What Is Smart Charging
Smart Charging means you can intelligently manage how your electric vehicle charges by connecting it to the grid.
When a vehicle is ‘smart charging’, the charger is essentially ‘communicating’ with your car, the charging operator and the utility company through data connections. In other words, whenever you plug in your EV, the charger automatically sends them important data so they can optimize charging.
Thus, smart charging allows the charging operator (be it an individual with a charger at their home or a business owner with multiple charging stations) to manage how much energy to give to any plugged-in EV. The amount used can vary depending on how many people are using electricity at that time, putting less pressure on the grid. Smart charging also prevents charging operators from exceeding their building’s maximum energy capacity, as defined by local grid capacities and their chosen energy tariff.
What’s more, smart charging allows utility companies to define certain limits for energy consumption. So, we don’t overload the grid by using more energy than we are producing.
This saves everybody time and money and, most importantly, economises energy to help us to better protect the planet’s precious resources.
How Does Smart Charging Work in Practice?
Smart charging is all about connecting charging points with users and operators. Every time an EV is plugged in, the charging station sends information (i.e. charging time, speed, etc) via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a centralized cloud-based management platform. Additional data may also be sent to this cloud. This can include, for example, information about the local grid’s capacity and how energy is currently being used at the charging site (house, office building, supermarket etc.). The mass of data is automatically analyzed and visualized in real-time by the software behind the platform. It can then be used to make automatic decisions about how and when EVs are charged.
Thanks to this, charging operators can control and regulate energy usage easily and remotely through one platform, website or mobile application. Other features and benefits are also enabled. For instance, EV owners can use a mobile app to monitor and pay for their charging sessions from anywhere, any time.
Most Relevant Smart Charging Features
Power Sharing, also sometimes referred to as load balancing or levelling, allows network operators or businesses with multiple chargers onsite to distribute the available energy capacity proportionally across all active EV charging stations. As available power is limited at each site, normally more demand for energy would mean expensive electrical infrastructure upgrades. Smart charging means power can be optimally distributed so that such upgrades can be avoided. You can check out the video below to see how this is achieved.
Following the example in the video above, let’s imagine the following situation: Your office building has a maximum power availability of 44kW and each EV charging point has a maximum power output of 22kW. There are several cars that want to charge at the same time. With Power Sharing, one car can charge at 22kW - the maximum capacity that your charging point allows. If a second EV plugs-in, both cars can still charge at their maximum capacity of 22kW, as together, they don’t eclipse the building’s maximum power availability of 44kW. However, once a third car plugs in, capacity will be distributed accordingly so that all three cars will now charge at 14kW each. If a fourth EV joins, the number goes down to 11kW per vehicle and so on.
Power Boost, also referred to as peak shaving, is a feature of smart charging that prevents you from exceeding your house’s maximum energy capacity. Reaching or going over your maximum energy capacity is not a good idea. It can mean that you are charged extra by your energy provider for using more electricity than planned, especially if you go on to use energy-heavy devices, like a washing machine or dishwasher, later in the month. Power Boost helps you to avoid this by balancing the load dynamically among the charger and the rest of the devices in the house. When it looks like you’re reaching maximum capacity, your smart charging control system will automatically reduce how much power is being consumed by your car. It can even pause the charging session altogether until enough power becomes available again. This way, you never go over your energy limit.
Dynamic Power Sharing
Dynamic Power Sharing combines Power Boost and Power Sharing. As mentioned above, installing new charging points at any given site implies an increase in the overall power demand. This is an expensive and often inefficient option.
Dynamic Power Sharing (DPS) allows a building’s demand to be monitored and measured against its maximum allowable energy capacity. When demand is lower than maximum capacity, the remaining available power is given to the charging network. Furthermore, the smart charging system will automatically distribute the available energy evenly among all chargers. In contrast, if the building’s demand is equal or greater than its maximum permitted value, no power will be supplied to the charging stations. By taking advantage of lows in the building’s overall energy demand, the charging network’s demand can be satisfied without ever having to increase the installation’s overall power, by contracting higher power or even laying new lines, or exceed the site’s maximum energy capacity.
What’s the Difference between Smart charging and Bidirectional Charging?
Smart charging allows charging point owners and grid operators to manage their charging points remotely and, through this, to optimize energy consumption and costs. For instance, setting your charging to start at night when rates are lower.
Bidirectional charging, on the other hand, is where energy can flow both into an EV and out of it via a special bidirectional charger, often referred to as V2G (vehicle to grid). This means that the EV battery can both take energy from the grid and give energy back to it. You can check the video below to see how this works in practice.
What’s the Difference Between Smart Charging and Fast Charging?
Fast charging simply involves putting more electricity into an EVs battery at a faster rate - in other words, charging up an EV’s battery quicker. Smart charging, as we saw above, allows vehicle owners, businesses and network operators to control how much energy EVs are taking from the grid and when.
The majority of charging stations (sometimes called slow charging stations) found in workplaces or the home have a maximum charging power of 3 kW and take around 6-12 hours to fully charge an EV. Fast charging stations can charge with a maximum power of between 7-22 kW and take between 1-6 hours to fully charge an EV. They are generally found in public spaces. Rapid EV chargers can charge with a maximum power of between 50-150 kW, taking around 20-40 minutes to charge an EV to 80%. Ultra-fast EV chargers, only just coming to market now, have capacities of 150kW or higher and can charge an EV battery 75-100% in under 45 minutes.
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