The government has now mandated that all EV charge points sold and installed in the UK have smart functionality to protect the national grid - but what exactly does this advanced feature do?
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What is smart charging for electric vehicles?
‘Smart charging’ is a more energy efficient type of electric vehicle charging, which utilises an internet connection to send data between a charger, vehicle, grid and other chargers.
The purpose of data communication during a charge is to optimise the use of energy. Smart charging makes it possible to control how much energy an EV takes from the grid and when, ensuring it carries out its charging at the most optimum times – putting less pressure on the grid, and reducing the cost to the driver. Additionally, a smart charger can facilitate dynamic load management – whereby more than one vehicle can charge at the same time within the same network, in an efficient and safe manner.
Smart charging also enables a vehicle to send unused energy from its battery back to the grid, to help it meet sudden spikes in demand.
Dynamic EV Load Balancing Vs Static Load Balancing
Every property has a maximum electrical capacity, and EV chargers will use up a lot of available space. Load management, sometimes called ‘load balancing’, is a form of technology used to control the electrical capacity of a site, ensuring the limit is not exceeded and prioritising building energy use. EV charging load management allows you to efficiently distribute the electrical load across chargers – making sure that each charge point is able to supply each vehicle with the correct level of energy. Energy demand can be balanced through the day, and lowered during peak times – to reduce strain but also energy rates.
There are two types of load management – static and dynamic.
‘Regular’ or ‘Static’ load balancing is a fixed way of allocating energy for charging. The charging station will still prioritise building energy usage, but will distribute the maximum electrical power remaining across both vehicles – either charging both at a lower speed, or charging the cars at full power and alternating every 15 minutes.
‘Dynamic’ load management and smart charging are often used interchangeably in the world of electric charging. Smart chargers facilitate dynamic load balancing – essentially it enables a smarter way of managing the charging process on your site.
Dynamic load management enables multiple cars to get as much charge as they need, as fast as possible – all without causing any strain to buildings within the site. When a second EV is connected to the charging infrastructure and the requested charge capacity is higher than the maximum power available, the charging speed will be reduced on the first vehicle and power will be evenly distributed between the users. And when an EV is fully charged, the other connected vehicles will be given more power.
Dynamic load management is controlled in the Cloud and communicates with other energy appliances – working out the building’s energy capacity in real-time – and from this, providing an optimal load for charging electric vehicles. It empowers a business to be fully in control of their site, and be strategic about which vehicles are prioritised for charging, based on custom business needs.
The benefits of smart charging
1. It protects the grid
With smart charging, drivers can plug-in their vehicles during peak post-work times (5 – 8.30pm) and the charger will adjust the vehicle charging time for when demand is lower and prices are cheaper. Without this capacity management, expensive network upgrades would likely be required to keep up with the increased demand – with costs likely to fall to customers.
2. It protects the environment
The energy used to charge EVs is increasingly being generated from renewable sources. And in the future, smart charging will begin to be used to ensure EVs are charging when there’s more renewable energy on the grid – for example after a period of sunny or windy weather.
3. It’s less hassle
Smart charging enables a driver to set specific charging time periods, enabling them to just plug in and leave it, no need to manually connect and disconnect the car – and it will be charged by the time set in the most efficient way possible.
Drivers can set charging preferences such as desired charge level, charge-by time and a minimum charge level i.e. the minimum battery level you don’t want your vehicle to fall below.
4. It’s cheaper
Drivers can use an energy tariff that has been designed specifically for EV drivers and take advantage of lower tariff rates during off-peak times. Smart charging can apparently save the average EV driver £300 a year in comparison to traditional charging with a standard energy tariff.
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