Smart car charging station or smart EV charging, in general, is the one term that constantly keeps popping up if you do a Google search of EVs or electric vehicles. But what does it mean, and is there also “dumb” charging?
Read on and find out what smart charging stations are, EV charging software as a part of EV charging station solutions that makes them “smart,” their functions, and why more and more governments are making smart car chargers mandatory to qualify for grants and subsidies.
Table of contents
- Smart vs. “dumb” charging
- The challenges e-mobility creates
- Smart car charging stations are the answer
- What are smart charging stations?
- What makes charging stations smart?
- Types of smart car charging stations
- Smart car charging station functions
- Smart car charging station & EV charging monetization
Smart EV charging refers to a charging system where electric vehicles, car charging stations, and Charge point operators share data connections. Through smart EV charging, the smart car charging station may monitor, manage, and restrict the use of other connected charging devices to optimize energy consumption.
Smart vs. “dumb” charging
Yes, there are “dumb” charging stations, which is the majority of them right now. When an EV driver connects the electric vehicle to a regular charging station, the station will start to charge the car battery at the highest possible rate. It will stop when the battery reaches the selected percentage or is fully charged. It’s like charging your phone, plugging it in, and disconnecting when it’s full.
The challenges e-mobility creates
To understand the importance of smart EV charging, we must understand the basic principles of how electricity is produced, distributed over the grid, and consumed.
Electricity comes from different sources. Some produce it constantly. Others, especially renewable sources that depend on weather like water, solar, and wind, are much more volatile.
So the electricity supply is not constant, and neither is the demand. Industry and households consume more electricity during the day than overnight, creating a curve in demand. The main challenge for the electric power industry is to match the supply and demand as close as possible and flatten the demand curve.
The other factor is the electric power grid, which limits how much electricity it can handle at a certain point. Did you ever blow a fuse at home because you overloaded it?
Well, this is something we don’t want to happen with the power grid when you connect your EV, and that is why EV grid balancing is so important. Please read our blog on EV charging infrastructure challenges for more detailed information.
Smart car charging stations are the answer
Simply put, smart EV charging has many functions. However, the main task is for the smart car charging stations to communicate with the Charge Point Operator (EV CPO) and the power grid to prevent grid overload and flatten the curve on electricity demand.
This operation is also called Smart Energy Management.
For a long time, the electric power industry had its methods to tackle these challenges, but the rise of e-mobility will prove too much to handle. At least without serious investments!
Governments worldwide understand that it’s impossible to shift all the responsibility for flawless electricity supply to the industry.
So they are increasingly demanding that only smart car charging stations will qualify for the grants and subsidies they offer.
What are smart charging stations?
As we said, right now, most charging stations in use are “dumb, ” which creates bad scenarios. If all the users connect their EVs to charge overnight, they create a massive demand for the first few hours, and then the demand drops rapidly.
This is bad for “flattening the curve” and puts much stress on the grid.
Also, if an area has many charging stations that operate at full capacity simultaneously, it can overload that part of the local grid. EV Charging load balancing is the term in smart EV charging that solves this, and it’s the essential part of smart car charging station management.
What makes charging stations smart?
The answer to what makes charging stations smart is simple! It is cloud-based EV charging software that manages and communicates with all the parties involved. The communication is based on industry-standard ISO 15118 internet protocol and Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP).
The heart of the software is a control panel connecting all EV infrastructures to one central hub. Because it’s cloud-based, the EV CPO has Web or Mobile app access. This software is often called Charge Point Management System (CPMS), but the term is not entirely correct.
A modern cloud-based smart EV charging software is much more than CPMS. It’s a combination of management software (CPMS), a customer management system, and intelligent billing software.
While the Charge Point Management System (CPMS) is used for general control and maintenance of smart car charging stations, the customer management system and the EV billing part, enable the monetization of EV charging, aka “make money.”
This part is vital for Electric Mobility Service Providers (EMSP) because it’s a part of their interaction with the customers and a tool for customer acquisition and customer retention.
Depending on their EV Charging business model, they can set up different prices, bonuses and loyalty programs, subscriptions, etc. In the central panel, they can manage customers, and revenue, see the analytics and reports, and much more, all in real-time.
A part of EV drivers’ current bad experience with EV charging is using different apps. Every time they connect their EV to a different charging network, they need to download a different EMSPs app. This problem is solved with EV charging Roaming which enables charging in any network with just one EV charging app.
With this app, they can set up charging parameters, monitor account balance, payment history, and more.
They can also use the map to navigate to the nearest charging station.
