victim to this disruption, with 24% of utilities citing competition from non-utility entrants as a top three risk. While it is clear that utilities are feeling the pressure, some are grabbing the bull by the horns and investing in innovative solutions to meet changing customer expectations, drive growth and move toward the digital grid era.”
The EU is also creating more initiatives to make EVs more affordable and appealing to the general population. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association:
“Incentives for electrically-chargeable vehicles are now applied in many European countries. The incentives mainly consist of tax reductions and exemptions, as in countries such as Austria or Germany, and bonus payments and premiums for the buyers of electric vehicles in France and the UK.”
More incentives increase funds for research, development, and prototyping for blockchain-based energy sector projects that will assist the EV market. These funds could be used to finance projects that use the EV infrastructure and create Ethereum-based startups who wish to produce cleaner environmental alternatives.