All vehicles are different, and electric vehicles are no exception. What makes their navigation different from others? We will dig into this question by looking at a few main points.
The State of Electric Vehicles
First, though electric vehicles are no new phenomenon – some of the first land speed records between 1898-99 were held by electrics – the recent green movement has raised their importance. The International Energy Agency has made calculations on how many electric vehicles we need to have by 2030 in order to keep greenhouse gas emissions at a safe level. These preferred scenarios quickly gained the support of governments, and many individuals jumped on board for a few reasons. Some feel responsible for the future of the environment, and others were motivated by financial assistance. Regulators introduced purchase incentives via tax exemptions and tax credits, waivers on parking and ferry fees, and access restrictions. Though we are only at the beginning of this journey, we can say the world is on track towards the IEA 2DS recommendations.
This has led to some quick growth which has resulted in a great push on standardization bodies and technology innovators; groups that sometimes seem to lag behind the needs. We can say the current electric vehicle landscape compares to societies in the middle of revolutions: there are quickly emerging and sinking stories with no clear picture of the future. Also, we can see patterns in to-be standardized connectors, transportation use cases, and driver habits.
It is also obvious that this chaotic picture is only temporary. When the dust clears, we will have charging stations similar to the ones that currently supply fuel: public, paying, and with no shortage of connectors at any location or time of day. Even Tesla announced they were to reduce free charging for Model S vehicles. We will also have new transportation habits as we get used to vehicle shortcomings by introducing new means of usage, such as car sharing, car renting, separation of city-wide commuting from long-range journeys, etc. Technological innovations are also expected to increase the current ~100 mile range and reduce charging time, though at the end they likely won’t be the same as what we are used to with gasoline-based power vehicles.
How Navigation Can Be Involved
Meanwhile – over the next 5-10 years – there is a great need for navigation support to reduce range anxiety and make the vehicles capable of taking on longer trips. It at least needs to enable people to get from one area to another for a vacation. This need is well supported by the vehicles’ build – the new electric vehicle platforms are all computerized with network connections. They’re full of sensors measuring the power train behavior, as well as changes in the environment.
- We want the navigation system to be aware of the nearby charging stations, their actual availability, and special access conditions (such as club membership needs, price conditions etc.). It would be even better to enable the reservation of the charging stations based on the arrival time – and do it in a clever way to reduce unnecessary blocking due to late arrival.
- The navigation system should be aware of the vehicle’s range and calculate it in a more sophisticated way than just averaging the energy consumption of the past hour or 100 miles. Range anxiety is reduced significantly by visualizing a trustworthy range and the charging stations within it. The vehicle energy consumption model should calculate with the drivers’ identity and driving style, as well as with external conditions like slope, weather, and historical speed.
- When taking the vehicle on a journey, it should calculate the available energy in its batteries and advise interim charging, if necessary. Charging station recommendations should be prioritized based on their power output (e.g. expected charging time). Low power output charging points should only be used when the journey is halted for a planned rest, or for a quick boost to reach a faster charger.
- Warnings are even more important when using an electric vehicle. They should already be in place during planning if the destination cannot be reached at all, or in cases when a return journey cannot be made without an additional charge. The driver should be warned when the optimal route to the last charging station is to be taken, and also at the point of no return. Reminders on optimizing vehicle settings need to be introduced.
- And finally, the power train should optimize battery usage based on navigation data (like exhausting the high power batteries before a descent).
Only the Beginning
These are just some of the many ways that computers can ease the life of an electric vehicle’s owner. A later blog post will elaborate on future transportation solutions that can emerge after the above basic needs are fulfilled.