Just a few weeks ago, IBM launched a nifty little electric vehicle charging demonstration project called the E-Mobility B2B Marketplace, which is designed to provide the business sector with seamless communication between electric vehicles owners, charging stations and electricity providers. Let’s emphasize that focus on the business sector, because until now most of the public discussion of EV technology has revolved around the consumer market. That’s especially relevant for issues like range anxiety and access to charging stations, which impact businesses just as much, if not more than consumers.
Unfortunately for us on this side of the pond, the B2B Marketplace project is located in Europe. However, if the demonstration can succeed in uniting different countries around a single EV charging platform, then it should have no trouble applying itself to a country like the USA, right?
IBM, EV charging and Green eMotion
The E-Mobility B2B Marketplace is part of the European Union’s Green eMotion initiative is a public-private partnership that started in March 2011. The idea was to establish a single, unified IT platform for charging electric vehicles across all countries in the region by 2015.
Though the goal sounds a bit ambitious, consider that you can literally gas up a typical vehicle anywhere in Europe, or for that matter, anywhere in the world, regardless of its manufacturer.
Green eMotion includes 43 partners along with IBM, including other global IT leaders such as Enel, SAP and Siemens. It is part of a broader clean vehicle initiative called the European Green Cars Initiative, which is designed to help the European Union meet its goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050.
IBM’s B2B electric vehicle project
The outline of the B2B project is fairly straightforward, especially when you compare it to the global unity of transaction involved in buying conventional fuel.
B2B is based on IBM’s cloud for businesses called SmartCloud Enterprise. It enables EV drivers to plug into a charger anywhere in the European Union and conveniently pay for the charge, regardless of who their home-based electric utility is. That makes EV charging as simple as paying for gas with a credit card.
According to IBM, when applied to electricity the concept is basically a shared network, like international roaming for mobile phones.
That’s a big relief for business fleet owners, and it also relieves utility companies from the burden of managing payments. The project also includes an analytic component that enables its partners to develop additional services as the EV market expands.
IBM and electric vehicles
As far as public awareness of electric vehicles and hybrid EVs goes, until now the main focus has been on the vehicles. Here in the U.S., that means a lot of attention paid to GM’s Chevy Volt and the Ford Focus along with Nissan’s Leaf and other foreign models.
The launch of B2B is perhaps a harbinger of things to come, in which EV owners will be just as conversant with the EV infrastructure as conventional car owners are with various brands and grades of gasoline.
IBM is already heavily involved in this behind-the-scenes EV market. In addition to its participation in Green eMotion, in 2011 IBM signed on to Ecogrid EU, a European smart grid project that aims to provide 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources. IBM has also been introducing innovative solar power projects at its facilities, one recent example of note being its India Software Lab in Bangalore.
Renewable energy generation is an important connection, since until recently, one hitch about EVs has been their reliance on an electricity grid supplied by a heavy dose of fossil fuels.
As for the prospects for a seamless EV charging infrastructure in the U.S., we’re not exactly laggards in that department. Among other recent initiatives from the public and private sectors, just last April IBM started up an EV charging partnership with Honda and Pacific Gas & Electric based on smart grid technology with an aim to maximizing use of renewable energy.
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