Portugal has one of the highest newly sold electric vehicle (EV) market shares in Europe. In 2020, 12% of new car sales were electric, and growth is expected to continue in the coming years.
The energy efficiency and mobility department of E-REDES (formerly known as EDP Distribuição), Portugal’s mainland distribution system operator (DSO), is responsible for equipping all E-REDES office buildings throughout Portugal with charging infrastructure. Many of these locations have insufficient grid capacity to facilitate the number of charge stations needed.
In order to prepare the grid for the influx of EVs, E-REDES started a project to test smart charging technology at its office in Setúbal, in collaboration with GreenFlux. The charging site consists of eighteen charging points, therefore eighteen electric vehicles are able to charge at the same time.
Preparing for Portugal’s electric future
Cláudia Pinto, Electrical Engineer, E-REDES explained the concept behind the Setúbal site.
“We started this project for two reasons. Firstly, we want to research the effects of electric mobility on the grid in general. As a DSO, we need to be prepared for the uptake of electric vehicles on our grid, especially on the low voltage grids, where most charging is expected to occur simultaneously during peak hours in households. Therefore, we are learning and gaining experience, studying the regulatory measures we could take and what impact these might have.
Secondly, E-REDES has a big fleet of approximately 920 light passenger and commercial cars; when all these cars are going to be electric, it’s going to be a challenge as more and more requests for charge stations come in to accommodate charging these vehicles. So, we thought, we have this site (in Setúbal), a lot of cars and requests for charge stations – maybe we can do something here. It’s a great opportunity to see the pros and cons and use the results to implement this on the grid on a national level.”
Carlos Silva, Electric Engineer, E-REDES adds:
“With this project we are learning how we want to promote smart charging as a network management tool and how smart charging can be used in flexibility markets. We use the experience and data of this project also in other projects, and work with our regulator to research the effects of smart charging on the grid.”
Optimizing EV charging infrastructure in Setúbal
All charge stations on the site in Setúbal are connected to the GreenFlux EV charging platform. Moreover, a Smappee smart meter is installed to measure the energy consumption of the building. Depending on the energy consumption of the building, the capacity that is allocated to the charge stations is adjusted. If the consumption of the building is high, the GreenFlux EV charging platform receives a signal and lowers the power available to electric vehicles. Using the local meter data from Smappee, it is also possible to determine the exact phase on which an electric vehicle is charging; single- or three-phase. Applying smart charging per phase significantly improves the amount of EVs that can charge at the same time as well.
Figure 1. If the building consumes more power, there is less power left for the electric cars (and vice versa). The algorithm looks at this per individual phase.
“It is really good to see how everything responds really quickly in the GreenFlux EV charging platform. We are testing different scenarios with very hard limitations. For example, we test to see what happens when a new EV starts charging, try to understand its needs, what type of EV it is, and what the car asks from the charge station. With that information we can fully use the smart charging algorithm, and as a result, have the most efficient charging. Initially, there were some troubles with communication with the meters, which is very normal. The upside of that was that we’ve seen the fallback scenarios from GreenFlux in action, that still guarantees a safe operation even if certain data is unavailable. This is very important for us as a DSO. If something goes wrong, we are still secure; knowing that the circuit breaker isn’t going to trip.”
Integrating solar panels, DC chargers and a charging app
There are many innovative solutions that are integrated on the site in Setúbal. The solar panels on the roof of the building are incorporated in the project and used as input for smart charging. In a few months, a DC fast charger will be added to the group of AC chargers. In this case, the session of the DC charger will be prioritized over the charging sessions of the AC chargers. Thanks to smart charging, capacity between AC and DC chargers can be shared.
Cláudia Pinto, E-REDES:
“We are building a network of fast chargers at our (bigger) buildings, all across Portugal. These chargers are at locations that are useful for colleagues on both short and long trips. If someone only needs to visit a building for 20 minutes, their EV needs to be charged as quickly as possible. Also, there will be multiple fast chargers at strategic locations near the highway, so if for example someone needs to take a 400 kilometres trip, they can quickly be on their way again. That is our conception behind testing with DC chargers. We want people to adopt EVs, so they should feel safe going around and not get stuck somewhere.”
Future plans & expanding throughout Portugal
Other plans for the site include the use of an EV charging app for E-REDES employees. There are already multiple E-REDES buildings with charge stations in place waiting to roll out GreenFlux’s smart charging technology and the charging app. E-REDES intends to have a charge point for each electric vehicle in their fleet.
Cláudia Pinto, E-REDES:
“We are learning from this site in Setúbal and can expand this project to our other office buildings all over Portugal. We can reduce our traditional investment in electrical infrastructure while redirecting it to a smarter investment in the grid. We already have six buildings with charge stations in place, ready to start. The more buildings that utilize smart charging technology, the more interesting the charging app will be. Our colleagues will have a map where they can see at which building there are charge stations, if they are available or not, and monitor how much their EV is charged.”
“The knowledge that GreenFlux shows in the smart charging solution stands out. Also, since the first contact GreenFlux has always been available to answer our questions and explain us how everything works. Everything is very transparent which helps the development of the project and allows us to look ahead with optimism.” – Carlos Silva, E-REDES
“It’s a very interesting project we are doing here, a very dynamic one. It’s keeping us on par with the technological evolution. There’s always something new to improve and new to have.” – Cláudia Pinto, E-REDES