Automotive and Mobility

EV Charging Infrastructure. Is It Only About the Charger?

The impressive growth trajectories forecasted for electric vehicles (EV), battery technologies and digitization present both unparalleled opportunities and unprecedented challenges for auto manufacturers, consumers, fleet operators, electric utilities, oil & gas companies and other key industry stakeholders.

EV Charging Stations

For vehicle manufacturers, there are large groups of customers who, by moving to EV truck fleets, for example, can cut their vehicle operational and maintenance costs by up to 50%. On the other hand, it is not easy for auto manufacturers to flip a switch from producing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to EVs. Factory physical infrastructures will need to modernize, and manufacturing lines for both types of vehicles will need to be maintained for quite a few years.

For electrical utilities, a robust network of EV charging stations represents a major opportunity for selling more electricity to consumers and for increasing grid efficiencies with new access to more stored energy.

New smart charging stations can provide services that can help improve power quality and reliability. EVs and digital innovations drive energy efficiency improvements by coordinating charging systems to grid capacities, thereby improving energy efficiencies and reducing the need for new lines and transformer stations. Even repurposed EV batteries used as storage can offer the possibility of regulating the grid or smoothing out peak demand when used as energy storage. This network “service” represents economic value. EVs are thus a significant source of flexibility in electricity demand.

How Modern EV Charging Stations Provide Enhanced Flexibility

Modern smart charging stations make highly efficient use of the grid. Current charging profiles of EV drivers indicate that they charge three times a day, often at morning time, lunch or during the evening. Therefore, instead of investing in large connections to the grid, that are expensive and inefficient (since they are not in use for most of the day), a more pragmatic approach is to invest in a charging station that offers a battery storage option. When drivers want to charge their vehicle, they can source their power either from the grid or from the battery storage. The charging station can be programmed to optimize the lowest price scenario for that particular time of the day.

The new charging stations are also flexible in the ways they can source their energy supply. For instance, the stations can repurpose lithium-ion automobile batteries as an OEM-packaged energy storage option. As ICE cars lessen in numbers while EVs increase, used lithium-ion batteries from ICE cars will present a low- cost option for supplying energy storage to some of these charging systems.

On the other hand, fleet intensive organizations that house and operate hundreds of vehicles throughout the day, can use solar or wind power installed on the roofs of their facilities to charge their EV battery storage. Smart charging stations are configured and designed so that they can use both traditional grid power in addition to solar and wind resources. In addition, any excess power produced can be sold back to the grid if grid demand is high and the battery control system suggest such an action.

Depending on the region, power purchased at night or at low load time of the grid can be 10-40% less expensive and used during times when costs are high.

Why Charging Stations are now Integrated Ecosystems

Modern charging stations are, in essence, network connection points, capable of accessing the cloud and suppling electrical power when needed. Within these technologies, companies like Schneider Electric have designed in the ability to safely and securely connect data and send data to the point operator and to the electric power consumer. Related software also allows for remote technical support, efficiency optimization, and predictive maintenance. These services provide the consumers of these technologies with maximize uptime and performance of their field and facility charging stations assets.

To learn more about the ways charging stations are helping to drive EV proliferation and corresponding low emissions benefits, click here.

1 CNBC, “Tesla Semi could save money over diesels within 2 years of ownership”, January, 2018

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