Electric Vehicle Roaming Using Hyperledger Fabric and Dash Special Transactions

The University of Wyoming (Laramie) hosted the 2nd Wyoming Blockchain Stampede event during 20-22nd September 2019. The event comprised three tracks: hackathon, blockchain conference and the Sandcastle Startups Challenge. Together, Chainrider and the Blockchain Research Lab @ Arizona State University participated in these events and accomplished remarkable results. We have won two hackathon prizes (a 1st and 2nd place) for BRL@ASU team for designing a roaming framework on private and public blockchains inside the electric vehicles charging ecosystem. Chainrider has won the 3rd place in the Sandcastle startups challenge. 

The Energy Landscape

Blockchain technology enables peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions through the elimination of a centralized entity governing consensus.  Rather than having a centralized database, the data is distributed across multiple nodes – this both enables crash fault tolerance and makes the system tamper-proof, due to a distributed consensus algorithm.

Blockchain technology has been listed as one of the key innovations in the report, Innovation for a Renewable-Powered Future. Within the energy sector there is an opportunity to handle user accounts and payments using blockchains. Currently, utility companies follow a centralized approach to handle accounts and payments. Thus, the system’s availability and reliability are jeopardized due to a single point of failure. Blockchains, due to their inherent nature, have the potential to provide a promising solution to control and manage trading energy surplus or flexible demand on a P2P basis.

Recent solutions that have used blockchain technology have focused on achieving a shift from a highly centralised power system to smaller scale, localised systems that optimise power demand, consumption, and management. These microgrids are emerging as notions towards decentralization inside the energy ecosystem. They bring together a combination of clean technologies such as distributed generation, batteries, and renewable resources to help organisations operate autonomously  – apart from the traditional electrical grid. Power Ledger and Brooklyn Microgrid are examples of two  such solutions that focus on applying blockchain technology to a microgrid use case. 

The Idea

At the Blockchain Research Lab at ASU, we have an in-house solution to enable a P2P Energy Marketplace using Hyperledger Fabric. It focuses on the transactive energy concept that assigns value to facilitate dynamic balancing between independent power producers. It defines actors who produce, as well as consume energy, as prosumers. Prosumers are offered a way to closely match and balance energy supply and demand. Using smart contracts on Hyperledger Fabric, we digitally facilitate, verify and enforce the negotiations taking place on a transactive grid. Benefits for such a system, for various participants, are summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1 – Energy trading blockchain ecosystem benefits

Our solution identifies four actors that participate in the blockchain ecosystem.

  • Utility Company
  • Photo-Voltaic Installation Owners
  • Storage Installation Owners
  • Utility Customers

Four channels are  used for facilitating transactions on the energy marketplace between these actors. Utility company acts as the operator since it owns the physical infrastructure.  The blockchain infrastructure is displayed in Figure 2. 

Figure 2 – Hyperledger Fabric architecture for  energy trading blockchain ecosystem

The solution implemented uses a permissioned (private) blockchain microgrid – it is a closed ecosystem with each participant well defined. One drawback of such ecosystems landscape is that the asset associated with one such ecosystem has no value as well as meaning beyond that ecosystem. To remedy this drawback, we have worked on an energy trading and roaming use case, showcasing it within the electric vehicle (EV) charging ecosystem. This challenge was sponsored by Dash and Chainrider as part of the WyoHackathon challenges. 

Figure 3 – EV charging ecosystem potential actors

Take a look at the scenario illustrated in Figure 3. A user in the system owns a PV installation as well as an EV. The user has an agreement with an energy storage owner to store surplus of generated energy. The main problem is to share the energy as a digital asset outside its ecosystem so that the user can charge the EV in other similar ecosystems (e.g., while traveling). 

Our solution has two major tracks:

  1. Within a local EV charging ecosystem, leverage Hyperledger Fabric to mediate agreements between EV owner, storage operator and EV charging stations operator, as well as generate and transfer ownership of tokenized energy assets. A local EV charging ecosystem has a platform operator (e.g., utility company). 
  2. Outside the local EV charging ecosystem, leverage Dash public blockchain to store and share proof of ownership over the tokenized energy assets (platform operators agree that information on a robust public blockchain such as Dash is a sufficient proof of ownership). In this manner we:  
    • Leverage OP_RETURN Transaction from Dash to share ‘proof of ownership’ for stored energy.
    • Allow an asset stored on a consortium ecosystem to be exchanged outside using Dash transaction features.
    • Achieve interoperability on the application level between a permissioned and public blockchain.

Figure 4 – Private-to-public blockchain interoperability for EV charging roaming

Figure 4 summarizes the interoperability between private and public blockchains to achieve the roaming use case. A demo for a prototype of this application can be seen by visiting this link. 

The Outcome

A prototype for the idea was implemented and presented by Raj Sadaye and Arsh Padda from the Blockchain Research Lab @ ASU. The BRL team won 1st place in the Dash/Chainrider Blockchain Challenge, and the 2nd place in the WyoHackathon Interoperability Challenge.

Dragan Boscovic and Sasa Pesic from the Chainrider team competed against blockchain startups from all over the USA in the Sandcastle Startups Challenge. The main driving point of the Chainrider platform is its ability to transform a team of IT professionals into blockchain experts in a matter of hours. This is achieved by providing public and Hyperledger Fabric tools to help with blockchain exploration and transacting on one hand, and deployment of blockchain infrastructure and smart contracts on the other. After multiple rounds of judging and one-on-one team battles, the Chainrider team finished 3rd in the competition. 

Cover image by markus roider from Pixabay