What is Smart Charging for Electric Vehicles?
SMART charging points for electric vehicles (EVs) are devices with built in SMART functionality that can self-regulate how it delivers electricity to the vehicle. Much of the functionality related to smart Charge Points (CPs) can happen automatically within the device, but ‘charge point operators’ (CPOs) can also take control by remotely regulating SMART CPs.
A smart charge point, or a charge point operator, can send and receive ‘load signals’. These load signals may be triggered automatically from a number of sources. Triggers could be price signals from energy suppliers or carbon grid intensities.
Price signals can ensure that the EV only charges at the cheapest time of day or in line with system and network capacity pressures. Carbon grid signals can also change charging times such that the charge only takes place when the grid is operating with maximum renewables. This will further minimise the overall carbon impact of the vehicle.
SSMART chargers are now the CP of choice by the UK government with grants available to incentivise installations for homeowners and business. Beginning with a brief overview of the OLEV grant, we’ve covered 10 benefits to SMART charging for electric vehicles.
1. You’ll be eligible to receive OLEV grant funding for your smart charge point
In July 2019 the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) changed the requirements for their Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) so that applicants are only eligible for grants if the charge point they have installed for their electric vehicle is equipped with smart technology.
OLEV grants are available in England to homeowners and businesses who install EV charge points. They can cover up to 75% of the capital expenditure of installing a charge point, which is up to £500 for homeowners and up to £10,000 for business. Together with the requirement for smart technology, applicants are only eligible if they meet specific criteria set by OLEV.
2. Optimised charging for cheaper energy rates
More electric vehicles will mean more charging points, resulting in greater demand for energy. Using a smart charge point for charging your electric vehicle will help reduce peak-time demand for energy and will support the infrastructure of a property to allow it to cope with the extra demand from charging an electric vehicle.
Smart chargers can automatically schedule charging for off-peak times when energy tariffs are cheaper. They can respond to external signals from charge point operators that signify when energy rates are reduced. This will help save money for the homeowners and take pressure off the national grid during peak-hours.
The current electricity system is designed to meet peak demand between the hours of 5:00pm and 20:30pm. This is when the majority of people return from work, watch television, cook their dinner, or have a shower. Smart EV chargers can help ensure the supply and demand of electricity is more evenly balanced, as they are designed to shift consumption away from these times.
3. Makes use of cleaner, greener energy to help reduce your environmental footprint
Not only will smart charge points help regulate energy consumption to save money, but they’re good news for the environment too. Optimising performance for off-peak charging helps lessen the impact of energy needs on the National Grid, saving homeowners a penny or two whilst helping reduce environmental footprints.
Smart charge points can maximise low-carbon emitting renewable electricity from sustainable sources. Charging can be automatically scheduled for when renewable energy is in abundant supply, helping reduce waste during off-peak times when cleaner energy sources or more readily available, but can be underused and wasted.
4. Automated data-reports on charging and performance
The key characteristics of a smart charger is its ability to connect to the internet and to be remotely accessed and from an external operator. Where non-smart EV chargers can only act as a source for a vehicle to draw power from, a smart charger can send real-time diagnostic reports to the user, monitor its own performance, and can automatically adjust itself in response to signals and variables of the energy network.
Diagnostic reports can include information on the charging status of the vehicle, historical data on energy usage and trends, and optimisation support to help the user get the most out of their charge point. Smart EV chargers will also diagnose faults and signpost any issue the charge point owner should be aware of.
Under the Homecharge and Workplace schemes, smart EV chargers should be able to ‘monitor, record and transmit energy consumption’ data so the charge point can be regulated to help save energy and money. Only charge points which meet these set criteria from OLEV with be eligible for electric vehicle charge point grants.
5. Control the charge point with a smartphone app
The majority of smart charge points will be compatible with a smartphone app through which the owner can access these reports on their charge points and receive notifications of any software updates.
Most Smart systems optimise charging by integrating with the user’s own energy tariffs to automatically respond to off-peak times. Apps can report on the charging status of the vehicle, including kWh usage, money spent, and money save from smart charging. It also reports on the carbon footprint of the charge point and records charging history. Users can even export this data if they need to use it for business or personal records.
6. Automated OTA Updates
Smart charge points can remotely connect with their operator to receive ‘Over the Air’ (OTA) software updates. This means that if the charge point manufacturer or operator make changes to the charge point software, these updates will be automatically received and won’t need any manual input from the owner.
7. Easily find smart charging stations connected to the network
Smart charge points can connect to an area network of charge points so drivers can see if the charge point is in use or free to use. This is helpful to drivers for planning their journey or for anyone looking for a suitable public charge point whilst driving their vehicle on the road
8. Balance electricity demand in peak times for businesses
Charging an electric vehicle at a commercial property presents similar problems to charging the vehicle at home. That is, if all charge points are used simultaneously by a company’s employees this could overload the electricity infrastructure of the building.
With a network of smart charge points, electricity can be smartly allocated between vehicles to ensure the system doesn’t overload and that all vehicles can charge simultaneously.
A business can also offer free charging to certain employees or offer overnight charging to local residents at special rates and generate an income from this additional use of what would otherwise be an empty car park.
9. Businesses can be eligible for OLEV grants under the Workplace Charging Scheme
Under the Workplace Charging Scheme, businesses are able to apply for grant funding from OLEV to finance the cost of install. OLEV provide grants for businesses of up to £10,000, which includes a £500 grant per charge point with a maximum of 20 charge points per applicant.
Like with the Homecharge scheme, OLEV set out key criteria which businesses must meet to receive grant funding for installing charge points. Since July 2019, the Government made it a legal requirement that only smart charge points were eligible for such funding.
10. Improved usability when charging your electric vehicles
As electric vehicles are set to become the next big shift, manufacturers are doing their best to ensure their products offer maximum usability and convenience to homeowners. After all, the widespread adoption of electric and low emission hybrid vehicles will be change in routine for everyone who drives a vehicle. Making sure charge points are not only practical and easy-to-use, but also reliable and convenient, has been a priority of manufacturers alongside ensuring that the technology is there to support such a change.