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Automotive Electric Cars Features Editor's Picks

Designing the perfect map for electric cars

We’ve seen more and more innovation in electric cars over the past couple of years, but the idea of running out of power has proved a common worry among potential owners.

With static and dynamic content contained in its maps, HERE could help to ease these concerns. We’ve been talking to Michael Bültmann, Director of Government Relations at HERE, to find out more.

Maps from HERE already contain static and dynamic information about the environment in which electric vehicles navigate. The maps ‘understand’ the road geometry, slopes and curvature, while the dynamic layer is a representation of continuously changing environmental factors including weather and traffic congestion. Each of these factors affect the battery consumption of electric vehicles. Maps are no longer just about navigation, but about helping consumers to plan their journeys around charging stations and to ensure drivers get to their destinations without the risk of getting stranded.

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Michael explains: “When it comes to electric mobility, there’s a huge debate in the industry and it mainly centres around hardware: It’s about the battery, the pure performance of the car and the range it can cover. At the moment when you get in an electric car, you’ll often see a circle on a map showing the approximate range, and this information is usually just based on the battery level.”

This is where HERE can make a massive difference, helping car companies to predict the range of their cars a lot more accurately, using the available data more intelligently.

“It’s not just about the range,” adds Michael, “it’s about knowledge and transparency about available and working charging station. The latest maps we’re working on have three layers: the first is the classic digital map, the next adds dynamic content with information like weather, traffic and special conditions, but it’s the third layer that will be particularly important, providing analytics and personalisation.”

The future for electric mapping

The third layer is very much a work in progress, but in the future HERE intends to analyse vehicle sensor data including how many passengers there are, whether the lights are turned on or off and which other vehicle functions are being used. Added to information from the first two layers, HERE will be able to predict a far more precise range.

“It’s a good example of the beauty and power of data. People are not always convinced about the positive effects that data can bring to their lives. This is a great example about how it’s not just about the battery in an electric car, but also all the information that’s available around it, and location intelligence is playing a massive role in that.”

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HERE is also going to great lengths to ensure the data used for maps in electric cars is as accurate as possible, and Michael explains:

“Our platform aggregates the data coming in from so many different sources, from traffic to weather and charging stations all over the world, making us the leading source of information for the OEMs. The quality of the data gets better and better the more information you have; if there’s only one source contributing to our efforts it’s nice, but if you have multiple sources it really makes a difference, and we have a very high performing tool in place.”

“If there are several content providers we can aggregate the information into our map, we do quality checks and we can get rid of duplicates and ensure every single piece of data in our API is fresh and accurate.”

HERE recently started a partnership with Hubject, an electric mobility platform working across Europe, and it also announced a partnership with Virta, a company that owns charging stations across Europe. Michael adds: “It’s these type of partnerships that allow us to make our content more robust.”

More partnerships can also allow HERE to offer better quality information, steering drivers towards electric charging stations that are actually available.

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“We have real-time availability for several countries showing which charging station connectors are available at any point in time, and this is relevant because you may be approaching a station when there’s no available points; our information means you can just go straight to another one rather than wasting your time.”

The idea behind mapping for electric cars is to make things a lot easier for the driver. “Just telling drivers how far they can get is not sufficient,” says Michael. “That’s important, of course, but they also want to know where the next available charging station actually is and will it accept payment with their Visa card?”

“If you look into the future and take all the available data on board, you can easily bring people – provided they have agreed to – to a place where all his personal habits or preferences are considered. If he or she likes shopping, for example, we can make that the first step as a recommendation.

Sound familiar? Personal recommendations is a process we’ve already seen at HERE, delivering personal fuel and parking recommendations as well as proactively informing drivers about the traffic situation on their preferrerd routes to likely destinations.

“The entire experience of using electric mobility should be much more convincing, rather than just having a car with an alternative engine and no more information,” concludes Michael.

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