General Motors and Honda are joining an initiative that seeks to develop ways to use electric cars to stabilise electricity grids using cutting edge blockchain technology.
Honda, the first Japanese carmaker to work with the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI), and US car giant GM, join other carmakers BMW, General Motors, Ford and Renault, who along with 150 other organisations created the initiative in 2018.
Naysayers of electric cars commonly attempt to deride the future of electric mobility by claiming that too many EVs will place undue demand on the grid and require extra investment in electric power generation.
But there is potential for electric cars, which in their simplest form can be considered “batteries on wheels”, to be used in a way that actually helps to smooth the ups and downs of electricity grids as was noted in this report issued by Australian-based Evenergi last month.
While V2G (vehicle-to-grid) technology is already being developed by carmakers such as Nissan, the reality of connecting thousands, even millions, of electric cars to a grid requires sophisticated software.
One way of managing this complex process is using blockchain to exchange data between a smart grid and electric vehicles, a method that MOBI seeks to develop and which could also be used in the future to allow EV owners to earn money in return for storing power and exchanging it via a smart grid.
Headed by former CFO for the Toyota Research Institute’s Mobility Services, Chris Ballinger, MOBI hopes to transform the automotive and energy sector.
“Blockchain and related trust-enhancing technologies are poised to redefine the automotive industry and how consumers purchase, insure and use vehicles,” said Ballinger in a press release announcing the consortium’s establishment in May 2018.
“By bringing together automakers, suppliers, startups and government agencies, we can accelerate adoption for the benefit of businesses, consumers and communities.”
With the help of tech companies who are also part of the MOBI consortium such as Bosch, Blockchain at Berkeley, Hyperledger, Fetch.ai, IBM and IOTA, the carmakers will begin a joint study this month with a view to achieve this objective, it was reported by Nikkei Asian Review.
The initiative is a sign of the times; with a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week stating that peak petrol car sales may already have been passed. All involved carmakers have either already made inroads into electric car production (in the case of BMW and Renault) or, at the very least, are committing to going electric in the not-too-distant future (take GM, Ford and Honda).
Although blockchain has been met with a degree of skepticism due to hype around cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, it has the potential to deliver secure and decentralised data exchange for complex interactions such as grid management.
“We are convinced … that blockchains represent a real opportunity and will eventually break up the established, centralised market by making it possible to create more decentralized platforms and so give consumers more control over their data,” said Andre Luckow, who heads blockchain and distributed ledger technologies at the BMW Group in a statement on BMW’s website in February.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.