Smart EV charging is a term that constantly pops up if you search for anything related to electric vehicles.
But what is smart charging, how does it work, what are its benefits, and how can we unlock its full potential?
Read on and learn about the smart charging of electric vehicles, the charging solutions that make it smart, and why it will become mandatory sooner or later.
Table of contents
- Smart vs. Non-Smart Electric Vehicles Charging
- What Is Smart EV Charging?
- Who is involved in EV Smart charging?
- Smart Charging and Smart Power Grid
- What is Smart Energy Management?
- What is Optimized EV Charging?
- What makes Smart EV Charging smart?
- Smart Charging Protocols and Requirements
- Smart EV Charging Features
- Benefits of Smart Charging
- Features Connected to Smart Charging
- EV Smart Charging and Monetization
Smart vs. Non-Smart Electric Vehicles Charging
There are smart and non-smart, aka dumb charging stations, and the majority of them today fall into the last category.
If electric vehicle charging is done at a constant rate without any regard for other parameters, it’s an example of non-smart charging.
Non-smart EV charging is essentially like charging your phone – plugging it in and disconnecting when it’s full.
If the charging of the electric vehicle takes into consideration other parameters like, for example, the current state of a power grid or charging price, we can qualify it as smart charging.
However, we at Tridens, a Smart EV charging solution provider, believe that the term is often misused.
EV charging solutions and charging stations are sometimes labeled smart, even if they can only perform just one or two most basic smart charging functions.
What Is Smart EV Charging?
Smart EV charging is the ability to intelligently control, manage and adjust all aspects of electric vehicle charging.
It is done based on real-time data communication between the electric vehicle, the charger, the charging operator, and the electricity provider or utility company.
In other words, in smart charging, all parties involved constantly communicate and use advanced charging solutions to optimize charging at all times.
At the heart of this ecosystem is the Smart charging EV solution that processes this data and allows charging operators and users to manage all aspects of charging.
By function, Smart EV Charging can be divided into the following segments:
- Smart Energy Management
It manages the influence EV charging has on the power grid and electric supply.
- Optimized EV Charging
It helps EV drivers and Charging Service providers optimize charging in terms of costs and effectiveness.
- Remote management and analytics
It enables users and operators to control and adjust charging over a web platform or mobile app.
- Advanced EV charging technologies
Many new technologies like V2G will require smart charging functionalities to function properly.
Who is involved in EV Smart charging?
Several stakeholders are involved in developing and ensuring smart electric charging works. These stakeholders include:
- Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers
- EV Charging station manufacturers
- EV software companies
- Charge point operators (CPOs)
- Electro Mobility Service Providers
- Utilities and energy service providers
- Government agencies
- EV drivers
To learn more about the complexity of this topic and the big picture behind it, please read our blog on EV Charging Ecosystem.
Smart Charging and Smart Power Grid
To understand the importance of Smart EV charging for the power grid, we must understand the basic principles of electricity production, distribution over the grid, and consumption.
Electricity comes from different sources.
Some, like nuclear, gas, or coal power plants, can be regulated.
Others, especially renewable sources that depend on the 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 closely as possible and flatten the demand curve.
Smart EV Charging: Unlocking Its Full Potential
In addition to that, the usage of electricity must be controlled at all times to prevent the overloading of the power grid.
Because intelligent charging will play an important role in electricity demand, using EV Smart Charge solutions and a smart grid is vital to maintain the balance.
Please read our blog on EV charging and infrastructure challenges for more detailed information.
What is Smart Energy Management?
Smart Energy Management is a broad concept primarily associated with home and building energy management systems.
Smart EV Charging is part of that system because electric vehicle charging can largely influence the energy consumption of homes, buildings, or public areas.
The electric power grid capabilities are limited in how much electricity they 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 charging your electric car.
How does Smart Energy Management in EV Charging Work?
Smart energy management uses various technologies and even artificial intelligence to optimize the use and distribution of energy within a home, business, or even city.
