Fast and flexible infrastructure management keeps German e-mobility market leader on track to achieve high availability and performance
Many businesses talk a good game on sustainability and renewable energy, but those that deliver are the ones that matter most. Specializing in consumer, system-critical, and sustainable infrastructure, EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG is an energy company headquartered in Karlsruhe, Germany.
EnBW is one of the biggest companies of its type in Germany and Europe, employing some 26,000 people and supplying around 5.5 million customers, including businesses, local authorities, and consumers, with electricity, gas, water, and energy related products and services.
Having previously focused on legacy energy sources, EnBW has made a company-wide commitment to sustainability and set out a strategy of transformation to focus on renewable energy, and expansion into associated markets. The business has set itself an ambitious – but achievable – target to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030 and become climate neutral by 2035.
EnBW fast charging along motorways
As a key pillar of its repositioning strategy, the EnBW mobility+ department operates Germany’s largest e-mobility fast charging grid. As the number of electric vehicles grows, EnBW aims to have 2,500 fast-charging stations available across Germany by 2025, with an annual investment of €100 million. Its primary focus is on high-power charging, with capacities of up to 300kW. Depending on the car, this could allow drivers to add a range of 100km in just five minutes. EnBW recently has been named Germany’s best charge point operator by the renowned test magazine “CONNECT”.
In addition, the EnBW HyperNet offers EV-drivers more than 300.000 charging points in 16 European countries at uniform prices per kilowatt hours. This offer includes the EnBW mobility+ app and repeatedly comes out on top of different independent tests.
However, managing this infrastructure – and its growth – takes some serious expertise. The network is split into two main market functions: charge point operator (CPO), which manages the infrastructure, and electromobility provider (EMP), which handles end-user access. High levels of data availability and flexibility are required for both areas to be fully effective, and maintaining performance in the face of substantial growth in data volumes demands significant resources.
In 2017, the EMP function made an initial decision to deploy a NoSQL database solution to handle all the data for its charging station structures, a task that would otherwise have required a multitude of tables. In addition, multiple different fields increased the levels of complexity, and even more so when the business introduced a quick geo-location search function.
“We always try to focus on availability; that’s a strong differentiating characteristic,” says Steffen Wagner, IT System Architect at EnBW. ”Charging an electric vehicle has to be easy, and many CPOs had processes that didn't work reliably or were too complex. We needed to change that.”
Steffen Wagner, IT System Architect, EnBW
The challenge was to significantly improve availability, scalability and performance, and to manage programmatic integration.
The answer, it turned out, was closer than anticipated. The CPO side of the operation had adopted MongoDB from the outset in 2019. So integrating both the CPO and the EMP team on one developer data platform that could handle the needs of both teams made sense. A series of scrum teams were set up for both EMP and CPO, with additional teams handling the iOS and Android apps, and MongoDB was made available as a group solution through the company’s in-house OnePlatform resource.
“The whole thing is divided up granularly, but our development teams are strongly networked, and we make sure there is uniform technology at all levels,” explains Wagner. “When developing new components, we used MongoDB wherever possible.”
EMP’s system was originally migrated onto a self-hosted MongoDB database, with performance, scalability, and overall system flexibility all registering significant improvements to its operations as a result. After this success, it then made sense to switch to MongoDB Atlas, a fully managed cloud database, to ensure that any maintenance, security, and availability concerns associated with EnBW’s teams operating in a new environment were addressed. The CPO side of the business used Atlas from the outset, so now the two units are both running on Atlas in parallel.
EnBW fast charging at shopping sites
With the operational side of the database now handled primarily by Atlas, the in-house teams at EnBW can focus on development and delivering benefits that impact efficiency and operating costs. Wagner also notes key advantages in terms of scalability and migration. “If you are used to SQL databases, you have quite a rigid model if you want to expand,” he says. “The document database in MongoDB gives you a lot of flexibility. If you add new information or expand objects, it works very well.”
He continues: “Programming flexibility is also a very big advantage. You can easily expand your data models, usually without any complex migrations. Even when this is unavoidable, NOSQL still offers simplicity and speed.”
The Atlas interface now gives users full visibility of what is actually happening on the databases and allows operators to make critical changes quickly and easily. “If you notice you’re getting close to any limits, you can choose a larger cluster size very easily via Atlas,” explains Wagner.
And the work is paying off. EnBW is repeatedly named as best electric mobility provider in Germany and received the accolade of best charging infrastructure operator in November 2021. The EnBW mobility+ app has also been listed as Germany’s best electric mobility app.
These successes, increased flexibility and operating speeds in the company’s CPO and EMP operations, and shortened data-access times are critical outcomes of the adoption of MongoDB. They are also, according to Wagner, key drivers for the increased adoption of electric vehicles. “Infrastructure availability is an important issue, and customers need positive experiences,” he concludes. “Range anxiety is still common among non-electric drivers, and you can only counter this with a functioning infrastructure that’s always available. That’s what MongoDB enables, and that’s why we’re here.”
Steffen Wagner, IT System Architect, EnBW