After nearly a year of testing and development, the Flip the Fleet project was launched to the public today. The goal is to accelerate the EV revolution throughout New Zealand.
You can think of Flip the Fleet as a kind of ‘Fitbit for EVs’ – a way of measuring how well your car is performing, the amount of energy going in and far and fast you travel, and how well your battery is lasting. It’s a tool for learning how to get more out of your EV, but if you’re the competitive sort, you can benchmark your driving against that of other EV owners that drive the same model, or live in your region, or travel the same amount as you in town rather than along the open road. Flip the Fleet is meant to be fun, but there is also a serious side: we want scientifically reliable information to be out there about how EVs go in New Zealand, and how kiwis have built them into their daily lives. Participants can use the reports to show others the evidence and to counter both exaggerations of the benefits and misinformation about the disadvantages of EVs. So we hope to empower an army of ‘citizen scientists’ to make them better and honest advocates of switching to electric vehicles – a “By EV owners, for future EV owners” effort.
EVs spin the wheels of their owners for many different reasons: some just love the performance and the quiet ride, others appreciate how much money they save, and others again are motivated mainly by reducing environmental impacts of vehicles, especially to combat climate change. Flip the Fleet calculates monthly and lifetime performance measures in all these domains. There is also a whole fleet monitoring capacity in the software so businesses can track their financial benefits and tune their investment decisions, all while showing their shareholders and customers that they are doing their bit for the planet (and for their bottom lines!).
The project began from a couple of rash, off the cuff comments on the EV Owners’ Facebook page last year – the type of comment parents warn their kids about: Henrik Moller, an ecologist from Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability, suggested to the EV Owners’ group that we pooled our data to show other New Zealanders how good EVs are for people, or purse and the planet. Dima Ivanov, an IT geek, offered the services of PowerStats, his business benchmarking software, to collect, analyse and report the data to any EV owner that joined up. Neither of them knew just how much work it was going to take in evenings and weekends to get the project off the ground. Mostly it’s been fun and satisfying – the passionate, even if somewhat challenging feedback from the software test drivers has kept us going. We faced a real chicken and egg problem: somehow we needed to demonstrate proof of product and that EV owners would actually join up and share their data, but we had no funding to perfect the software to allow us to customise the performance measures for each owner’s car. Eventually, Otago Museum threw us a life line by funding software development from their Participatory Science Platform, a program of the government’s “Curious Minds” portfolio.
Our group of test drivers has grown steadily, and lots of EV owners have back loaded the data they had recorded in notebooks from the time they first bought their car. The project already has 140 vehicles registered to add their monthly data – despite us trying to keep it under-ground until we had confidence in the science behind Flip The Fleet. We want to get to a 1,000 EVs eventually – the more data that streams in, the better the science, and the louder our collective voice can be to encourage investment in more infrastructure and EV-friendly policies for us all to get the best out the EV revolution.
Bring it on!
Dima Ivanov and Henrik Moller
28 June 2017