Two small hacks around charging stations for electrical vehicles. As an avid motorcyclist, I'm aware I should switch to an electric motorcycle, but if I did so how far would I be able to go?
The main hack was a small iPhone app that uses scavenged data from two of the prominent companies installing points around the UK: Elektromotive and Pod Point. Elektromotive have a Google Map of all their charge points, which gives just a location. Pod Point go one better by having real-time information in a private API as to what the state of their charge points are (available, in use, offline).
I pulled these datasources together into an app that would help people with electric vehicles work out where and how far they can go:
![EVPointFinder app](http://emberapp.com/mdales/images/evpointfinder/sizes/m.png "EVPointFinder app")
By adjusting the range slider you can see where coverage overlaps sufficiently for your particular EV to enable longer journeys. For example, on a Brammo commuter motorbike it's possible to make it from Glasgow to Inverness, but not from Glasgow to Newcastle - indeed, if you have a shorter range EV you're going to be stuck on one side of the Scotland/England charge point gulf.
As a side effect from this, I was curious as to how many of the Pod Point stations are being used, so I set up a repeating process that prods the Pod Point API and puts the results into Timetric, so we can watch over time how they are utilised.
This isn't hugely indicative of overall EV charge point usage, as it's but one provider, but it'll be interesting to watch over the long term how widespread usage is (or isn't).
Work by Michael Dales
Ideas for taking this project forward
The app is a prototype, and would probably need a week or so of development to shore it up. The visualisations are useful as they are, but perhaps some ability to actually route plan would be useful - I need to get from London to Glasgow, my vehicle's max range is x miles, what route should I take?
At the moment I assume range is uniform, but presumably in stop/start traffic performance will differ to that of motorway cruising. Similarly, driving around the flats of East Anglia will produce very different ranges from the Peak District. The app's utility would be improved by taking these into account.
This was done as a mobile app to enable it to be useful for those with electric vehicles, but the visualisation itself is very useful, and could be made into a simple webapp. It's amusing to see how the road from Glasgow to Inverness is well catered for, but the main connections between central Scotland and northern England are not.
The risk with all this is the data sources. For this I scavenged the data via YQL - the data sources could go away at any point. It'd be nice to enter a dialog with the charging companies to make this data open, and to encourage people to follow the lead set by Pod Point in live status information.
Another further use would be capacity planning - by knowing where people are and where they'd like to be able to go, if this was a government sponsored app it could be used to collect knowledge for the Transport department to help plan EV charge point roll out.
Estimated costs for taking this project forward
A week's development time, plus a little UI work. An estimate of around two grand at professional rates. Perhaps something the Dept. of Transport might like to sponsor?
About the data used for this project
I used two sources of data - one for Elektromotive, and another for Pod Point. There may be other providers of charging stations, but these two were the only ones that made it obvious and easy to find where their charge points where.
Elektromotive store their charge point location information in a Google Map (they don't promote this link, but it's fairly easy to find from their site):
This is great, but lacks real time information about usage. It'd be frustrating to have to drive around a bunch of points in central London say, trying to find what is in use.
The internal Pod Point API is here:
This returns XML with the state of all their pods in (what I assume to be) real time. I query this via YQL rather than doing so directly, as it seems a nicer way of pulling the data whilst not having permission. Their data is excellent - and others should be encouraged to follow suit.
The main concern at the moment is that both these sources I had to dig to find out. I'll have to mail both companies to see what their position is on having this data open - I'd like to think it'd help promote their cause.
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