RFID Revolutionizes the Electric Vehicle Industry

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Mar 07, 2012 @ 03:43 PM

Tags: RFID, Automobile Production, Electric Vehicles, Automobile Access, Vehicle Tracking

Electric Vehicle ChargingRemote car starters. Curtain side airbags. Cars that you can talk to and that talk back. Those luxuries are old news these days, having made their way into almost every car on the road.

Wireless cars that are connected to databases of information as well as connected to each other are being reported on a lot in the media today. It won’t be long before those cars are on the road telling their drivers where they can go for Sushi, and if they have a new email which can be displayed on the dash for safe viewing.

Electric cars were once thought of as futuristic, but these too have become a reality. Down the road (pun intended!), we should expect to be surrounded by them. Right now they are mostly compact and well suited for driving and parking in space-constrained metro areas. But because of the advantages they afford us, we see that industry grow, and grow successfully in part, with the help of RFID.

First let’s take a step back and review what RFID has done for the automotive industry as a whole.

Location of Cars

How many times have you been so ready for a vacation, eagerly taking the keys from the rental car agent, only to spend 30 minutes waking around a hot parking lot with your family and suitcases because you can’t find your car? We’ve seen how RFID with GPS makes this practice a lot more convenient for the customer and far more efficient for the rental agency. The benefits are clear: visibility of all cars in the lot; immediate availability of cars as they are needed; improved inventory management so popular cars are on-hand more often; and reduction of paperwork and manual record keeping. A no brainer!

Parking Garage Access

The type of RFID implementation to locate cars also works for fleet management and parking garage access and payment. Long-range identification in combination with high-speed RFID is the best option for hands-free identification of cars as they enter and exit a parking facility. Parking facilities and parking garages at airports feel the pressure to find ways to grow revenue. RFID helps achieve that goal by bringing increased efficiency, security and convenience, while minimizing environmental impact. Pretty soon we won’t need to remember to bring our parking tickets with us to pay the cashier before we leave a garage, which is obviously not very convenient.


We’re not talking about LoJack, although that does use radio frequency for location tracking. We’re referring to a use case where European manufacturers used RFID as “car immobilizers.” The keys are equipped with an RFID tag, and an interrogator installed in the steering column. In order to start the vehicle, the reader validates the unique identification number from the RFID-enabled key. A duplicate key would not be able to start the car because it wouldn’t be able to pass the reader’s verification without the tag.

Recharging Stations

Now, getting back to the electric car. The advent of this development has brought about another automotive market need that RFID is helping to serve - wireless charging stations.

EV-Charge America’s approach to electric vehicle charging stations uses a wireless, networked, meshed-LAN array of subscription-based stations that can be located anywhere with Google Maps, OnStar, hand-held devices and smartphones. Once at an EV Charging Station, drivers can unlock it, activate it and start the flow of electricity by waving their RFID-enabled key ring in front of the unit's reader.

To charge an EV at IKEA San Diego, drivers swipe their RFID-enabled Blink InCard, plug the charger into the EV, and then shop at their leisure in the IKEA store while the vehicle is charging.

Coulomb Smartlet charging stations will eventually let drivers use an RFID-enabled credit or debit card to pay for their electricity.  Subscribers are issued cards equipped with a high-frequency passive RFID tags so they can simply hold their card up to an RFID interrogator embedded in the Smartlet unit.

A ZigBee transceiver, compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, is used to pass the captured data to a ZigBee gateway, which then passes the data to a central server containing software that validates the card's ID number and account status – in real-time. Not to mention that the signal between the card and reader will be encrypted to secure the data transmitted by the cards. Without this added protection, people would most likely hesitate to take advantage of the benefits of paying with RFID credit and debit cards.

In the same way that RFID is reshaping aspects of the retail and healthcare markets, it is revolutionizing the Electric Vehicle industry which is still arguably in the nascent stage. If it can help shape an industry that has not had time to mature, imagine what RFID can do for a well established industry.

Are RFID License Plates Coming Down the Road

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 @ 12:18 PM

Tags: RFID, Google, Automobile Production, Traffic Management

Or Will Google Cars Solve the World’s Traffic Problems?

