What is Smart Charging? (with infographic)

 In Electric Utility, EV Charging, EV Industry

In our last post, we discussed how many utilities are moving towards time-of-use (TOU) pricing schemes for their residential customers.

Under the TOU model, residents are billed for electricity based on the time of day that it is consumed.

And while this transformation can help shift demand to off-peak periods in the short-term, utilities will need to adapt to the impact electric vehicles will pose on the grid as they gain mainstream attention.

If residents are incentivized to charge during off-peak hours, it’s likely that peak demand will simply be shifted to those off-peak hours. Instead of plugging in at 6pm when they arrive from work, EV owners will all plug-in at 9pm, placing a significant load on the grid.

A simple solution to mitigate this issue is called smart charging.

Smart charging is the intelligent charging of EVs, where charging can be shifted based on grid loads and in accordance to the vehicle owner’s needs. The utility can offer EV owners monetary and/or non-monetary benefits in exchange for enrollment in a program that permits controlled charging at the times when curtailment capacity is needed for the grid.

The result is a much more consistent/flattened load profile, as demonstrated in this snapshot from one of our pilot programs:

Smart Charging Daily Load Profile screenshot

We created a ‘How Smart Charging Works’ infographic to outline this concept further:

How Smart Charging Works infographic

1. Utility initiates smart charging program.

Understanding the benefits, the electric utility initiates its smart charging program and offers it to customers in their service area.

2. Residents can choose to opt-in.

Customers learn that in exchange for offering periodic charging control of their electric vehicles, the utility may offer a financial or non-financial incentive for their participation. They can then decide whether they’d like to opt-in or not.

3. Devices are clipped in.

Small unobtrusive hardware is clipped into the diagnostic port of the customer’s EV. Serving as an intermediary, it tells the utility if a vehicle is a good candidate for curtailment (shifting the charge), protecting the customer’s needs and adding a layer of privacy.

4. Participant sets their preferences.

The participant gets access to the smart charging app, allowing them to specify what time they need a full charge by for each day of the week. It also allows them to completely opt-out of curtailment events for the days that don’t fall into their regular schedule (i.e. a daughter’s dance recital).

5. Utility curtails as needed.

Now with real-time insight into how much load is available for curtailment, the utility can send a signal to throttle or turn off charging during peak loads (how charging is actually turned off depends on the setup). They are also able to measure EV load separate from the whole household, allowing them to better predict charging demand.

The utility shaves peak demand, avoiding costly infrastructure upgrades & the use of dirty ‘peaker’ plants.

The participant potentially receives an incentive from the utility, can reduce charging costs, & helps the environment.

Implementing a Smart Charging System

The challenge with EVs is getting data from the vehicle – particularly the vehicle’s battery state-of-charge. Without it, customers face the risk of not having a charge when they need it most.

A third-party smart charging system with real-time battery state-of-charge can serve as an intermediary. It can help the utility determine whether a vehicle is a good candidate for curtailment or not, and add a privacy layer to protect the resident’s needs.

We’ve developed a plug-and-play smart charging solution that does just this, and have been testing it across a number of pilot projects in Canada, the United States and Europe. You can learn more about it here.

More Helpful Information

FleetCarma’s Plug and Play Smart Charging Solution – hubs.ly/H01pnB-0
Is TOU pricing enough for electric vehicle charging? – hubs.ly/H01pnFX0
Smart charging for electric vehicles – Ericsson – hubs.ly/H01pnHW0
How the Smart Grid Enables Utilities to Integrate EVs – Silver Spring Networks – hubs.ly/H01pnHs0

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