Equans' innovative Living Lab at Dordrecht

An electric car charging

Due to the enormous increase in electric vehicles, the demand for charge stations is also constantly growing. However, increasing the grid connection to facilitate more charge stations entails high costs, so companies are searching for innovative ways to make optimal use of existing infrastructure while charging more electric vehicles simultaneously and faster.

In order to prepare the grid for the influx of EVs, Equans (earlier ENGIE) started a living lab to test smart charging technology at its office in Dordrecht, in collaboration with GreenFlux. The charging plaza consists of eight double-socket charge stations, therefore, sixteen electric vehicles are able to charge at the same time. At the start of the project, three different types of charge stations were installed – two EVBox, three Alfen and three Ecotap (one with an AED and one with a lamppost). One charge station has now been exchanged for a Smappee charge station – thus four charge station brands are now in use, all on the same grid connection.

Different types of charge stations at one location

Danny Post, Business Development Manager e-Mobility, Equans explained the concept behind the Dordrecht site.

'The idea was to do something different than we do at other Equans offices. We wanted to do a demo where we mix different charge station manufacturers. The challenge is – if you use different brands of charge stations, how are you going to control them? Each brand has its own local smart charging solution. For example, one creates a local network over ethernet, the other uses an RS485 connection and they all use different, proprietary communication protocols. As soon as you mix different brands, local smart charging doesn’t work anymore. That is also the reason why we started this pilot with GreenFlux to answer the question: Can we control different brands of charge stations via GreenFlux’s cloud-based smart charging technology?'

The use of GreenFlux’s cloud-based smart charging compared to local smart charging has major advantages for office buildings, such as cost savings, scalability, and flexibility. For example, in a local solution, charge stations from different manufacturers cannot be grouped together. Once a manufacturer has been chosen, the building or operator must either stay with that manufacturer in case they want to expand or face the choice of replacing all charge stations.

A cloud-based solution like this one at Equans Dordrecht can work with any combination of charge station manufacturers – easily connected via our cloud-based EV charging platform. This makes the charging location very flexible and future-proof. — Lennart Verheijen, Head of Product Management, GreenFlux

Smart charging is becoming increasingly important

The power consumption of the charge stations at Equan's office in Dordrecht fluctuates throughout the day – electric vehicles come and go; batteries fill up and they stop charging. Taking into account the electricity demand of both the building and the charge stations, GreenFlux’s smart charging technology automatically adjusts the charging speed of connected vehicles up and down to achieve two primary goals. Firstly, to prevent situations wherein demand exceeds the local maximum electrical capacity, and secondly, to charge EVs at optimal levels considering driver preference and battery needs.

More and more people are driving an electric vehicle, so smart charging will become increasingly important for us and for our customers in the coming years. — Danny Post, Business Development Manager e-Mobility, Equans

'Our customers want to facilitate more charge stations, but at the same time, invest as little as possible in the grid connection. To be able to achieve that, it is necessary to apply smart charging. Customers are then able to charge electric vehicles in the most optimal way there is,' added Danny Post.

The charge stations at Equans Dordrecht are all connected to GreenFlux’s EV charging platform. The only two requirements for a charge station to connect are an internet connection and the ability to communicate via the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), which is the case with 98% of all charge stations currently on the market.

Smart charging with input of a local submeter

Equans already had a local Smappee submeter at its Dordrecht office before starting the project. GreenFlux’s Platform now uses this local meter data to detect the topology of a location and understand the exact electrical phase to which a single-phase electric vehicle is charged. With this information, unused capacity can be allocated to other electric vehicles, allowing them to do significantly more charging sessions at the same time, in the same location. It also allows automatic and real-time adjustment of the charging speed of electric vehicles based on the building’s power consumption throughout the day.

Danny Post, Equans: 'This innovative charging solution has been realised by the combination of Equans, GreenFlux, and Smappee. Smappee’s energy management solution provides the customer with a dashboard with detailed information on the building’s energy consumption and charge stations. Besides that, we offer the smart charging solution from GreenFlux. This way, we can offer our customers a complete smart EV charging solution as well.'

Parking lot with EV charging points and electric cars

A future-proof charging infrastructure

Proving out these capabilities under real-life and sometimes more rigorous test situations is critical for Equans to be able to offer the best services to its B2B customers. As a result of the living lab, Equans can be assured that they are utilizing the right solution before rolling it out to their own customers. The applied GreenFlux solution is reliable, cost-effective, and provides a great customer experience for EV drivers.

Danny Post, Equans: 'There is actually enough power at our office in Dordrecht to connect these eight charge stations, but we want to test what is possible. We were also looking for a solution that could be used by our B2B customers. We have already implemented two successful load-balancing applications at the Equans office in Bunnik and Canon’s office in Venlo. It is very interesting to apply this to more customers. With smart charging you can get a lot out of the same grid connection – this living lab demonstrates that. This project is set up under the guise of “practice what you preach” – first test and gain experience at our own location and then roll it out to our customers.'

With our smart charging technology, up to twenty times more charge stations can be installed at Equans Dordrecht without investing in grid reinforcement. You need less capacity and get the most out of the existing infrastructure. — Lennart Verheijen, Head of Product Management, GreenFlux

'We experience working with GreenFlux as very positive. Agreements are kept, the team is easily accessible, and communication is good,' said Danny Post, Equans.