Google License PlateRFID is used throughout many aspects of the production and use of automobiles.  By no means an exhaustive list, RFID is used to improve production logistics, automate access control and parking, secure border roadways, automate toll collection, support car share programs, manage traffic flow, facilitate electric car payments and track tools in construction vehicles.

With all of these processes made possible or enhanced by RFID, one has to wonder if RFID tags will some day become standard identifiers in all cars – much like a VIN number or license plate. This topic has been discussed for some time with legal and privacy rights taking the forefront of the conversation - and rightly so.  One potential and controversial use of RIFD in vehicles and on the roadside is designed to allow authorities to automate the monitoring of intersections and issue tickets without having to be on the scene.  Video and CCTV cameras are already being used for this purpose and RFID pilots have been conducted.  Honestly, I’m on the fence on this one.  I’d surely like to be able to plead my case to the officer on the scene.  However, I’d also like the repeat offenders who speed past the "Watch for Children" signs on my street to be severely and repeatedly fined, but the police in my neighborhood have been unwilling to conduct 24x7 surveillance!

Or maybe we don’t have to worry about any of this because Google is developing cars that drive themselves.  Using video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder, Google cars will take us where we need to go, safely and efficiently, and presumably within the speed limit and in compliance with all traffic laws.  Problems solved, right?  My commute will be shorter and while along for the ride I can use Google search on my Google phone and maybe watch a little Google TV before I’m automatically checked in at my destination using Google Places – anywhere on Google Earth.

All kidding aside, Google’s intentions are noble.  They believe self-driving cars can cut in half the 1.2 million lives lost each year in road traffic accidents and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing how we use transportation. 

So where are you on all of this?  Would you be OK with an RFID infrastructure deployed in your neighborhood for traffic control?  How about on the highways?  What are your thoughts about Google cars?  Do the safety benefits proposed by Google outweigh the potential requirements to disclose more information about your personal travel?

RFID for Automobile Production

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Sep 09, 2010 @ 10:05 AM

Tags: RFID, Supply Chain, Automobile Production

From Ford to Fahrvergnügen, RFID Expands the Opportunity to Streamline Production and Lower Manufacturing Costs

In 1885, Karl Benz built the first car run on an internal combustion gasoline engine and began the production of automobiles in 1888.  In 1908, the Model T was introduced by the Ford Motor Company, followed by the introduction of the assembly line method of mass production.  Henry Ford’s commitment to streamlining production and lowering costs continues in the automotive industry today, which has more challenges and complexities than ever before.

VW LemonWith components supplied by more than 4,000 suppliers and complex processes like subassembly procurement and pre-delivery planning, automobile manufacturers are challenged with maintaining a competitive edge.  Manufacturers continuously need to find new ways to improve material flow, optimize planning and streamline the transport process.  Today, RFID is playing a crucial role in addressing these challenges.

With this week’s 100 Uses of RFID program focusing on the transportation market and having been a Volkswagen owner for many years, I have a personal interest in covering Volkswagen’s use of RFID.  With their dedication to manufacturing quality and the creative ways they differentiate their brand, I’m not at all surprised by Europe's leading vehicle manufacturer’s use of RFID to drive improvements into their supply chain and manufacturing processes.

To improve its material logistics operations and implement an integrated, paperless production and logistics chain, Volkswagen has partnered with IBM.  According to an IBM announcement, VW is driving to become the first vehicle manufacturer to make daily use of RFID in its supply chain and manufacturing processes.  

Highlights of VW’s use of RFID include:

  • Parts suppliers are applying RFID tags to shipping containers carrying auto parts destined for Volkswagen
  • Data from the tagged containers is automatically collected by RFID Readers at key locations throughout the supply chain including supplier shipping areas, various transportation points, parts receiving areas at Volkswagen, during storage, and on the assembly line
  • The same RFID system is used to ensure that all empty containers are returned to Volkswagen’s suppliers

Given the size and complexities of the automobile supply chain and manufacturing process, companies like Volkswagen are implementing RFID to automate key areas of their operations.  Do you expect more automakers to implement similar applications to compete with the lemons coming off of the production line?  Let us know your thoughts.

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