It includes sensors and advanced analytics to monitor, control, and predict energy use.
Therefore, Smart energy management systems must also include EV charging as one component of a larger energy management strategy.
Smart energy management and Smart Charge share functions but they are both broader terms.
At least, in our opinion, an EV charging solution or a charger with only smart energy management functions shouldn’t be advertised with smart charging technology.
Instead, it should clearly state that it has energy management.
As said before, Smart energy management is a crucial part of smart electric charging but by far not the only one.
Smart Energy Management and EV Charging use cases
In praxis, smart energy management functions inside Smart Charging always monitor the state of the grid and consumption and can limit EV charging if needed.
Let’s look at some real-life scenarios.
Use case 1: Smart Home Charging
- A house owner connected his car to the Smart Charger to charge overnight.
- At a certain point, other home appliances like dishwashers or water heaters start to work.
- The energy demand rises to the point that it could overload the main fuse.
- The Smart Charger will limit the charging power or temporarily stop charging to ensure this doesn’t happen.
- When the demand drops, it will continue to charge the car.
Use case 2: Smart EV Fleet Charging
- A company uses Smart EV chargers to charge the company’s EV fleet and employees’ cars.
- At a certain point, the demand from other consumers, like production machines, is too big for the grid capacity.
- The EV Smart Charge solution limits charging and only allows charging to assigned priority chargers.
- First, it will first charge the most important vehicles in its EV fleet.
Use case 3: Smart Charging for Public Chargers
- A shopping mall has ten public chargers.
- The total electricity demand rises to a point where all chargers can’t charge at full power.
- The smart EV charging platform will limit the charging of cars.
- It can limit all ten cars equally.
- It can assign charging only to the first connected vehicles
- It can prioritize users with VIP charging subscriptions.
What is Optimized EV Charging?
Optimized EV charging combines a group of smart charging functions.
These functions manage the charging of electric cars in a way that maximizes the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the charging process.
In praxis, optimized charging mainly revolves around the charging schedule.
It takes advantage of low energy demand periods when electricity prices are lower.
Optimized EV charging is closely connected to the EV billing function, a part of the EV Smart Charge solution responsible for charging and billing.
With new EV charging business models and changing legislation, the billing systems must stay up-to-date to support the transition.
A move to complex TUO and dynamic pricing
Now electricity prices most commonly include Time-of-use (TOU) pricing with only two price tariffs with fixed timing (day/night).
However, many energy suppliers will implement up to five or more tariffs this and in the following years.
Soon we can also expect real-time dynamic EV pricing, although no one likes to talk about it now.
Probably because of its complexity and the additional smart EV Charging platform demands it brings.
The use of renewable energy
In addition, optimized EV Charging can also involve using renewable energy sources (when available), such as solar or wind power.
Total remote control and transparency
Last but not least, optimized EV charging also allows the owner of the EV to monitor and control charging remotely using a smartphone app or web interface.
With access to all his charging and billing data, the user can also set up his charging profiles. By doing this, he can optimize charging and take advantage of special offers like vouchers or loyalty points.
With Optimized EV charging as a function of Smart charging, users of electric cars can help the power grid by charging at the times that are best for energy production and offer the best prices for the users.
What makes Smart EV Charging smart?
The answer to what makes charging smart is simple!
It’s the cloud-based smart EV charging software that utilizes real-time data from the communication between the electric vehicle, the charging station, and the grid.
It uses various algorithms to ensure efficient and cost-effective charging.
The heart of this smart charging solution is a control panel connecting all EV infrastructure in one central platform.
This centralized smart EV charging platform is used to manage and monitor the charging stations’ operation and all other charging aspects.
Because the platform is cloud-based, Charge Point Operators or Electro Mobility Service Providers use a Web portal to access it.
The back-office system tracks the usage of the charging stations, generates reports, and manages billing and payment for charging services.
This software is often called Charge Point Management System (CPMS), but the term is not entirely correct.
