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Clean Transport

Published on May 11th, 2019 | by Jennifer Sensiba

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A Better Route Planner & Other Open Source Projects Need Our Help

May 11th, 2019 by  


A Better Route Planner (ABRP) is a great way to plan trips in electric vehicles. Not only does it help Tesla owners like it was originally designed to, but owners of an increasing number of other vehicles can use it to find their way nearly anywhere without using a drop of gas. When I used it on a recent road trip in my Nissan LEAF, I found that it worked great whenever it had complete data available. Unfortunately, the other open source projects it relies on need your help to make ABRP all it can be.

I learned a lot about this in my recent 1200 mile journey in my Nissan LEAF, and realized that we need the EV community’s help!

What Data ABRP Relies On

An elevation profile in ABRP shows what speed limit the app thinks I’ll be going in this part of I-10. The actual speed limit there is 75 MPH.

ABRP relies on other open-source projects and a variety of databases to give EV drivers estimates of energy usage and places to charge up while on the road.

Perhaps most importantly, ABRP uses OpenStreetMap (OSM). Not only does it use OSM for a map, but it gets speed limits, elevation data, and other information to best plan routes. When it looks at a route, it uses your vehicle’s standard consumption data, the speeds you will be going, and the uphills and downhills to calculate how much battery you will use between charging stations.

When it has all of this data right, it’s usually really close to what you’ll see in the real world. However, you’ll want to tell it that you want to arrive at chargers with 10–20% battery, just to be sure you don’t get stranded. Headwinds, unexpected rain, or road construction (among many other things) can cause you to use more power than expected, so it’s a good idea to have a bit of extra charge.

When ABRP doesn’t have all of this data, that’s where things tend to go awry. For example, OSM might think the speed limit along a stretch of road is 40 MPH when you’ll really go 65–70 MPH through there. In that case, you might run out of battery long before you get to the destination, even with 20% extra planned in.

Another thing that can be lacking at times is charging stations. ABRP relies on OpenChargeMap and a variety of other databases to help route you on journeys. For Tesla vehicles, the database seems pretty complete. For other vehicles, it can be hit or miss.

How You Can Help

Donate

If you don’t have spare time, but have a little bit of spare money, the easiest way to help these projects is to donate to them. The developers have to pay for hosting and other resources, not to mention their own time, to keep these useful tools running and available for everybody. Every little bit helps!

You can submit donations at the following links:

To donate to A Better Route Planner, go to their main page, click the question mark on the bottom right, and scroll down to the Paypal donation links. You can also send BTC to 1Q4PdUxe32V6eTbXm9rgyWmGWnxMrkW2kG

OpenStreetMap’s Editing Screen

Help Improve OpenStreetMap

The biggest issue is that OpenStreetMap needs speed limits updated almost everywhere. If the data is far enough from the speed limit, and you don’t drive super slow, you could easily end up stranded.

To check on this in your area, you’ll need to visit the OSM website and register for an account. Click “Edit” at the top, zoom in, and select a section of road. Once it’s highlighted, you can change a variety of settings for the section, including the speed limit.

Once you’re done setting the speed limit, go on to the next section of the road and repeat. Once you’ve done a good part of a road, save your changes. It takes anywhere from 1–7 days for changes made in OSM to show up in ABRP, so be patient.

If you need more detailed directions and information about how OSM works, they have a really good beginners guide, and there are some good tutorial videos on YouTube.

For areas you’re familiar with, you can probably add speed limits to the map by memory. If you can’t remember exactly where the limits change, then go out and take notes for your next editing session, or add change points in a GPS program for your computer. You might also consider taking a portable computer along to edit on the go with a 4G data connection.

Many states publish their speed limit data on the web. For example, here’s a map that Texas DOT publishes with current speed limits. For other states, just Google
[your state’s name]+DOT+”speed limits map.”

Viewing a charging station in Open Charge Map

Add or Update OpenChargeMap Stations

OpenChargeMap needs stations added and updated in many places, too.

To get started, go to the Open Charge Map and check the area where you know a charger to be. If the station is already there, check to see if the details and location are correct. If not, then click “edit” and put the correct information in. Don’t forget to click “Preview” and “Save” before leaving the page!

If you know the station has never been listed, go to the Add Location Page, and put the information in.

Open Charge Map has a basic information page for new contributors, so be sure to check it out.

Why This Matters — Final Thoughts

If you have the time to help get this data correct, be sure to help us out. It could mean the difference between people getting there or getting stranded. If you only have a little bit of time, update your local information or update areas you would want to plan trips in. If you have more time, be sure to help by going further from home in the map.

The important thing is that we get these open source tools up to par so new EV drivers and those planning trips into unfamiliar territory will be able to do what they need to do.

Even if your car comes with good tools to predict future trips and find charging points, keep in mind that many EVs either don’t come with trip planners or don’t come with good ones. By pitching in and helping out, we can help people who buy any EV, new or used, to get more out of their vehicle. Happy EV owners tend to encourage their friends to buy EVs, too. Unhappy EV owners, OTOH, can set the movement back.

Let’s be sure to be on the right side of this, even if you can only spare a little bit of your money and time. 
 





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About the Author

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals.



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