Understanding smart charging & beyond: A concise overview

Electric vehicles (EV) play a key role in the energy transition and the way to net-zero; but to unleash the full potential of EVs, charging needs to be smart and sustainable. Whether it's at home, on the road, or in the workplace, smart charging is essential. It's not just about convenience – it's about efficiently managing energy usage, optimizing resources, and minimizing costs while contributing to a greener world.

Have you ever wondered what smart charging is all about? In this blog post, we will guide you through the different key terms of energy management.

Energy management

The strategic planning, monitoring, and optimization of energy use in a facility or fleet. It includes several activities such as monitoring energy consumption, implementing energy-efficient technologies, optimizing charging schedules, and integrating renewable energy sources when available.

Energy management systems (EMS)

Provides insights and  data of charging stations, energy consumers on site,  and the grid into a comprehensive system that puts both the energy and facility manager in control. As well as day-to-day operations, an EMS can inform and provide insights for planning decisions, including charging infrastructure, that are essential to fleet scaling.

Charger monitoring

Refers to the systematic oversight of charging infrastructure on-site, encompassing real-time observation of charger status, and detailed recording of charging sessions. This facilitates rapid access to critical data, including state of charge and vehicle identification, to ensure efficient management of charging operations and optimal performance.

Load management

Aims at optimizing the utilization of available power capacity while ensuring adherence to local capacity. It encompasses functionalities such as charger prioritization or dynamic allocation of static power.  

Below are some of the different charging strategies that can be used:

  • Sequential – charge vehicles with maximum load, one after another (First in – First Out)
  • Parallel – charge several vehicles with equal load at the same time
  • Smart Scheduling (see below)

The chosen strategy dictates how power is distributed among chargers, ensuring efficient utilization of resources while also preventing overloading or exceeding capacity constraints.

Dynamic load management

At specified intervals, such as every minute, an intelligent algorithm evaluates the site's power usage and determines the surplus energy that can be allocated to the charging stations. This ensures that vehicles are charged as efficiently as possible by maximizing the use of available on-site power, while simultaneously preventing exceeding the maximum capacity of the grid connection or power group limits. Due to other energy usage on site, the load limit for charging can vary widely throughout the day.

Smart scheduling

Takes the driving schedule of a fleet into account. This requires a technical integration to retrieve the departure times and optionally, the arrival times of the vehicle and the desired state of charge  at departure. This algorithm automatically prioritizes the charging of vehicles requiring immediate power while maximizing use of available power. This eliminates the need for depot managers to manually schedule the charging and allows for further electrification of combustion vehicles than is possible with other power allocation strategies (e.g. equal distribution, FIFO, etc.)  Moreover, this unlocks additional energy flexibility, by delaying charging for vehicles with lower priority, enabling cost-effective charging during periods of low electricity prices.

Price-based optimization

Helps to reduce electricity costs by scheduling the charging at the lowest priced hours within the charging session. This can involve insights from electricity tariffs, day-ahead market pricing, and real-time forecasts of prices on the imbalance market.

Battery energy storage system (BESS)

A strategic solution employed to address grid limitations by integrating on-site battery storage. It operates by discharging power when charging fleets during grid constraints and storing surplus energy from PV overproduction or low-cost energy purchasing. This proactive approach not only mitigates grid limitations but also optimizes energy utilization, reduces costs, and capitalizes on fluctuating market prices.

Virtual power plants (VPP)

A network comprising distributed energy resources, including renewable energy sources like solar and wind, energy storage systems, and controllable loads like EVs. Functioning as a unified entity in energy markets, VPPs leverage uni-directional and bi-directional EV chargers to enable fleet owners and operators to monetize their energy flexibility. This approach enhances grid stability and efficiency by actively participating in balancing markets and congestion markets, dynamically adjusting to real-time fluctuations in electricity supply and demand.

Energy flexibility

The ability of a company to adjust its electricity usage patterns in response to external signals, such as changes in electricity prices or demand on the power grid. By leveraging energy flexibility, companies can realize significant value through energy flexibility. This includes: cost savings by shifting energy use to lower-priced periods, revenue generation via demand response programs, and enhancing grid stability and sustainability.; The environmental efforts don’t go unnoticed with the potential of earning recognition from leading organizations supporting clean energy initiatives.  

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