In essence, smart charging controls the maximum charge of an electric vehicle by increasing or decreasing the maximum charge rate. Smart charging can lead to considerable savings for grid operators, charge point operators, charge point owners and EV drivers. But when we talk about how to implement smart charging, there are two fundamentally different ways in which it can be accomplished – locally or cloud-based. Both can work really well – but how do they differ from each other?
Local smart charging networks are created by connecting charge stations together which communicate over a manufacturer-dependent, proprietary protocol. Stations from different manufacturers cannot be grouped together. Once a manufacturer is chosen, the building or operator will need to stick with that one when they want to expand, or face the choice to replace all charging stations. A cloud-based solution can work with any combination of charge station manufacturers – connected easily via the cloud.
In a local solution, charge stations all communicate over the same physical data cable. This limits the number of stations in a local smart charging network as there will be data-collisions in the local network if there are too many stations. A typical maximum is between 25 and 40 charge stations per local network. With a cloud-based solution, the number of charge stations that can be controlled simultaneously is virtually unlimited.
A local solution cannot communicate with the outside world. It is therefore not possible to take external inputs, like individual driver requirements, grid constraints, grid operator signals, car reservation systems, TSO control signals or tariff information into account. A cloud-based solution can have as many inputs as necessary and be extended to accommodate new requirements with additional APIs bringing new inputs.
Local smart charging requires data cables between all charge stations, creating a maximum distance between charge stations in a local network of no more than approximately one or two hundred meters. If, for instance charge stations are at the front and back of a large building, installing the necessary data cables is a costly operation. With a cloud-based solution charge stations can be dispersed over a very large geographic area.
A local smart charging network needs to be set up locally by a well-trained installer. The installer must have specific knowledge on how to connect the data communication cables and how to configure each charge station in the network. A cloud-based solution requires a very straightforward installation and no specific additional training for the installer. All smart charging configuration is handled remotely.
A local smart charging network is relatively robust, but if something breaks down (e.g. a break in the data cable), a site visit is necessary, and charging could be impossible for a few days. In a cloud-based solution, things might also go wrong, but all communication and services are ‘self-healing’. A communication network will restore itself and so will the cloud. Smart charging operations are automatically monitored 24/7 and issues will be resolved immediately and remotely.
A future-proof EV charging infrastructure
Have you considered all these factors when building out your charging network? Do you want to learn more about the benefits of smart charging? Read more here.