Mobility is an important topic in many fields. The University of Passau, in collaboration with partners in industry, are researching "mobility in rural regions" and "e-mobility" in two ongoing projects. Sustainability plays an important role in these projects, which are both funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV).
E-vehicle density is growing. A quick glance at the number plates of cars driving on the roads says it all. The "E" at the end of the registration number is no longer an exception. On 1 January 2022, there were around 618,500 cars using electric energy as their sole power source according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. If plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles are taken into account, the number of electrically powered passenger vehicles passes the one million mark.
The intention of Passau’s "e-mobility" project is to develop a data-based scheme for the expansion of electro-mobility charging infrastructure across the European transport network. The goal is to expand e-mobility, prevent power grids from overloading, and offer residents the option of using sustainable e-vehicles (EVs).
Expanding e-mobility and the requisite charging infrastructure is one of the European Union's key objectives. Central to this is rapid charging and power grid stability. To be able to assess the impact of e-mobility on grid stability, sustainability, and optimization potential, data is needed. So far, however, data has been scarce. This is where the research project Open Mobility Electric Infrastructure (OMEI) comes in. A project team consisting of ten institutions and businesses, including the University of Passau and Landshut University of Applied Sciences, aims to create a freely available database that can be used to plan sustainable regional charging infrastructure and assess schemes for the smart use of electric vehicles (EVs).
Building on such data, the project aims to develop and optimize ecological, economic, and technical solutions for charging infrastructure across the European transport network that combine regional renewable energy sources with sustainable energy storage. The aim is to create a data-based scheme that can be transferred for use across Europe. In order to calculate the effects of smart charging infrastructure on the European transition to sustainable energy, researchers will initially be collecting charging, user, energy, and transport data and setting up demo facilities that combine rapid charging stations with hybrid energy storage systems along a European main transport route (the A3 motorway, for example) in two model regions. The project also plans to set up a facility for end users in the region Ilzer Land in lower Bavaria that operates bi-directionally, meaning it can be used to charge and discharge e-vehicles. The purpose of this vehicle-to-home facility is to tap the storage capacities available in stationary vehicles.
The University of Passau and the Energy Technology Centre (TZE) of Landshut University of Applied Sciences are developing simulation models and testing vehicle-to-home applications. "Only by creating an extensive and permanently available database will it be possible to develop AI-based system simulations and optimize the EV charging infrastructure across Europe," says Dr. Armin Gerl, scientific project coordinator for the Chair of Distributed Information Systems in Passau. Professor Harald Kosch, the holder of the chair, adds: "Data-based optimization of EV charging infrastructure and the realization of vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid concepts in Bavaria represent a major milestone for a viable, sustainable mobility system in Germany." Colleague Professor Tomas Sauer, who heads the Institute for Software Systems in Technical Applications of Computer Science (FORWISS) in Passau, emphasizes that using AI methods to boost energy efficiency in vehicle-to-home networks has enormous potential: "The project results will be highly relevant for the region's energy ecosystem," he says.
The data generated in the project will be made available via open data portals and the results will be published in a user app to ensure transparency. The aim is to actively involve citizens in order to create an awareness for electro-mobility, Artificial Intelligence, and blockchain technology and to ensure acceptance of much-needed changes.
OMEI project manager Professor Karl-Heinz Pettinger, who is scientific director of the Energy Technology Centre (TZE) of Landshut University of Applied Sciences, sums it up: "For vitally needed upgrades of the electric charging infrastructure, the strain on European electricity networks need to be reduced by using battery buffers," he says, adding that “To meet the demand for mobility, we need rapid charging systems on the main transport routes across Europe."
In addition to the University of Passau and Landshut University of Applied Sciences, the project participants include: battery manufacturers Jena Batteries GmbH (JB) and FENECON GmbH, as well as the charging station operator Mer Germany GmbH (MER), the companies HEITEC AG and Technagon GmbH, as well as the cooperative EVG Perlesreut eG and the association Ilzer Land e.V. (IL). The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.
