EV smart charging provides new functionalities for consumers charging their electric vehicles. The goal is to improve load balancing and power-sharing in an effort to meet grid demands in an energy efficient manner. Continue reading to learn more about the EV market, smart charging, and the pros and cons of smart chargers.
State of EV Market
The electric car market is booming, as electric car sales increase year over year. Public policy support for electric vehicle proliferation is also accelerating, through charging infrastructure funding, education and awareness campaigns, and subsidies and taxes.
Europe is leading the western world towards electric vehicle adoption, surpassed only by China, with major uptake in metropolitan areas including Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and London, among others.
As electric vehicle stock grows, there is concern that the demand will outpace the supply of EV chargers that provide clean energy.
Skeptics suggest that the carbon emission impact of electric vehicles will be reduced with large-scale adoption, as EV chargers will be forced to rely on coal-fired power plants.
Before disputing this stance, it’s important to remember that the transition to clean energy or ‘zero emissions’ is not a zero-sum situation. For 120 years, the automobile has developed around the invention of the internal combustion engine, so the transition to a cleaner solution will not occur overnight.
What is Smart Charging? How does it work?
Smart charging is an emerging technology that provides a way for consumers to charge their EVs in the most efficient manner. Smart charging describes the functionalities of EV charging stations that act intelligently to manage and optimize power distribution.
Smart charging provides a way for the EV industry to continue to grow without large impacts on the power grid. With smart charging technology, EVs can be charged during the most energy efficient hours.
Smart charging can capitalize on a region’s renewable energy production methods. For example, areas with robust solar power generation, such as Germany, may adapt to charge more during the daylight hours. This will reduce power grid impact and reliance on coal-fired plants to provide the necessary power supply.
Pros of Smart Charging
Electrification of the transportation industry will provide major benefits in the long-term, but consumers, public policymakers, and industry leaders want to see tangible benefits now.
Aside from off-peak charging, smart charging provides 3 main features that will be impactful now:
1. Power Sharing
Power sharing is load balancing of the power distribution system. Power sharing prevents the need for immediate upgrades to the power system as EV usage grows. Instead, locations with multiple charging stations will see an optimal distribution across all active EV charging stations.
For example, if 3 charging stations are in use at a single location, the power supply will be evenly distributed among those 3 vehicles. When an electric vehicle hooks up to a 4th charging station, the power supply will react to balance among the 4 EVs, without taking more power from the grid.
2. Power Boost
Power Boost provides a clever way to prevent consumers from exceeding their household’s expected energy use. Power Boost will dynamically balance the load with your household energy use.
This prevents households using EV chargers from stressing the power grid. If the household starts demanding more power, maybe from using the dishwasher or washing machine, the system will react and may even pause the charging of the electric vehicle to prevent exceeding the threshold.
3. Dynamic Power Sharing
Dynamic Power Sharing combines the functionality of Power Sharing and Power Boost. This prevents any site, whether commercial or residential, from exceeding its power threshold, while dynamically sharing power across all EV charging stations.
This is an essential component of allowing the electric vehicle market to continue to grow without straining the power grid.
Cons of Smart Charging
Smart charging doesn’t completely alleviate the problems associated with EV adoption. Infrastructure changes will still be needed in the future.
1. Infrastructure Improvements Still Necessary
Smart charging technology is meant to improve power distribution and prevent overloading the power grid, but the success of this may be limited to the short-term. If vehicle electrification nears 80-100%, no amount of smart charging will prevent the strain on the power grid.
20% of all vehicles in Europe are solely powered by electricity, but power grid impact may not be experienced until 50-70%. The largest charging station in Europe, Sortimoto Innovation Park in Zusmarshausen Germany, has 144 changing stations. Yet it can only charge 4,000 vehicles today with the current power grid setup.
For electric vehicle adoption to increase as rapidly as possible, the infrastructure changes need to be tackled from all sides. Power grid updates and EV charging station infrastructure are equally important.
2. Not First Come, First Served
A consumer may be the first person to plug in at a power station, but if the station sees an influx in users and multiple charging stations are now in use, the charging time could increase noticeably.
If a consumer is in a hurry, they may need to pay a premium rate for more allocation to quickly get on their way. This is a more equitable form of power distribution that the public is not accustomed to.
3. Financial Investment
There are three levels of EV charging currently available, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 3 charging provides the quickest charge. Level 1 is obsolete/not available in Europe, but is widespread in the United States, as homes there have a 120V supply from standard outlets.
Level 2 is available for European homes and most public charging stations and requires 208V to 240V.
Level 3 charges, also known as supercharging or DC fast charge, requires 400V to 900V and can charge 4 to 32 km per minute.
To make use of smart charging technology, consumers may need to invest 300 to 800 Euros, depending upon functionality. Wallbox, a popular choice for EV smart chargers, will run about 1,400 Euros for their Level 2 charger, with Power Boost and cable holder. This does not include installation.
Future of Smart Charging
Electric vehicle charging will continue to adapt and improve, with machine learning and AI. Energy companies, electric car manufacturers, and EV charger manufacturers, have invested billions in developing these technologies. Expect EV charging to get smarter and cheaper, requiring less input from consumers.
Smart charging provides a way to reduce the EV impact on the power grid, while infrastructure changes and updates are underway. Electricity can be provided with renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydrogen. The same cannot be said about gas and diesel, which is why EV is so superior. EVs can use ‘dirty energy’, but as renewable energy technology improves, this will be needed to a lesser extent.
Worldwide, the transportation industry is the biggest contributor to global warming. Global adoption of electric vehicles could reduce carbon emissions by 70-80%, by removing the billions of internal combustion engines from the roadways, and smart EV charging will be vital to this transition.