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What Is Smart Charging And Why Is It Important?

What Is Smart Charging And Why Is It Important?

Tom Orvei

19. May 2022 | 7 min read

What Is Smart Charging And Why Is It Important?

For the world to cope with more electric vehicles on our roads, we need to embrace smart charging as a way of balancing the strain on the grid. According to stats from EV Volumes, plug-in vehicles made up 21% of all new cars on the road in Europe in March 2022, a figure that’s up 24% year on year. 

This figure is only going to grow with approximately six million plug-in vehicles expected to be sold in Europe in 2025. With so many vehicles plugging in, this is going to have an impact on even the most robust electrical infrastructure. Smart charging will play a vital role in ensuring everyone has the electricity they need.

What is smart charging of EVs?

Smart charging of EVs is the ability to control when power is going to the vehicle. This smart charging has the ability to reduce stress on the grid, while also providing better use of that excess power. For example, a smart charger could be set up not to charge during times of peak demand — thus saving money for the vehicle owner while reducing stress on the grid.

Smart charging of EVs can also allow vehicle owners to prioritize renewable energy. A smart charger could be set up to prioritize energy generated from a home’s solar panels. This would reduce that home’s reliance on the grid while ensuring the vehicle always has enough charge for its next outing.

Is Smart Charging Good?

Smart charging is a vital tool in full-scale EV adoption. EVs with smart charging can be charged during off-peak hours when demand for electricity is lowest. This would give utilities more leeway to meet customer demands during peak hours without having to significantly increase infrastructure and energy generation. This could potentially save billions in infrastructure investment as more electric cars hit the road.

Smart charging becomes even more powerful when you add in bi-directional charging. With the right charger and car, the vehicle could send the energy stored in its battery back to the grid. This helps to reduce demand on the grid but opens up a wealth of possibilities with Vehicle-to-X (V2X) technology.

Read more: Everything you need to know about V2G and V2X

The benefits of smart charging

There are numerous benefits to smart charging for EV drivers, charge point operators, utilities, and the planet as a whole. These include:

  • Peak-shaving to reduce energy costs
  • Load balancing to reduce peak demand
  • Allows energy to be sent where it’s needed the most
  • Can optimize charging times based on mileage needs
  • Allows both users and businesses to monitor charging
  • Helps toward decarbonization goals
  • Gives businesses and homeowners more control over energy use
  • Makes it easier for users to find available public chargers
  • Enables V2G and V2X technology

How does smart charging work?

Smart charging is based on a charger’s ability to communicate with both users and operators. This allows it to be controlled based on energy demand, other vehicles charging nearby, and a variety of other factors.

How the smart charger behaves is, ultimately, based on how it's set up. For home chargers, the homeowner can set specific parameters that will tell the charger when to send electricity to the car. This can be based on peak demand, renewable energy availability, or to take advantage of an off-peak rate.

For businesses, smart charging becomes even more powerful. Whether you’re a charge point operator or a facility manager, smart charging gives you control over how and when a vehicle can charge. A smart charging platform can dynamically adjust the amount of energy flowing to that particular charger at any given time. You can set specific rules for this, including the maximum energy peak, which can be alternated across the site. 

Additionally, operators can set a boundary condition for any charger like a peak roof – either for all day, every day, or from time to time – so everything can be managed automatically based on those conditions. 

To be able to achieve this kind of flexibility and automation, you need is a charger that’s built to the correct standards and is able to pass the two compliance tests.

What Makes an EV Charger Smart?

To be truly smart, an EV charger needs to be compliant with the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). It standardizes the charger’s communication with vehicles and management systems, improving the interoperability, user experience, and data collection — this allows for more accurate reporting and superior functionality. 

Do EV Chargers Have To Be Smart?

In some areas, yes. For example, if chargers are installed under the UK Government’s Homecharge scheme, they must include ‘smart technology’. However, for the most part, the build of new charge points and infrastructure projects around the world do not require smart charging. Big policy changes will be needed to solve this problem as smart charging for EVs is crucial in protecting against electric grid congestion.

The SmartCharge platform

CURRENT’s SmartCharge platform opens up huge possibilities for smart charging. It allows businesses to:

  • Monitor and display energy use in real-time
  • Manage static loads to prevent fuse breakage
  • Adjust power automatically to achieve maximum efficiency
  • Manage charging capacity through dynamic load management
  • Manage queuing systems
  • Allow V2G distribution

This allows charge point operators to optimize management in cooperation with the facility manager, so they understand any issues and know what the desired outcome is. For example, a multi-unit dwelling in Oslo with over 200 charge points didn’t get its load management right the first time and ended up with high peaks and enormous energy bills. CURRENT stepped in and helped it deploy functionalities that suited it better — this saved the equivalent of around £4,000 each month. 

The platform itself is also built on OCPP, this means it’ll work with any OCPP-compliant hardware. Even if you have charge points already in place, the SmartCharge platform could help you to add smart charging capabilities to your facility. 

If you’d like to find out more about the SmartCharge platform and how smart charging could revolutionize your business, book a demo today.