The project KIMoNo (AI-based, cross-type mobility optimization in non-urban regions) focuses on another important mobility question: How to improve mobility in rural regions? Professors Harald Kosch and Tomas Sauer from Passau, as well as the Institute for Software Systems in Technical Applications of Computer Science (FORWISS), and their colleague Professor Alena Otto, are part of the project team. Using the district Passau/Bavarian Forest as a pilot region, the project aims to analyze mobility in the region and identify opportunities for improvement with the help of Artificial Intelligence. To gain a comprehensive understanding of mobility outside of urban centers, the project team will look at a variety of types of mobility, including bicycle riding, individual automotive travel, interlinked truck convoys, as well as the mobility involved across entire logistic-supply chains. E-mobility and EV charging infrastructure, as analyzed in the OMEI project, also have a role to play in this project, as the project objective is to help travelers avoid making detours, prevent trucks traveling without a load, optimize logistic-supply chains, as well as reduce CO2 emissions.
The data product platform provider ONE LOGIC is also involved in the KIMoNo project. Dr. Andreas Böhm, a graduate of the University of Passau and the company's managing director, has done the maths: "An analysis with 14,000 trading partners has shown that around 50 percent of the trucks traveling on German roads are empty. By using AI and data science, this number can be brought down by 60 percent, which would translate into a 30 percent decrease in CO2 emissions, 25 percent reduction in traffic jams, and a 20 percent cut in costs."
In addition to optimizing supply chains and improving the transport of goods, the KIMoNo project also aims to pay particular attention to individual travelers whether they be driving a car, riding a bicycle, or driving a truck. Using new technology and insights, the project wants to help them get to their destinations without detours and delays. The aim is to set up an online platform for the cross-sectoral collection and networking of mobility data which can then be used to identify road damage more swiftly, enabling travelers to bypass traffic jams and other obstacles that may cause delays.
Since 2021, the KIMoNo team has also been working on another topic connected to mobility: Health. Researchers want to know how Artificial Intelligence can be used to improve medical care outside of urban centers by, for example, using drones and delivery robots to distribute medicine and medical supplies quickly, reliably, and affordably.
"The aim is to transport medical material more quickly using drones. Medical samples are also one possibility we are keen to explore, especially those that need to be analyzed urgently," says Tomas Sauer, the project coordinator. In order to verify where there is real need and to establish a useful solution, cooperation partners with hands-on experience are of vital importance for this part of the project. Such partners not only have access to a broad network but, more importantly, have the knowledge of what is required based on their day-to-day work in clinics, pediatric practices, or laboratories. They are therefore in a good position to share their experience with researchers.
The project team is also focusing on the question of how and when drones can be put to good use. How does communication between drones, and between drones and all sorts of other vehicles, work best? A communication blueprint is being developed for specific cases, such as the transport of samples from a general practitioner's office in a rural village in the Bavarian Forest to a laboratory in the city of Passau. When planning the deployment of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), which include drones, the aim is not only to avoid accidents or collisions. Factors like battery capacity and reliable radio communication with the control center also play an important role, as do economic factors. "Planning the deployment of ARs is a highly complex task. The purpose of the future logistics scheme for medical care in rural regions is to guarantee quicker delivery of medical samples and vital medication even across large distances," says Professor Alena Otto, who holds the Chair of Business Administration with a focus on Management Science/Operations and Supply Chain Management at the University of Passau
The team also aims to ensure that this is all done in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner. "When it comes to the acceptance of a logistics scheme, we believe time-to-delivery is a crucial aspect. Modern laboratory diagnostics should be equally available to everyone, regardless of whether they live in a large city or in a rural region. So, our aim is to create a transport system where autonomous robots are flexibly and synergistically implemented alongside car and van transport."
There are many possible scenarios for the use of drones, especially in rural regions, but the aim is always the same: To provide critical medical results faster and thereby improve people's healthcare in rural regions.
In addition to Professor Tomas Sauer, Professor Harald Kosch, and Professor Alena Otto (all from the University of Passau), participants in the KIMoNo2 project include Professor Wolfgang Dorner (TH Deggendorf), Kinderklinik Dritter Orden in Passau headed by Professor Matthias Keller, the Children's and Family Network of Eastern Bavaria and MVZ Labor Passau. The drone manufacturer Quantum Systems is also a cooperation partner. They supply the flying robots that are able to perform deliveries. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.