A Smart EV Charging Platform is not just CPMS
A modern cloud-based smart EV charging platform is much more than just CPMS.
It’s a combination of charge point management software (CPMS), a customer management system, and intelligent EV charging billing software.
The Charge Point Management System (CPMS) controls and maintains chargers.
However, 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 their core business and a part of their customer interaction.
Depending on their 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.
What functions are supported and how well they work depends on the selected software and hardware.
To summarise, EV Smart Charging is done with Smart Charging solutions.
Smart Charging Protocols and Requirements
Various protocols are needed for smart EV charging to ensure seamless communication and interoperability between the electric vehicle, charging equipment, and the grid.
These protocols and standards are crucial for the effective functioning of smart charging systems, ensuring seamless communication, compatibility, and advanced features across various devices and platforms.
Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP)
OCPP is an open-source protocol that enables the communication between charging stations and the central Smart EV Charging platform – the back-office.
It supports a wide range of charging functionalities, such as remote monitoring, access control, and dynamic load management.
Smart charging systems use OCPP to communicate with smart charging stations and enable features such as remote start/stop of charging, real-time monitoring of charging status, and billing for the energy consumed.
By providing a standardized protocol for communication, OCPP promotes interoperability between different manufacturers’ charging equipment and backend systems.
This protocol defines the communication between the electric vehicle, charging station, and backend systems.
ISO 15118 enables smart charging systems to monitor and control the charging process remotely.
It also enables advanced features like Plug and Charge and bi-directional communication for Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) services.
It establishes requirements for digital communication, safety, and control signals between the electric vehicle and the charging equipment to enable effective charging sessions.
This standard specifies the design and safety requirements for charging plugs, socket outlets, and vehicles, promoting a standardized charging infrastructure.
OpenADR (Open Automated Demand Response)
OpenADR is a communication protocol that enables utilities and grid operators to send real-time price and demand response signals to a smart EV charging platform.
Also known as Smart Energy Profile 2.0, IEEE 2030.5 is a standard that defines the communication between smart devices, including EV chargers, and the grid.
It enables demand response, load management, and the integration of distributed energy resources, such as solar panels and energy storage systems.
Smart EV Charging Features
Smart EV charging features are intelligent functions built or, better said, programmed into smart charging solutions.
They enhance the charging experience and improve the efficiency of the charging process.
Software is always programmable, so there is no limit to what functions you can include.
For sure, in the future smart charging will get additional functions.
Here are some currently the most important functions of smart charging stations.
Check our blog on EV charging industry trends for a more detailed review of what the future will bring.
Optimized EV Smart Charging scheduling
Optimized Smart Charging scheduling is the ability to schedule or automate the timing of EV Charging freely.
The users can schedule the charging only at low-cost hours or leave it to the smart charging system to decide when it is best to charge.
Depending on the software and the charging station, this optimization can be preset to fixed times or be smart and respond to real-time data.
As mentioned above, Optimized EV charging is an essential Smart charge EV function.
Smart Energy management
As mentioned above, the most common function in smart electric charging is smart energy management, or the ability to optimize the charging process to minimize the impact on the electrical grid.
It is essential to battle the spreading fear of what will happen to power grids when electric vehicles become widespread.
Like optimized scheduling, it can be static or dynamic based on real-time data from the power grid.
Load balancing and dynamic load management
EV charging load balancing and dynamic load management are the “advanced” functions where smart scheduling and energy management come together.
Both features together ensure that the charging power and timing adapt according to the real-time data on the amount of available energy in the grid and its price.
Often you will hear the terms peak shaving and dynamic power sharing.
- Peak shaving describes the ability of a Smart EV charging solution to intervene and reduce the peak demand for electricity by shifting the charging of electric cars to off-peak periods.
- Dynamic power sharing is the ability to adjust the power output of a charging station in real-time based on the availability of electricity and the demand for charging.
These are just other names for what these two functions do!
