Yulon Energy was founded in 2010 by Yulon Motor—Taiwan’s automobile maker and importer—which made an initial investment of NT$1 billion (US$34 million) in the company. The aim of Yulon Energy is to build charging stations to support the emergence of electric vehicles (EVs) as a replacement for gasoline-powered vehicles in Taiwan. As of March 2018, the company has more than 400 charging stations offering over 1,000 parking spaces for drivers to charge their EVs.
Although the market for electric vehicles (EVs) is still small, manufacturers are investing heavily in EV technology. One of the reasons for this investment is that governments are phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles from their roads, which is helping drive consumer demand.
Taiwan, for example, aims to remove automobiles that burn gasoline by 2040. Taiwan-based Yulon Energy saw this as an opportunity to build a network of charging stations around the country to support EV adoption. Following the success of its network in Taiwan, Yulon Energy started looking at China, where the government has been offering tax credits on electric vehicles to encourage sales.
Because building a network in China would require many thousands of charging stations, Yulon Energy wanted to perfect the way it rolled out a Chinese network, making it as quick and inexpensive as possible. How quick and inexpensive the process would be depended on how fast the network’s IT could be deployed. Evans Tseng, lead software engineer for Yulon Energy, says, “We knew after building stations in Taiwan that setting up an on-premises data center could take several months, which is too slow and expensive. We decided to run the IT for our charging stations from the cloud as a quicker and less expensive option.”
Yulon Energy assessed cloud-service providers, including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Says Tseng, “We found that AWS offered the most developed platform in terms of services available. Particularly in China, AWS offered far more services than other cloud-service providers. Furthermore, because of the AWS global footprint, we could in effect roll out a network of charging stations in any major country in the world.”
The company was also impressed with the AWS Cloud’s failover capabilities. As part of a proof of concept, Yulon Energy measured how quickly data was transferred between AWS Availability Zones in the Asia Pacific (Tokyo) and Asia Pacific (Sydney) regions. “By transferring data, we got to see just how low the latency was across the AWS Cloud, and how quickly we could switch operations between zones in the event of an outage,” says Tseng. “The speed of the network, plus the responsiveness of the AWS team in Taiwan to our inquiries, gave us a lot of confidence.”
Today, the Yulon Energy IT team is building the AWS infrastructure to support its charging stations across China. Once the infrastructure is finished, the IT team will simply scale the AWS infrastructure as the Chinese network of stations grows. The team is using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to support applications, databases, and a mobile app that EV owners can download. The app tells drivers where the nearest charging station is and how much power the charging station currently has available. Data collected through the app is stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and is eventually archived in Amazon Glacier.
Yulon Energy is perfecting the rollout of its charging stations, which will make them quick and inexpensive to install in China. “It took us just two weeks to get our AWS infrastructure in place to support our charging stations,” says Tseng. “An on-premises data center would have taken us at least a couple of months.”
In addition to saving time by using AWS, Yulon Energy has also identified significant cost savings. The company uses AWS Managed Services to monitor its AWS infrastructure and manage patch updates. “We only need two IT professionals to oversee our AWS infrastructure, whereas our on-premises infrastructures of a similar size need five. That’s a 60 percent cost saving,” says Tseng.
The data captured in the AWS Cloud will also provide Yulon Energy a detailed picture of station usage on any given day. “The data we collect on the AWS Cloud will help us when it comes to developing our station network in China,” Tseng comments. “We’ll be able to see where more stations are required and whether the capacity of individual stations should be scaled up.”
The data, says Tseng, will also be of use to government urban planners in Taiwan. As more people adopt EVs and the need for charging stations increases, the accumulated data will give government more data on road use countrywide. This, in turn, will help authorities when they plan road construction or possible upgrades to existing road infrastructure.
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