In a study at the University of Waterloo, researchers found that there is a lack of trust among charging service providers, property owners and owners of electric vehicles. However, the team believes a blockchain could resolve these issues.
According to the scientists, an open blockchain platform could allow all parties to access the charging data to ensure that it has not been tampered with. Using a blockchain-oriented charging system will, therefore, allow electric car owners to see if they are being overcharged while property owners will know if they are being underpaid for providing access to the charging station.
Moreover, there is a third element to this equation as “energy services are increasingly being provided by entities that do not have well-established trust relationships with their customers and partners,” explains 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.”
The study builds on the cooperation with an unnamed EV-charging service provider, that works with property owners to install charging stations which EV owners can use for a fee. The revenue stream from these charging stations is then shared between the charging service provider and each property owner. However, the property owners must trust the provider to compensate them fairly for the electricity used when utilising the provider’s equipment.
The case study led the researchers to identify three steps necessary for the incorporation of blockchain technology into an energy system. The first is to establish whether there is a trust issue that hinders the execution of the service.
If there is, one needs to design a minimal blockchain system, including smart contracts, that resolves the trust issues identified in the first step.
Finally, with the trust-mitigating blockchain in place, the rest of the system can be migrated iteratively over time. This allows the business model to eventually grow from a legacy/blockchain hybrid into a truly decentralized solution.
“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,” said Gorenflo.