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Blockathon 2019: Powering the EV Future

WINNERS OF THE BLOCKATHON:

Congratulations to the following teams and thank you for everyone who came out to participate.

First Place: EV City (Hao Ni, Akiff Manji)

Second Place: Energy Auction (David Baral, Clara Chu, Francois Charette, Steve Wong)

Third Place: EeVee (Michael Jia, Trinh Nguyen, Aidan Mitha, Ryan Vo)

Blockathon Process:

The Blockathon takes place Saturday 8th June – Sunday 9th June at UBC (Point Grey Campus), as the culmination of the 2-week Blockchain@UBC Summer Institute.

Location: Michael Kingsmill Forum, AMS Student Nest (6133 University Blvd)

Blockathon teams will take a hacker approach to put blockchain ideas to work in answering the question: “how to power the EV future?” Blockchain@UBC Summer Institute participants will be automatically registered for the Blockathon and assigned to a team. Industry partners or community members may join too. Experienced blockchain industry and EV infrastructure mentors will be on hand to mentor the teams. Mentors circulate amongst the participating teams during the Blockathon to offer advice and assistance on solution design and development.

A panel of judges will evaluate each team’s submission and presentation.  Prizes will be awarded for the best solutions.

Previous Blockchain@UBC Blockathons have tackled:

                  Blockchain Identity for the Homeless

                  Improving and Expediting Real-World Biomedical Research

PRICING

Blockchain@UBC Summer Institute Participants and UBC students - Free

Non-UBC Students - $25

Non-students - $75

PRIzes

1st Place: $1000 CAD
2nd Place: $500 CAD
3rd Place: $250 CAD

HOW TO REGISTER

As the Blockathon comprises part of the Blockchain@UBC Summer Institute, participants can register via the following steps:

  1. Go to the Blockchain@UBC Summer Institute registration page: https://events.eply.com/BlockchainUBC-summer-institute-2019-registration
  2. Select your denomination (i.e. UBC student, non-UBC student, non-student)
  3. Scroll down to find the checkbox for the Blockathon (June 8-9) registration
  4. Scroll to the bottom to complete your registration

Case Problem:

Emissions from transportation are a global problem both for climate change (23% of global CO2 emissions come from transportation) and human health (air pollution from vehicle exhausts causes thousands of premature deaths each year). Diesel and gasoline-fuelled light duty vehicles (primarily cars) are the biggest cause of the problem.

Electric vehicles (EVs) provide one very promising solution because they are so much more efficient than cars with combustion engines and emit no local pollution. The story only gets better over time, as electricity supplies get cleaner with the addition of more renewable power sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectricity.

But how can we power this EV future? Charging a large number of EVs presents big problems for traditional electricity infrastructure:

  • Increased total electricity demand – can generation capacity keep up?
  • Increased peak energy demand – if everyone plugs in and start charging when they arrive home from work, where will all the energy come from?
  • Light duty residential grids may be unable to support the increased demand – who will pay for the investments to upgrade the power lines?
  • Renewable electricity may not always be available – what happens when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun goes behind a cloud?
  • Charging infrastructure isn’t easy to access for all car owners – what about those living in apartment blocks and parking on the street?
  • Charging infrastructure is very poorly utilised – why are cars still plugged in even when they finished charging hours ago?

The good news is that new technologies are developing that can help.

  • 2-way charging allows EVs to supply electricity back to the grid from their batteries when they don’t need it
  • Smart vehicles and chargers can control when they charge and discharge
  • Smart electricity meters providing real-time information on the flow of electricity
  • Sophisticated power electronics can quickly switch energy flows on or off, or from one source to another, reliably and cheaply
  • Low-cost, small-scale rooftop solar and wind generators mean that many homes and buildings can become mini power stations.

For many years, large electricity utilities have traded electricity between them to make up for shortfalls in supply and even stored energy in large-scale pumped storage hydro dams.  But the new technologies listed above are decentralising the elements of power systems usually only available to large utilities, namely power generation, demand management and energy storage, and putting them in the hands of individual householders and consumers.

Can Blockchain be used to harness these new-found consumer capabilities to power the EV future?

Blockchain technology has started appearing in EV charging, but it’s still very early days.  Demonstrations have shown how to pay for energy and rent public charger time using Ethereum, or to track the carbon intensity of the electricity used to the charge the vehicle in real time to create carbon credits. Blockchain technologies could offer so much more.

Blockathon participants will be asked to show how blockchain technologies will power the EV future:

  • How could pricing models be designed to balance energy loads during peak times, and incentivize EV owners to sell excess energy back to the grid?
  • What market place should these transactions take place in?
  • How should the energy units be tracked and priced?
  • How can smart contracts help to facilitate these transactions?
  • How could blockchain enable a more distributed model for trading energy (e.g. peer-to-peer)? What role(s) would utilities play?
  • Can a blockchain ecosystem encourage users to set up chargers to sell charging for EVs or to vacate existing chargers at peak times based on a token currency?
  • How does car sharing and autonomous vehicles fit in the EV Future and how will blockchain help or hinder?

Background Information & Resources:

Lee, H. and Clark, A. “Charging the Future.” Paper, Environment and Natural Resources Program, Belfer Center, September 2018. https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/files/energyconsortium/files/rwp18-026_lee_1.pdf

British Columbia Utilities Commission.  “An Inquiry into the Regulation of Electric Vehicle Charging Service.” REPORT PHASE 1, November 2018. https://www.bcuc.com/Documents/Proceedings/2018/DOC_52916_2018-11-26-PhaseOne-Report.pdf

Knirsch, F., Unterweger, A. & Engel. “Privacy-preserving blockchain-based electric vehicle charging with dynamic tariff decisions.” D. Comput Sci Res Dev (2018) 33: 71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00450-017-0348-5

Piotrowski, M. “Blockchain and Electric Vehicle Charging.” The Fuse, 30 Apr. 2018, www.energyfuse.org/blockchain-electric-vehicle-charging/