It is difficult to optimise a local solution. It is tough to explain a specific behaviour or a pattern, or to understand remotely why it made certain smart charging decisions. You can only assume that it is functioning correctly or need to be triggered by complaints from EV drivers, especially if you have a larger network. We do not want to go to the location every time there is a potential issue or a complaint.
One of the other challenges we faced is networking. For a local setup, you need a long wired local network, which introduces extra complexity, costs and the risk of the entire location losing the data connections whereas with the cloud-based smart charging each station is connected via its own mobile modem.
What are the benefits of the cloud-based smart charging solution?
The cloud-based solution is future-proof as has additional flexibility in response to forthcoming customer requirements and technical developments. For Eneco e-mobility, this is an important benefit as we can expand our service portfolio. Our customers want to be more energy-efficient, use more local energy, and reduce costs at the same time. We expect their needs will rise and become more complicated in the future, yet we see a possibility to substantiate our claim ‘eMobility made e-asy’ by not confronting the end-users with the complexity behind the charging systems using cloud-based smart charging solutions. Our customers will need to balance local photovoltaic (PV) energy production and the grid requirements. We can anticipate some of these future developments but also need to be flexible enough to respond to not yet foreseen requirements.
We are rolling out Green Flux’s solution at other locations as well, especially on sites with big charging networks or complicated requirements.
You can already see what is happening in the world, such as, the gas price is rising. More and more people are looking into possibilities to heat homes and offices with electricity, heat pumps, and then the grids become too crowded. For say, if we operate a big charging plaza, and the energy grid is crowded at a specific time, we can bring smart flexibility to the grid. We can stabilise the grid for the operator by reducing the power we use at a certain time. There are so much more possibilities to react to customer requirements with the cloud-based solution. Plus, there are more incentives when you can provide flexibility.
One of the main benefits of cloud-based smart charging is increased possibilities to have remote insights. This particularly helps in error-solving and asset management for us. We don’t need to send mechanics to the sites every time there is a complaint. If a customer calls us with a question, now we can directly look into it and give them an answer. If necessary, we, or GreenFlux, solve the issue remotely. We have a faster response time with errors at the site now.
With a local solution, when the network increases in size, it becomes difficult to configure and continue running it. Meanwhile, a cloud-based solution offers virtually unlimited possibilities to scale and allows us to expand networks without any limitations.
Using the cloud-based solution also means that we are not limited to one brand. A lot of our new customers already have a network installed with a specific brand and want to expand. Sometimes, they have new requirements, but the existing charge station provider is unable to meet them. Local smart charging is proprietary to a specific brand, so you can expand only if you choose the same brand again. With a cloud-based setup, we can introduce other brands of charge stations and simply manage them as one group.
Besides, in the future, there will be more DC charger requirements in addition to AC. We see that a lot of manufacturers that have local smart charging only offer AC chargers and not DC, and vice versa. That makes it difficult to implement a local smart charging solution that supports mix of AC and DC charge stations on the same site. GreenFlux’s cloud-based solution allows operators to can expand the network by adding DC chargers at a later date, if required. It is flexible in terms of selecting the brand and mixing AC and DC.
As mentioned earlier, a long-wired network is an additional cost. We do not need the local network anymore, and that is a huge benefit because then we can just add chargers when and where needed.
We calculated that the cloud-based solution is less expensive if you look at the total cost of ownership versus the local solution. When factoring in all site visits that that can be saved using cloud-based smart charging, the latter is significantly less expensive.
If the algorithm improves over time, we don’t have to do local updates. It is then updated in the cloud. So as we speak, GreenFlux can improve the algorithms and the charge stations at all sites, which use cloud-based smart charging, benefit directly.
The most important outcome for us is that we have insight into the charging network, can monitor the issues we face and, as a result, are able to improve the performance.
Did the switch to the cloud-based solution affect EV drivers in any way?
As far as both the solutions function, it should not make any difference to the driver. The only difference is that we can now directly explain the charge station behaviour and often solve issues without having to send a mechanic on the site. This way we provide an answer to the customer far faster than with a local smart charging solution.
Do you think the cloud-based solution will reduce service requests or customer complaints?
It is not about how many complaints, but how fast can we answer and solve them. With local solutions, we often can’t reproduce what happened. Or if there really is an issue, we need days if somebody needs to go to the location and really investigate the problem. With cloud-based solution, we can resolve issues in hours or even in minutes since it is easier to find the root cause of a problem.
How will cloud-based smart charging impact Eneco’s business in the future?
The most important outcome for us is that we have insight into the charging network, can monitor the issues we face and, as a result, are able to improve the performance. Plus, this is a more generic solution, and we do not need much project development or management to roll out at other locations. When we want to add energy services to the charging solution, like taking into account when electricity is less expensive or more sustainable during the day, cloud-based smart charging is essential. We expect it to be more cost-efficient because it’s scalable, flexible, and more generic. We are rolling out Green Flux’s solution at other locations as well, especially on sites with big charging networks or complicated requirements.
GreenFlux has a good understanding of not only the charging domain but also of the energy domain. The challenge is that the energy domain brings us to a new future.
What are your views about the smart charging solution offered by GreenFlux?
GreenFlux has a good understanding of not only the charging domain but also of the energy domain. The challenge is that the energy domain brings us to a new future. Our customers have their own needs and questions facing future challenges, which may be complicated and we will support them in finding the right answers. The additional knowledge that GreenFlux offers help us a lot.
Plus, the software provider is a specialist in smart charging. The company offers a cloud-based smart charging solution for the last seven years and is constantly improving it. For the future, the possibilities are endless, especially with the expansion to DC. I am happy to work with GreenFlux on these smart charging solutions as their concept is well-thought-of and well-built. It is a robust solution that you can expand with new functionalities, which is good for our business in the future.
What role do you think smart charging will play in the e-mobility and energy market in the future?
It is really a necessity. Without smart charging, you cannot optimally operate multiple charge stations at the same location, and expanding grid capacity will not always be possible in the future. I am confident that GreenFlux smart charging solution will bring all the functionalities that we need to tackle these challenges together.