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E-Vehicle Charging Stations Powered by Microsoft Azure Cloud Services

1/30/2018
Benefits
  • Management platform for e-vehicle (EV) charging station staff to oversee the status of charging poles, the charge level of batteries, and the availability of equipment 
  • Remote and real-time monitoring control platform for management centers to oversee the status of charging stations and related equipment through the visualization of real-time data, historical trends, and statistics
  • Big data analytics on key metrics (e.g., equipment availability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness) for policy makers to derive insights into their business and facilities aimed at improving strategic decisions on charging point deployment 
  • Easy-to-use apps that can help drivers locate nearby charging stations and view information on their vehicle’s battery charge/discharge status

Introduction

Recent carbon reduction initiatives in Europe, the world’s largest economic bloc, have raised speculation as to whether this will mark the end of fossil fuel-powered automobiles. Specifically, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal requiring a 30% reduction of average carbon emissions from both passenger cars and vans within the decade starting from 2020. Going further, the U.K. government has announced an even more ambitious plan to ban all diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040, following similar commitments made by several other European countries, although under different time schedules.

In all certainty, automakers will have to accelerate the adoption of zero- and low-emission vehicles. If the internal combustion engine is to be phased out and the electric engine is to become the alternative, then owners of battery electric cars or plug-in hybrids will expect public charging stations to be ubiquitous for them to make the switch, or otherwise it would be inconvenient for them do so.

In an effort to be ahead of the curve on this trend, Advantech and Microsoft have jointly provided a solution to one of Europe’s charging station projects. Advantech’s rugged and compact fanless computers, which come with Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Services, have been deployed at solar-powered charging stations to provide a convenient platform for public EV charging stations to connect all of their devices to the cloud. The solution is intended to enable remote monitoring, control, and management over the charging points from a central control room.

Requirements

Solar-powered public EV charging stations are pavilion-like structures with roof-mounted solar panels that supply power to the charging poles. Some EV charging stations occupy a corner of existing gas stations, which are usually located in or near areas where the traffic flow is relatively high. Solar-powered public EV charging stations are pavilion-like structures with roof-mounted solar panels that supply power to the charging poles. Some EV charging stations occupy a corner of existing gas stations, which are usually located in or near areas where the traffic flow is relatively high. 

This project requires numerous digital meters and sensors to be deployed at each charging station to collect data on solar power generation/consumption, the operational status of each charging pole, and environmental conditions at the filling stations—especially those where gas pumps are present. An IoT gateway is also needed at each station for data collection, conversion, and wireless upload to the cloud.

Solution

Deployed at each charging station as an IoT gateway is Advantech’s UTX-3117 fanless computer, which features a small form factor, rugged design, and wireless support, all of which make it particularly suitable for outdoor applications. The UTX-3117 is deployed with Advantech’s WISE-PaaS Edge Intelligence Platform and Microsoft Azure Cloud solutions, which can be easily acquired through the online WISE-PaaS Marketplace. In this case, the customer purchased Azure IoT Hub, Stream Analytics, and Power BI with the aim of realizing IoT-based centralized management for their EV charging station network.

Azure IoT Hub is an easy-to-use, secure, and reliable tool for connecting edge devices to the cloud. It is particularly useful for larger networks with many end devices because it is assigns a unique IP address to each connected device, thus ensuring complete data traceability. Azure Stream Analytics can then be used to evaluate data, streamline the dataflow, and forward data packets to a cloud database, intelligent dashboard, or management reporting system. The main benefit of this is a potentially marked improvement in bandwidth utilization, which can also reduce costs. Finally, Azure Power BI is a convenient tool for system integrators because it aids them with developing user-friendly dashboards for various devices which have different display formats. This means that extracted data can be effectively visualized for a range of applications; relevant to EV charging stations, this includes interfaces for system operators and station employees to view data and implement monitoring control, as well as smartphone apps to help drivers to locate charging poles.