Automobile manufacturers everywhere are heavily reliant on electric vehicles as the world pushes for environmentally friendly modes of transport. For example, while less than 1% of cars on the roads in the US today are electric, some automakers are trying to change that by stopping sales of gasoline-powered cars.
In late January 2021, General Motors announced that it would cease sales of gas-powered cars and trucks until 2035. In addition, automakers like Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen, and even Porsche have announced plans to introduce new electric models in the coming years. At the same time, President Joe Biden recently announced an ordinance to replace the US government’s fleet of around 650,000 vehicles with electric models.
The desire to move away from gas-powered vehicles is clear, but that goal may be easier said than done. Despite the potential for clean energy, large silos exist today between EV solutions and global power grids. For example, more electric vehicles will certainly lead to the need for additional charging stations and careful utility planning to meet the needs of electric vehicles. Therefore, a digital, common frame of reference is required to integrate electric vehicles into global energy markets.
A blockchain network for EV integration
To demonstrate this, Energy Web, a non-profit organization focused on the energy transition through open source technologies, announced a partnership with Volkswagen Group Innovation, the research division of Volkswagen, to explore opportunities for the use of open source technology. Investigate software to integrate electric vehicles and charging stations into global power grids.
Jesse Morris, Chief Commercial Officer of Energy Web, told Cointelegraph that the company’s vision is to enable the digitization of Volkswagen electric vehicles or charging stations and be able to participate in any energy market:
“We’re talking about an environment in which drivers, fleet owners and charging station operators can be encouraged to charge (or not) at certain times of the day in response to network conditions.”
For example, Morris mentioned that if there was a local network congestion at a certain time of the day, Volkswagen drivers could be paid with either fiat or crypto to avoid charging during that period. He also indicated that this could also be done if there was a surplus of renewable energy in the market and utilities had to pay for electric vehicles to suck up the energy. “In order for such transactions to take place, assets such as Volkswagen electric vehicles and charging stations must be able to be seamlessly integrated into network operator systems. This is where our partnership comes in, ”said Morris.
Energy Web’s partnership with Volkswagen Group Innovation will develop and test open source software to enable participation in the electric market for electric vehicles. The pilot will test Energy Web’s open source tech stack with Volkswagen’s IT stack to find out how to most efficiently integrate all of Volkswagen’s assets.
According to Morris, once this integration is complete, it will be much easier to integrate Volkswagen’s assets into global energy markets. The pilot will also combine existing EV charging standards with Energy Web’s tech stack, including the ISO 15118 plug-and-charge standard, along with the PKI of Electrify America, one of the world’s largest EV charging systems.
Regarding the role of blockchain, Morris stated that digital identity is at the core of this entire integration. For this reason, Energy Web is working to determine the identity of assets such as electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, solar modules, customers, companies, network operators and other energy market participants. Morris said:
“These identities can be viewed as passports that have been assigned different authorizations. For example, an electric vehicle in California could not participate in a German energy market, as all of this would be tracked based on identities. With identities in place, it becomes much easier for those identities to integrate into a variety of different energy markets, each with their own local rules and regulations. “
Once assets have been assigned identities, these “digital passports” are anchored in a blockchain network. Morris mentioned that for the most part this will be the Energy Web chain, where any credentials associated with those identities can be verified. Morris stated that other business functions, like sending messages from electric vehicles to network operators, are done out of chain with other technologies. “This is basically how the Energy Web Stack works,” he said.
Blockchain could drive innovation between electric vehicles and power grids
While the success of the pilot is not yet certain, Marvin Schroeder, project manager at Volkswagen Group Innovation, said the company is interested in exploring the possibilities of blockchain technology for smart charging applications. “At this early stage in the EV industry, we have a great opportunity to shape and improve standards for integrating EVs like ours into markets around the world,” he commented.
This pilot project could be of great benefit to the Volkswagen Innovation Group in particular, as the company will invest around 35 billion euros in electromobility over the next five years. The group also plans to launch around 70 all-electric models by 2030. Other electric vehicle manufacturers could follow suit if the pilot succeeds, as Morris noted:
“If we are successful, the moment an electric vehicle rolls off the lot of a dealership, this car will be fully integrated into the energy system in the region. Customers can then be paid for their electric vehicles to balance the grid in near real time. ”
Even if the pilot gets positive results, market reform could be challenging. Morris pointed out that energy markets have taken a long time to develop over the years, which could hinder the adoption of new technologies.
While this is the case, Morris believes that market rules and regulations are changing rapidly and notes that the time is right for automakers like Volkswagen to adapt to these new markets. For example, Morris noted that initial demonstrations of such a solution will likely focus on a region like Germany, where Energy Web is already well represented. Germany is also driving innovation for the digital energy industry by using distributed energy resources and complying with the European Green Deal.
However, as with most blockchain solutions, there are no geographic limits to the work Energy Web does with Volkswagen. “We want all of their assets to be able to participate in low-carbon energy markets anywhere,” he said.