Electrically powered cities

Fig 1: Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia with approximately 12 million inhabitants, by night.
Fig 1: Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia with approximately 12 million inhabitants, by night.

The world population is growing rapidly. It is predicted that approximately 9.7 billion people will live on the earth in 2050. 66% of them will live in cities or mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. Progressive urbanization means a high concentration of the population on a relatively small area. As a result, the existing infrastructures will no longer be sufficient for the provisioning of the inhabitants of the cities.

What makes a city an attractive place to live? What do the inhabitants expect of an urban environment worth living in? First and foremost, clean air, clean water and good climatic conditions are essential for human life. But already today many megacity inhabitants suffer from enormous smog and pollution of the air. Clean water is increasingly becoming a scarce and expensive commodity and the enormous heat in the cities - especially in the summer months - can only be tolerated by people with intensive cooling of the buildings.


E-mobility and charging stations

Especially in connection with the improvement of air quality, e-mobility is currently very strongly favored. Electrically powered vehicles emit no harmful emissions and are also extremely quiet in operation, which would result in a significant reduction in road noise pollution. The advantages are obvious, but it is still difficult to persuade people to buy an electric car. The concerns are manifold, but especially the problem of charging electric cars proves to be a stumbling block.

There are a number of skeptical questions: How long does the charging process take, and how complicated is it? Is the nearest charging station easy to find and reach? Are the inhibitions expressed in these questions justified or are there already technical solutions to these problems? To have a closer look at this, we carried out a patent search in the DWPI database on STN.


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We examined the period from 2006 to 2017. It becomes clear immediately from Fig. 2 that the number of patent publications in the technological field of charging stations is strongly increasing.

 

 

Fig. 2: Development of patent applications from 2006 to 2017 in the technological field of charging stations for e-vehicles  © FIZ Karlsruhe.
Fig. 2: Development of patent applications from 2006 to 2017 in the technological field of charging stations for e-vehicles © FIZ Karlsruhe.

Over the last five years, research into charging station technologies has been massively advanced. As a rule, the establishment of technical innovations in the markets is delayed.


Refueling while shopping

As a result, the first modern charging stations, where e-vehicles quickly and conveniently draw the necessary electricity, should soon find their way into the urban infrastructure. This should only be a matter of time. Then, for example, an electric car could be refueled in the parking lot while the driver does his shopping, as shown in this patent drawing:

Fig. 3: Drawing from patent US20170341519 showing a wireless charging station integrated into a parking lot.
Fig. 3: Drawing from patent US20170341519 showing a wireless charging station integrated into a parking lot.

Refueling is done underground and wirelessly, in addition the driver receives maneuvering instructions inside the car so that the vehicle is parked in exactly the right position above the induction loading coil.


Refueling while driving

The solution below of “refueling” with electricity seems both simple and elegant. The heart of the system is the prepared road surface. It contains electromagnetic inductive emission coils for loading. If the electric car rolls over these road surfaces, it is automatically refueled with electricity, so to speak en passant. It is not described how the electricity consumed is billed.

Fig.4: Drawing from patent CN107323303: The induction coils are built into the road surface (3).
Fig.4: Drawing from patent CN107323303: The induction coils are built into the road surface (3).

Refueling on the fly

Fig. 5: horse-driven stagecoach.
Fig. 5: horse-driven stagecoach.

Already in earlier centuries the exhausted horses of a stagecoach were changed at the post station and the carriage drove on with fresh horses. The inventions in which only the battery is replaced are based on the same principle. So far, this idea can only be implemented with small electric vehicles, because electric cars usually have very large, heavy and non-standard batteries that are integrated into the floor of the vehicle. Under these circumstances, an exchange seems complicated and lengthy. Nevertheless, the idea has already been implemented on a small scale: In this agricultural battery-powered feed or bedding distribution trolley, some of the batteries are replaceable (10). The following illustration shows a cross section of an agricultural truck used in stables:

Fig. 6: Drawing of the battery-powered feed or bedding distribution trolley (DK2015000669).
Fig. 6: Drawing of the battery-powered feed or bedding distribution trolley (DK2015000669).

However, auxiliary applications will have to be found before electric cars can be refueled everywhere, quickly and without any problems. The nightmare of every e-mobile owner is that his e-car stops due to an empty battery. A replacement canister with electricity cannot be used here, so this emergency situation should not occur if possible.

The following invention by Hyundai Motors / Kia Motors deals precisely with the problem of charging station distribution along the road. At present, the infrastructure for electric charging stations is not as comprehensive as that for fuel filling stations. The e-car therefore has a processor configured to display all charging stations on the way between the starting point and the destination and calculate the routes accordingly. Thanks to this system, the driver does not have to worry about getting stuck on the road due to an empty battery. The available charging stations (S) along the way are displayed, as is the information whether the battery charge is still sufficient to reach them. In addition, alternative routes are calculated.

Fig. 7: Drawing from patent US20170343366: charging stations (S) available along the road.
Fig. 7: Drawing from patent US20170343366: charging stations (S) available along the road.

