Japanese Electric Company Tests Bitcoin Lightning Network Payments For Car Charging

The Chubu Electric Power Company, the third largest electric utilities provider in Japan[1], has partnered with Internet of Things[2] (IoT) startup Nayuta Inc and software company Infoteria in order to experiment with the possibility of using Blockchain[3] technology to record the charging of electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrids. The Lightning Network[4] is set to be used for charging micropayments for the electricity, reports TechCrunch Japan[5].

As part of its plan to build a new type of “collective housing” that contains an electric vehicle charging component, the Chubu Electric Power Company is simultaneously performing tests on both the Blockchain level, and second layer scalability solution Lightning Network level, towards the development of this project.

Nayuta’s development of a charging outlet that is compatible with Blockchain, in combination with Infoteria’s development of a tandem mobile application, means that users could hypothetically see the charge history of the electric vehicle as recorded to the Blockchain, according to local news outlet The Denki Shimbun[6].

A Blockchain record of electrical charges on a user-friendly mobile app “makes it possible to operate a highly reliable charge management system with a small introduction cost,” according to local news outlet Chuden[7]. One example given as a result of the low costs is that an owner of an electric vehicle could install a charging system in his apartment using this technology, which is a key part of Chubu Electric’s collective housing plan.

According to TechCrunch Japan, even though the Lightning Network has already been implemented in several other forms, Nayuta is using their own independently developed open source software for the experiments in micropayments for electric vehicle charging.

Kenichi Kurimoto, the CEO of Nayuta, told Cointelegraph that he believes “protocol development is open-source activity.”

In relation to the relevance of the Lightning Network to this project, Kurimoto said, according to TechCrunch Japan, that “it can handle real time […] and enormous transactions:”

“There is a tremendous number of transactions in the IoT field, there is a possibility that using the Lightning Network can handle a larger number of transactions than using it in the cloud.”

Kurimoto told Cointelegraph that the collaboration is for experimental purposes, and that business cooperation will only be discussed once the experiment is finished.

Nayuta has developed two different kinds of power sockets for electric vehicle charging and making Bitcoin payments: one is a power socket, developed in 2015 that has been modified for a zero confirmation payment system, that has a pseudo SPV wallet software on a micro-controller, and the other has a Lightning Network software named “ptarmigan,” which Nayuta is currently developing. 

LN Socket A

Kurimoto told Cointelegraph that Infoteria has made a prototype mobile smartphone app for the service of the first type.

In the experiment for the second type of power socket, real time payment was made when a closed network, made up of  “ptarmigan” nodes and other “Lightning Network specific software (BOLT) was configured on Testnet,” Kurimoto wrote.

Kurimoto writes that “ptarmigan makes [it] possible to conduct Lightning Network transaction with c-lightning, lnd, eclair in closed network on Testnet, although we ha[ve] been still developing it further:”

“With developing ptarmigan, we will continue to develop and experiment to seek for what kind of architecture is the best to apply Lightning Network for IoT.”

He adds that they are also developing a solution that will work on the bitcoind 0.16 protocol, but for now only bitcoind 0.15 is available. A manual on how to use “ptarmigan” is available on GitHub[8].

Although Chubu Electric Power has confirmed the effectiveness of their experiments so far, according to The Denki Shimbun, Hidemi Noda, the head of the chief research planning group of Chubu Electric Power Technologies Development Division, said:

“This verification is the first step, I’d like to improve the service by finding out the problems and trying to improve it.”

Blockchain technology has already been used for record keeping in regards to automobiles. At the end of February, the Dubai[9] Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced plans for a Blockchain-based vehicle lifecycle tracking system[10].

An innovative use of payments on the Lightning Network recently made the news, when the man who originally bought pizza in the world’s first documented Bitcoin[11] (BTC) transaction for a physical item bought two more pizzas[12] using the Lightning Network.