Transparent Charging Station

A charging station for electric cars that is completely transparent in the way it distributes energy and the choices that are being made in this smart charging process: that is exactly what the Transparent Charging Station demonstrates. Because you have the right to know who's in charge!

What
The Transparent Charging Station functions as a demonstration of how we can provide insight in how smart charging choices are made. The partners in this project created a physical prototype of a Transparent Charging Station that shows how much power is available and how it is divided. In this way, the end user can see what happens, which choices are made and whether this is fair.

Why
In the future, the majority of cars will be electric. Streets will become quieter, the air cleaner, and the environment will benefit from this change. But charging all these electric cars at the same time and at the same rate will be impossible because the capacity of the electricity grid is limited. Also, there will be a need to charge cars at time when sustainable energy production peaks, using 100% of the energy produced by the wind and the sun. Smart Charging – using IT to plan and coordinate the moment and amount of charging – will help us tackle these challenges.

Sometimes demand for charging will be higher than the grid and energy system can accommodate. In those cases Smart Charging algorithms have to find a way to distribute the available power. An equal division is probably not the most optimal approach. Let’s imagine there are two people who want charge their car. One person needs to use it on the same day while the other person doesn’t need it until the following day. It makes sense to serve the most urgent need first. This means that some people’s cars will be charged earlier and with more capacity than others.

But why only take into consideration the time people need to leave? We can surely improve the workings of the algorithm by incorporating more factors. The number of factors that can easily be programmed into the charging algorithm is endless.

The problem with this system is that it might leads to decisions that are hard to understand and might feel unfair or arbitrary. We need the possibility to see what is happening. How did algorithms divide power between cars? We believe transparency with smart charging algorithms is necessary to solve this problem. By being transparent about the parameters it takes into account, and the output it produces, citizens can determine whether this algorithm performs fairly and in their interest.

How
The experts in this project created a physical prototype of a Transparent Charging Station. This station can be used for public demonstrations. It creates insight in and awareness of the importance of transparency and creates discussion about the problem and makes the solution tangible.

When
The Transparent Charging Station is created in 2017. The station is currently still used for demonstration purposes. The partners are discussing about a follow up where the Transparent Charging Station can be used in practice.

Who
The Transparent Charging Station is an initiative of Alliander, ElaadNL and the The incredible Machine.

Click here to see the Introduction video.

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