China focuses on e-mobility

And which countries are ahead in research into electric charging stations? For this purpose, it was analyzed in which countries (priority countries) the industrial property rights were first applied for. The first application for an industrial property right is very often filed in the country in which the research company has its registered office. In this respect, the evaluation of the priority countries can indirectly provide an indication of country-specific research activities. Three countries lead the list: China, the USA and Germany. Together, these three countries account for almost 85% of initial applications. China is clearly in the lead with more than half of the first applications. This leading position is not surprising, because China in particular already has a large number of metropolises in which the inhabitants have to struggle with enormous air pollution. E-mobility would be one way of dealing with this air pollution. It is also fitting that China wants to ban the sale of cars with internal combustion engines in the near future. Consequently, the focus is also on the research and further development of electric charging stations.

The diagram below shows the top 10 priority countries for electric charging stations:

Fig. 8: Distribution of priority countries for patent applications in the field of charging stations © FIZ Karlsruhe
Fig. 8: Distribution of priority countries for patent applications in the field of charging stations © FIZ Karlsruhe

“The green, green grass of home ……“

Technical progress and the further development of e-mobility are ways of improving the quality of urban air. Another way to reduce urban air pollution is to focus on micro-agriculture in the urban environment, modernly called "urban gardening". The idea of city gardens is not new: Already at the beginning of industrialization, the growing poorer urban population had created small vegetable gardens for self-sufficiency, the so-called allotment gardens enjoyed and still enjoy great popularity. The small town of Andernach on the Rhine has implemented an innovative example of modern urban gardens. It was awarded for its project "Andernach, the Edible City"1  in the nationwide innovation competition "Ausgezeichnete Orte im Land der Ideen" (Excellent places in the country of ideas) 2013/14. The municipality of Andernach allows and promotes the cultivation of vegetables, fruit and herbs in public parks and green areas. The city becomes a garden for the citizens, everyone can take part in harvesting as well as weeding. In Andernach the idea of urban self-sufficiency in local food was successfully put into practice. With this project, the city could become a trendsetter.

Today, nature is already consciously integrated into urban architecture in many places, so that green residential houses with home gardens are being built. A pioneer of this green architecture stands in Magdeburg, the so-called green citadel, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser2, completed in 2005.

Fig. 9: The green citadel in Magdeburg, a building with flats and shops designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Photo: Andreas Lander.
Fig. 9: The green citadel in Magdeburg, a building with flats and shops designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Photo: Andreas Lander.

This is less about the aspect of the self-sufficiency of the city population with fresh food, but rather about designing a green city with plants and trees, as the microclimate of a city is demonstrably improved by its greening. Plants provide cooling in hot summer months and filter dust and dirt particles from the air. Staying in parks and green areas also has a relaxing effect on people.


To everything there is a season

…also to the death of people living in big cities. However, there is not much room for the mortal remains. A square meter of land in a megacity is hardly affordable. Cities like Hong Kong have reported that an urn grave there can already cost around €100,000. This lack of space gave the start-up businessman Anthony Yuen the idea of a virtual cemetery. His enterprise iVeneration com3  located in Hong Kong provides an online platform where thousands of mourners can individually create a virtual grave to commemorate their dead family members. In addition, the mourners can also connect with each other, like they can in social media and virtual ancestral trees. Little is known yet about the acceptance of these virtual cemetery worlds. However, the expensive purchase of a suitable burial place in the real world is not necessary, the relatives are usually buried anonymously, a real grave no longer exists. This very inexpensive variant of the funeral is the essential argument for the virtual funeral service, and so there will also be customers. The question as to what happens to all the digital grave entries, decorations and data once the virtual service is shut down remains unanswered. Such legal issues are currently still uncharted territory within the legal system. Our department “Intellectual property rights in distributed information infrastructures” (IGR) examines precisely these questions.


Who owns research data stored in a digital preservation repository? Who is liable if the data are lost? Who decides when the data may be deleted from a repository? These and other questions in the broad area of information law are among the research topics falling under the professorship – newly established by FIZ Karlsruhe and the KIT in November 2015 – for Intellectual Property Rights in distributed information infrastructures (IGR). Professor Dr. Franziska Boehm and her employees focus on IT law, in particular all maters regarding IT security, and deal with the implementation of EU data protection laws following the reform of the data privacy act.
 

More information on IGR


It remains to be seen what other urban areas of life will be moved into virtual worlds in the future. The problem of environmentally friendly mobility in cities will not be solved in the foreseeable future. And so the need for solutions to the problem of fueling electricity continues to exist in the real world.


German text and search: Dr. Babett Bolle


Fußnoten
1 www.andernach.de/de/leben_in_andernach/essbare_stadt.html (last viewed on 29.1.2018).
2 Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian artist and architect, born 15 Dec. 1928 in Vienna, died 19 February 2000.
3 www.iveneration.com/index.php/site/index (last viewed on January 18, 2018).