Blockchain brings trust to EV charging systems

Researchers from the University of Waterloo have designed an EV charging system that uses blockchain to engender trust between all stakeholders.

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The team collaborated with an EV charging service provider that works with property owners to install EV supply equipment, which is then accessed by EV owners for a fee. However, it was found that trust among the parties was low, with no way of knowing if all sides were acting in good faith and honouring agreed payment terms. According to the study, an open, decentralised blockchain platform could ensure that EV owners did not overpay for energy and that property owners were fairly compensated by charging service providers.

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“Energy services are increasingly being provided by entities that do not have well-established trust relationships with their customers and partners,” said Christian Gorenflo, a PhD candidate in Waterloo’s David R Cheriton School of Computer Science.

“In this context, blockchains are a promising approach for replacing a central trusted party, for example, making it possible to implement direct peer-to-peer energy trading.”

Blockchains are essentially open digital ledgers where every transaction is both visible and immutable, so all parties have full knowledge of interactions which cannot be retrospectively amended. According to the Waterloo team, a blockchain system could be integrated with a legacy EV charging system with minimal changes. Their paper, published recently in the Proceedings of the Tenth ACM International Conference on Future Energy Systems, states that they are working with EV charging service provider SWTCH to roll out their solution.

“Mitigating trust issues in EV charging could result in people who have charging stations and even those who just have an outdoor outlet being much more willing to team up with an EV charging service provider resulting in much better coverage of charging stations,” said Gorenflo.

“In the end, we could even have a system where there is machine-to-machine communication rather than people-to-machine. If an autonomous vehicle needs power, it could detect that and drive to the nearest charging station and communicate on a platform with that charging station for the power.”

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