Transparent Charging Station

2017, for ElaadNL and Alliander - Democracy by Design

In the future, you will charge smart...

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 all 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 a 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.

...this will mean dividing and prioritizing between people.

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 to 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.

We will likely base these automated decisions on a variety of criteria...

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. Take for instance; a medical doctor. It makes sense to give this person charging priority, so there is no risk of having an empty battery when he or she needs to respond to an emergency. Another person may want to wait until midnight when the wind still blows but there is little demand for power. Or perhaps he or she has an agreement with his or her service provider to only charge the car when the electricity prices are low and not during peak demand hours — with the exception of emergencies. The number of factors we can easily program into the charging algorithm is endless.

..but this will lead to decisions that are hard to understand and might feel unfair or arbitrary.

What we need is the possibility to see what’s happening. How did algorithms divide the power between cars? An ability to hold someone accountable for the choices that were made.

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.

This project is a demonstration of how we can provide insight in how Smart Charging choices are made.

The big reveal

At Smart City 2017, the Transparent Charging Station was revealed by the major of Eindhoven.