Innogy, a subsidiary of Germany’s energy giant RWE, added blockchain capabilities last week to hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles across Germany, which could help autonomous vehicles pay to charge themselves — without human intervention.
Hundreds of EV charging assets all over Germany will be “blockchainified,” Carsten Stöcker, senior manager at Innogy Innovation Hub, said in a tweet. The exchange-to-exchange (E2E) product — meaning the exchange of information or transactions between websites — will use asset-backed crypto-euro for payments. The EV charging assets will be on public Ethereum blockchain and further assets will be added across the European Union soon, he added.
The vision, it seems, for Ethereum-based EV stations is that a self-driving car could go to a charging station and have that station accept payment through the use of smart contracts. A smart contract is simply a machine where a transaction can be done without human intervention. In theory, this kind of payment could also make EV charging cheaper, as it would eliminate the credit card fees applied to stations.
In Innogy’s case, the available charging stations connect to an app called Share&Charge. The app looks like any other professional service, and gives charging prices in euros. But, underneath, the app uses Ethereum’s public blockchain. The euros, therefore, are “crypto-euro,” which are “asset-backed,” according to a published report.
— Carsten Stöcker (@CarstenStoecker) April 27, 2017
“[Innogy] is using Ether like a database instead of an Ether currency,” Jacob Eliosoff, who runs a cryptocurrency fund, told Mobility Buzz. “It’s being used to keep track of transactions.” There are benefits for this kind of transaction because a blockchain network is global and accessible everywhere on the internet, Eliosoff said. “The idea is to remove single points of failure,” like being blocked by a government.
“Blockchain is not doing much right now,” he added, referring to the fact that blockchain is currently used more for laying the groundwork for future high-level uses. But the use of blockchain-backed EV charging stations is not a “gratuitous” use of blockchain. Many use-cases of blockchain and crypto-currency do not add much value, he said.
However, for Innogy, “there is a serious underlying plan, but it’s in the early stages,” he said, and Innogy’s plan is significant.
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