Electric vehicle (EV) makers have found a new ally in their quest to make their vehicles gain traction in the market - Big Data. Today EVs are seen as the alternative to vehicles that burn fossil fuel and pump out harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. However, EVs have a long way to go before they can fully replace their traditional siblings. Recent media reports have suggested that most EV makers are finding little traction for their products.
One major barrier to their adoption is range anxiety, or drivers' fear of getting stranded on the road before reaching the next charging point. Another concern with EVs is whether aging power grids can hold up to the load when thousands of drivers plug in to recharge, especially during peak hours. Now, Big Data is helping automakers and other companies turn these challenges into opportunities.
EVs produce and store massive amounts of data, continuously, on battery charge rates, acceleration, location, tire pressure, etc. that is of great interest to EV makers. By crunching this Big Data automakers can get insights -- on driving and recharge patterns, driver behavior and battery performance -- that will help in the roll out of better vehicles with longer range. It will also enable the efficient roll-out of electric infrastructure to cater to EV drivers. These can give a shot in the arm for the popularity of EVs.
For example, understanding the psyche of the early adopters of EVs is crucial in addressing range anxiety and preventing recharging patterns that can tax and collapse power grids. So, these insights can be leveraged to, say, instruct drivers as to when to charge their EVs without taxing the power grid and at those periods of the day when power rates are low.
Real-time recharge data enables utilities to know how many EVs are plugged in a particular neighborhood, how long they would likely be charging and predict when drivers are likely to charge their vehicles.
A San Francisco startup that is building a network of charging stations across the United States uses such data to understand driver psyche and behavior. It has already made an interesting finding - EV drivers at big box retailers that offer free charging are spending twice as much time as normal customers at the stores.
A complete shift to EVs will be a long time coming without the requisite road and power infrastructure, apart from the technological changes involved. However, Big Data is helping global societies to accelerate the shift to cleaner, greener technologies.