They prevent home, local, or overall grid overloads while trying to ensure EV Charging happens at the best times according to the electricity supply and demand.
For more information about these vital smart charging features, please read our in-depth explanations of EV charging load balancing and dynamic EV Charging load management.
Remote monitoring and control
It goes without saying that the users and CPOs need the ability to monitor the charging process and control the charger remotely via a smartphone app or web interface.
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.
Please read our EV charging station management system blog for a more detailed explanation.
The Smart Charging App
A part of EV drivers’ user experience is the mobile app.
With Smart charging, the EV charging app is more important than ever.
In addition to all the usual features, like selecting payment methods or searching for free chargers, the users can set all the parameters of smart charging.
For instance, they can set up charging time intervals and let the software charge at the lowest cost. Or they can decide to prioritize electricity from renewable sources.
With all current and previous charging data in one place, they can control and analyze their consumption and costs in detail.
Data Analytics and Forecasting
An important part of Smart EV Charging is the ability to collect and analyze data about charging activity.
With advanced algorithms, the smart charging system can predict when and how much a car will charge, as well as optimize the use of charging infrastructure.
This improves the efficiency of the charging process and the overall energy system.
Several key factors influence this feature, like the availability of data, the accuracy of forecasting algorithms, and the flexibility of the charging infrastructure.
Data analytics and AI-backed forecasting techniques will enable the development of a more efficient EV charging ecosystem.
Benefits of Smart Charging
Smart Charge Benefits for Users
Users can benefit greatly from using EV smart charging:
Smart charging is more convenient for EV users because they allow them to schedule charging for a specific time or remotely control the car charging process using a smartphone app or web interface.
Smart charging is more flexible because it allows users to schedule charging when electricity prices are low or when renewable energy sources are available.
Smart charging systems are more cost-effective because they save money on charging and can take advantage of discounts or other promotions.
- Range assurance
Smart charging provides EV drivers with information about the charging status of their EVs and the estimated range remaining. This helps reduce EV range anxiety and improves the overall driving experience.
Smart charging systems encourage using renewable energy sources and help reduce transportation’s carbon footprint.
- Improved grid stability
Smart charging systems manage the electricity demand. Therefore they improve the stability of the electrical grid in their homes and overall.
Benefits of Smart Charging for EV Fleets
The benefits for companies that use smart charging for their electric vehicle (EV) fleets and fleet management include the following:
- Cost savings
Smart charging systems reduce the cost of operating an EV fleet. They do it by allowing fleet managers to schedule charging for times when electricity prices are lower.
- Improved efficiency
Smart charging, combined with EV fleet management software, optimizes the charging schedule and ensures EVs are charged when they are most needed. This can reduce downtime and improve the overall utilization of the fleet.
- Enhanced fleet management
Smart charging solutions provide fleet managers with data about the charging activity of the fleet. This data can help optimize the fleet’s operation and identify cost-saving opportunities.
- Greater control
Smart charging gives fleet managers greater control over the charging process. It allows them to monitor and control the charging of individual vehicles remotely.
- Enhanced sustainability
With Smart charging, EV Fleet charging can use renewable energy sources and improve their overall sustainability.
- Improved grid stability
Smart EV fleet charging solutions coordinate the charging of multiple EVs and manage the electricity demand. By doing so, they improve the stability of the electrical grid. This can be particularly important for large fleets that can significantly impact the grid.
Benefits of Smart Charging Technologies for CPOs and EMSPs
There are several benefits of using Smart EV charging for Charge point operators and Electro mobility service providers:
- Increased customer satisfaction
Smart charging will improve customer satisfaction with convenient and reliable charging services.
- Cost savings and revenues
Smart charging solutions can help CPOs and EMSPs reduce operating costs and increase revenues. They can achieve this by optimizing their pricing models and introducing new attractive EV charging business models. With comprehensive analysis, they can make informed business decisions based on accurate data.
- Greater control
Smart charging systems give CPOs and EMSPs greater control. They also allow them to monitor, control and troubleshoot the smart charging stations remotely.
