Electric vehicles and generated data

OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostics) ports are standard on all cars produced for North America. Using a Bluetooth dongle and a smartphone app, hundreds or thousands of lines of data can be generated from a sixty minute drive.

Electric vehicles are changing the way people drive and new technology is making it possible for consumers to gain insights into how their vehicle is performing. In 2017 alone, Ford electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) collected over three billion data records from over three hundred million miles of travel (Ahmed & Kapadia, 2017).

Inexpensive, easy-to-install and reasonably easy-to-understand using an app to interpret the data, generated data can give vehicle owners access to data previously only available to technicians. Feedback also allows drivers to adjust their driving behaviours in order to optimize and extend vehicle range and health.


A simple Bluetooth dongle (“ODB2 diagnostic scanner”) connects to the OBD2 port in the vehicle to relay information to a smartphone app. EVs such as the Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV, Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 have apps specifically designed for use with them (e.g. Leaf Spy, Kia Soul Spy apps).Every time the application is started and connected to the dongle, a new record/CSV file is created. (CSV files are stored in the cloud via DropBox for those generated by Leaf Spy Pro).

Trip data is accumulated and stored over time; hundreds of rows and over one-hundred columns of data are generated from a simple thirty-minute trip.To ensure accuracy of the data collected, it’s important to enter the correct model year in the app settings so that data can be interpreted correctly.


Big data can be a huge help when your vehicle’s “check engine” icon is showing. By tapping into the car’s computer, owners can cross-reference diagnostic trouble codes in the CSV file with the “Spy” application manual to try and identify what the warning lights could indicate.They can also change some vehicle settings, such as headlight and windshield wiper settings, using the service menu in the app. Most importantly, owners can gain insight into the state of health (SOH) of the vehicle’s battery, including the effect (if any) of quick charges (QCs) or DC Fast Charges on the battery over time and whether or not the battery needs to be replaced. Because battery health degrades over time, this information can prove to be critical when deciding whether or not to purchase a second-hand EV. A vehicle may indicate that it is 100% charged — but that’s 100% of the battery in the condition that it’s in. In this situation, the data obtained with a diagnostic scanner may determine whether or not the vehicle is a good investment.

Douglas Ferrier is a professor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario. He researches electric cars while in his final year of Technology Management (Ph.D.) studies at Indiana State University. He has accumulated over 112,000-km on his Nissan Leaf.

Article of Auto-Innov magazine page 14

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