Types of smart car charging stations
In general, smart car charging stations fall into three categories:
- home charging stations for personal use
- workplace charging stations used by companies for employees and companies’ fleets
- public charging stations
They all operate on the same principle but with some important differences. It is worth mentioning that most charging stations installed today are not “smart” according to modern standards.
Home charging stations
Charging at home is the predominant solution for charging electric vehicles. A smart home EV charging station uses dynamic load balancing that balances the energy usage of the electric vehicle and other appliances in the home grid. When an EV is connected, the software will distribute the power to the devices that need it in the current moment to prevent overloads and only charge the vehicle when it’s most energy and cost-efficient. It can also optimize charging from the grid in combination with your solar panels.
While many companies started installing or leasing charging stations to allow their employees to charge electric cars while at work, the real need for smart charging stations lies in the electrification of companies’ fleets. This fleet of vehicles needs to be charged at the right time for the right price and in the correct order, with V2G technology being an exciting factor. Read more about this emerging complex challenge in our blog on EV fleet management.
Public EV charging stations
Public EV charging stations are the ones that will make or break the e-mobility revolution. They are used not only for charging when traveling longer distances. Many EV drivers that are not homeowners have no option to connect and charge their EV at home. So public EV charging stations will be the only way to charge the vehicle. So for a society to successfully switch to electric vehicles, they will be in high demand, which means a lot of charging. Smart EV charging, of course.
Smart car charging station functions
Software is always programmable, so there is no limitation on what functions can be included, and certainly, in the future new functions will be added. Here are some currently most important functions of smart charging stations. Check our blog on Top 5(+1) EV charging trends for a more detailed review.
Load balancing and dynamic load management
EV charging load balancing and dynamic EV Charging load management are the most important functions of a smart charging station. The charging power and charging timing adapt according to the amount of available energy in the grid. As said before, this is used for peak shaving and preventing home, local, or overall grid overload. In the case of public or workplace chargers, smart EV charging software can distribute power between different charging stations, limiting or momentary stopping some of them if the power supply drops.
Remote managing and monitoring
A cloud-based architecture enables an EV CPO and EMSP to access the control panel and sees all the vital data on the charging network, selected charging stations, or customers in real-time. He can remotely monitor, manage or troubleshoot the stations, as explained in the blog on EV charging management software.
Plug and Charge
All surveys show that electric car users want a better user experience with charging. Plug and Charge is a huge step forward. It means that the vehicle and the smart charging station communicate without users needing to authenticate themselves. This makes charging easier and faster, but the OCPP 2.0 standard must become more widely adopted in the industry to implement it fully.
Charging power and time selection
An essential function of a smart car charger is the ability that the user can select at what power or at what time he wants the charging to take place. This is conveniently done over the app, enabling better optimization of time and costs of charging.
As mentioned above, timing and power of charging can be selected, which is also the basis for pricing that EMSP offers its users. In addition to different tariffs for charging in off-peak and peak hours, the in-build billing software also enables the creation of different pricing models, subscriptions, bonus points, and loyalty programs. According to eMSP’s business models, they can also offer VIP membership and similar upgrades. Imagine a scenario where ten public charging stations can’t charge at full power because of a low energy supply. A VIP membership could mean that this user gets full charging power while the rest of the stations get limited. For a more detailed look into this important aspect of EV charging, read our blog on EV Billing.
Vehicle-to-grid technology (V2G)
There is much talk about V2G (Vehicle to Grid) technology, and we will hear much more about it in the future. For now, the smart charging stations must be ready for this technology to be prepared when it really comes to life.
Monitoring and reporting occupancy of stations
What EV drivers fear most is coming to a charging station to find out that it’s occupied or not working. A smart charging station reports its status in real-time, so users can always see which charging points are available in the app. The common problem is that the charging stations are blocked by parked cars that are not charging, so the really smart charging stations will have in-build sensors that will monitor the station’s surroundings for potential obstacles that could prevent charging.
Smart car charging station & EV charging monetization
There is no doubt CPOs and EMSPs are not humanitarian organizations and are in the business of EV charging to make a profit. Smart charging stations offer a good platform for successful monetization of EV Charging with all their functions and possibilities to add new ones. With support for any EV Charging business model, smart charging stations are the future.
Tridens EV Charge is one of those smart cloud-based software that combines Charge Point Management System (CPMS) with intelligent EV billing software. It offers a complete solution that is suitable for any Charge Point Operator (CPO) and Electro-mobility Service Provider (EMSP).
Smart charging stations are the future. Let’s make “dumb” charging stations history!
Want to get more information about the Tridens EV Charge solution? Leave a comment below or schedule a free demo!