- Improved charging infrastructure
Smart charging solutions help optimize the deployment of charging infrastructure. They identify the locations where charging is needed most and ensure that the infrastructure is used efficiently.
- Improved grid stability
Smart charging systems that coordinate the charging of multiple cars and manage the electricity demand can help improve the grid’s stability. This is particularly important for large CPOs that have a large number of smart EV chargers.
Benefits of Smart Electric Charging for Utilities and Energy Providers
The benefits of Smart EV charging for utilities and energy service providers include:
- Improved grid stability
Smart charging offers better management of electricity demand. This significantly improves the electrical grid’s stability. It’s particularly important for utilities and energy service providers, as EV adoption will increase significantly in the coming years and put additional strain on the grid.
- Enhanced data analytics
Smart charging systems can generate data and reposts about charging activity. These reports help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the charging infrastructure and the overall energy system. This helps utilities and energy service providers better understand the demand for charging services and optimize their operations.
- Increased revenues
Smart charging systems can enable utilities and energy service providers to offer various charging tariffs and pricing models. Time-of-use (TOU) pricing or dynamic pricing can generate additional revenues.
Features Connected to Smart Charging
Many EV charging features and technologies currently available or in development are not per se a part of smart charging functions.
However, they rely on smart charging technology to function properly.
In our blog on the future of EV Charging, we looked into EV Charging will enhance the charging experience and improve the efficiency of the charging process.
The two most noticeable features today are Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology and the ability to support advanced pricing and 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.
Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, also called two-way or Bidirectional Charging, allows excess energy to be stored in EV batteries when it is not needed and then returning it to the grid when demand is high.
V2G technology is interesting because it promises to improve the electrical grid’s efficiency and reliability.
Needless to say, V2G technology also requires smart EV charging solutions to manage this flow of electricity between the charging stations and the car.
EV Smart Charging Pricing and Billing
Smart EV charging solutions also provide the data needed for the billing of charging services.
As mentioned, the timing and charging power can vary in smart electric charging.
The possibility of selecting the time and power output enables the EMSP to be flexible in pricing.
Time-of-use (TOU) pricing
This flexibility means EMSPs can introduce various pricing models like Time-of-use (TOU) pricing, where the price of charging is based on the time of day or the availability of renewable energy.
In addition to different tariffs for charging in off-peak and peak hours, the in-build billing software also enables the creation of subscriptions, bonus points, and loyalty programs.
Dynamic and Real-time Pricing
Pricing models like Time-of-use pricing fall into the category of Dynamic pricing for electricity and EV Charging.
A step up from dynamic pricing is Real-time pricing.
In the context of smart electric vehicle charging, real-time pricing means adjusting the price based on real-time data and the current price of electricity on the market.
Real-time pricing uses smart EV charging solutions to adjust the charging to the pricing based on real-time changing market conditions.
For that, the systems must get data from the electrical grid, utility companies, or renewable energy sources and determine the appropriate price for charging services.
When can we expect real-time pricing in EV Charging?
The adoption of real-time pricing for electricity is expected to increase with the increased use of renewable energy sources in the coming years.
Renewable energy sources are more variable in their output, and real-time pricing will help to encourage consumers to use electricity from these sources when available.
It is difficult to predict precisely when real-time electricity pricing will become more widespread, as it depends on various factors.
However, we will likely see increasing use of real-time pricing in the coming years as these trends continue to develop.
Smart Charging vs. Fast Charging
Smart charging refers to the use of intelligent technology to manage EV charging.
Fast charging, on the other hand, refers to the ability of a charging station to charge an EV at a high rate.
Fast charging and smart charging are two completely different concepts and should not be mistaken.
However, since fast charging requires a significant amount of electrical power, it’s only logical that it should also include smart charging functionalities.
EV Smart Charging and 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 solutions offer a good platform for the 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 is the future.
Let’s make “dumb” charging history!
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