How you drive, where you drive and the weather conditions through which you drive an electric vehicle can change the vehicle’s range (how far the vehicle can go on a single battery charge) dramatically. That’s because batteries perform less than ideally in extreme hot and cold weather. For example, earlier this year former GM front man Bob Lutz said he only got 28 miles worth of juice from the Volt’s battery, in contrast to the advertised 40 miles, when he drove it for a weekend in Detroit this winter.
It’s a problem that Karen Pease, CEO of software maker Celadon Applications, thinks her startup can tackle. The year-old Celadon has built an application that can aggregate all sorts of data, including topographical, weather, weather forecasts, terrain, altitude, temperature, drivetrain performance, torque, and RPM, among other things, and bundles all that information into an interface that alerts electric vehicle drivers to how much range their cars truly have at any given second.
Called Road2, Celadon bills its app as “the world’s first electric vehicle range calculator which relies on a physics simulator instead of approximations or other tricks”, and the software can come in the form of a mobile application, an application for a stand-alone vehicle dashboard, or as embedded hardware and software in an electric vehicle. Every few seconds, the application runs over the connected communication network, which is likely a cellular network, and pings Celadon’s servers in the Amazon cloud, evaluating the dynamically changing range in real time.
Celadon’s Pease thinks the company’s biggest opportunity will be in getting its product embedded in electric vehicles, and Pease says Celadon is talking to a couple of automakers about that. If Celadon’s hardware was embedded in the vehicle itself, it could connect with the embedded information in the car’s engine control unit (ECU), which is generally the largest processor in the car and houses information like engine performance and fuel efficiency.
Of course, convincing automakers to take a chance on embedding hardware from a startup will be a tall order. Consumers and fleet operators don’t replace their cars all that often; the time between purchasing new vehicles is potentially longer than a startup selling in this market could survive. The EV makers, like Nissan, are also already building connected services to help appease range anxiety, and the Nissan LEAF uses software overlaid on Google Maps to show a circle of available range of the battery and the closest electric vehicle charging stations (see our video test drive of the Nissan LEAF here).
Pease says a company like Nissan would be a perfect customer for Celadon’s product, as it can add intelligence to that range estimate as a non-dynamic circle of range doesn’t give all that accurate a depiction of the car’s real world range.
Celadon has done some pilot projects with big names already. Pease said that Celadon outfitted a Tesla Roadster with its range intelligence system during the Renew America Road Trip last summer. To date, Pease says Celadon has operated on seed funding. The mobile app isn’t available yet for consumers, but Peace says it will compatible with Android phones, among others.
All the electric vehicle automakers, including Nissan and GM, are embracing mobile — from iPhone apps, to car network services like Onstar — in an effort to help alleviate range anxiety, so Celadon has chosen to focus on a solid market. But it remains to be seen how well Road2 will actually do when it hits the road.
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