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12 October, 2017 - 21:45 By Tony Quested

Cambridge AI for electric cars piques global interest

Spark EV Technology Justin Ott

Computer scientists from Essex University have helped a Cambridge business develop journey prediction software to make electric vehicles more efficient between charges.

The technology is already attracting international interest from countries where electric vehicles are being adopted fastest and in higher volumes.

Dr Michael Fairbank and Dr Daniel Karapetyan of the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering worked with Spark EV Technology to develop algorithms to help electric vehicles travel further between charges – and eliminate the stress of drivers not knowing whether they have enough power to complete their journey.

The software gathers live data on factors such as weather conditions, the volume of traffic, tyre wear and driver behaviour to predict how much energy is needed for each journey.

Spark, based at the Future Business Centre, uses machine learning to compare the prediction against the actual energy requirements to increase the accuracy for each future journey.

Dr Fairbank, explained: “Often electric car drivers travel shorter distances per charge than they could to avoid running out of power. This data can extend the vehicle’s range by an average of 20 per cent between charges, so it is particularly good for companies running a fleet of taxis or delivery vehicles, as it reduces driver downtime.”

The project was recently awarded investment from the Low Carbon Innovation Fund overseen by the University of East Anglia. The fund provides equity finance for small and medium sized enterprises (SME's) in the East of England that are contributing to the low carbon economy.

Justin Ott, CEO at Spark EV Technology said: “Investment from the Low Carbon Innovation Fund will allow us to grow our technology into a world-leading software product for commercial fleet managers looking to go electric.

“Companies around the world are modernising their fleets right now and are looking at the potential of electric vehicles. Spark technology gives fleet managers reassurance that vehicles will complete journeys while providing vital data on how vehicles and their drivers perform in different conditions.  More electric vehicles on the roads mean fewer carbon emissions, leading to better air quality for all.”

Ott said that global legislation was changing in favour of EVs due to air quality concerns and more fleets are migrating over to electric vehicles to comply with new conditions.

In Oslo in January, diesels were fined £147 a day until air pollution dropped to a safe level and in London the combined T-Tox and congestion charge mean diesels fleets face higher running costs.

At the same time, drivers are concerned by running out of battery in the middle of nowhere with a passenger or parcel on board, increased downtime from charging and disparate systems which don’t optimise EVs in real time.

The CEO adds: “A driver connects to our Spark application on their mobile phone, then enters a journey and Spark advises whether they can make that journey.

“Spark pulls live data from the vehicle and makes a prediction of a journey including the nearest chargepoint at the end of the journey. We then use machine learning to compare the predicted energy for the journey against the actual energy giving increased accuracy with each completed trip.

“Spark is aimed at EV fleets who have mobile workforces – taxi or delivery firms and government services.  Our application works either standalone or can integrate with existing scheduling software to ensure they can complete more journeys between charges. This means higher efficiency and service levels leading to greater utilisation of driver and fleet.

“We have had global interest in the product – particularly in Scandinavia where new vehicle EV sales are higher than the UK.”

The UK market is also set to boom with the East of England leading the way. Go Ultra Low has just announced continued record-breaking uptake for plug-in electric cars in the UK, as new vehicle data reveals a highest-ever third quarter registrations period in 2017.

More than 6,000 plug-in cars have been registered in the East of England so far this year – more than any other UK region. Nationally, 12,932 electric cars were registered from July to September, a year-on-year rise of 36 per cent, thanks to a best-ever September for plug-in registrations as 7,794 EVs were new on UK roads. That was up 27 per cent on September 2016.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Justin Ott

Kiss Communications

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