How telematics can be a game-changer for electric vehicle research

 In Vehicle Research

Currently, fewer than one percent of all vehicles on the road worldwide are electric-powered. But as battery prices decrease and countries put in place policies aimed at spurring electric vehicle (EV) growth, EV sales may soon outnumber sales of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles — perhaps as soon as 2040.

What might an increasingly mixed-use traffic environment look like as EVs and ICEVs share the roads? And how can car buyers and policymakers alike ensure that both types of vehicles are as energy efficient as possible in these settings?

These are just some of the questions that can be answered through the use of the emerging technology of telematics. Telematics can track a number of data points — from speed to energy use to ambient temperature — in both EVs and ICEVs and relay that data in real-time to an online platform. By providing a host of real-world vehicle data, this tool can be a major boon for electric vehicle researchers.

What is telematics?

 As explained here by Geotab, telematics consists of both hardware and software.

Telematics hardware is simple to install and comes in the form of a small black box that can be attached to a car’s OBD II or CAN-BUS port. This box has an insertable SIM card and a modem that allows it to connect to a cellular network.

As the vehicle runs, telematics track data in real-time and upload it to a cloud server. Here, this data can be accessed online or through a phone app, where it can be sorted by a number of different categories.

FleetCarma’s C2 telematics hardware works with more than 50 types of EVs, and continues to add support for new models as they are released. Because telematics hardware is engineered to connect to cellular networks, it can measure EV functionality and energy efficiency in around 150 countries around the world.

Conducting world-class research with telematics

A recent webinar hosted by FleetCarma and Iowa State University illustrated just how telematics might be used to better understand the energy efficiency of both EVs and ICEVs.

Moderated by FleetCarma’s Scott Lepold, the webinar featured a presentation from Iowa State’s Dr. Jing Dong. Dr. Dong is an associate professor in the Department of Construction and Environmental Engineering, where her research focuses on transportation energy analysis, traffic operations and monitoring, and network modeling and optimization, to name just a few things.

During the webinar, Dr. Dong presented her research on the topic of “How to conduct world class EV research with telematics: estimating energy efficiency of connected and autonomous vehicles in a mixed fleet.”

Dong used data gathered using FleetCarma’s C2 telematics hardware. This data spanned from engine torque, RPM, and fuel consumption for ICEVs to electricity consumption, battery current, and charger voltage for EVs. She then used this data to analyze energy efficiencies and inefficiencies in EVs and ICEVs.

Through her research, Dong found that energy efficiency is a function of the type of car being driven and the surrounding environment. For ICEVs, energy efficiency is most affected by speed and acceleration, and for EVs, energy efficiency is a function of ambient temperature and speed. Using this data, she devised two energy consumption models: the ecological smart driver model and the energy efficient driver model.

ICEVs, Dong found, tend to be the most energy efficient at speeds ranging from 50 to 65 miles per hour, when braking and deceleration is minimal. In this context, adaptive cruise control systems can help to increase energy efficiency.

In the case of EVs, Dong found that energy efficiency is best at ambient temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit in a city environment. This is because for EVs, regenerative braking systems mean power can be used to regenerate electricity in a start-and-stop environment.

Dong’s research also looked at how energy consumption models change as EVs and ICEVs operate in a mixed environment. She found that the marginal benefit of adding new EVs to the roads is highest up until 20% market penetration. After about 20% of all vehicles are electric, the following energy efficiency benefit is lower.

Why this research is important

Changing driver behavior, Dong said in the webinar, can reduce fuel consumption by anywhere from 10-40% and also help drivers reduce emissions.

Telematics can allow researchers to devise models based on real world driving environment over several months. It can be done anywhere in the world, and for a number of different electric and traditional vehicle models — using a simple plug and play formula. This represents a major improvement beyond other types of vehicle research, which typically consider more homogenous driving conditions.

Models like the ecological smart driver model and energy efficient driver model can inform policymakers on how to best put into place infrastructure and incentives for EVs going forward.

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