The team at Test Instrument Solutions give us the lowdown on smart charging points and how they will affect EV chargepoint usage in the future.
Smart charging is set to change the face of the EV market and provide the foundation for the mass switch to EV motoring expected over the next decade. This has been cemented by the introduction of new regulations monitoring the use of smart charging stations which become effective later this month.
Widespread concern about how the national grid will cope with the required increase in electricity demand to accommodate EV driving is something of a misconception.
It is believed the 10% extra demand for electricity if everybody switched to EVs today has already been offset in recent years by the increased use of energy efficient appliances and solar panels in homes, which has seen a 16% reduction in electricity demand on the national grid since the turn of the Millennium.
Smart charging is a means of controlling this demand when it occurs, however, and the new Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021 are intended to ensure EV chargepoints sold or installed in the UK have smart charging functionality, and set out minimum standards for home and workplace chargepoints in England, Scotland and Wales.
What is smart charging?
A smart charger distributes available power in an efficient and flexible manner, which avoids unnecessary cost for the user and manages demand on the national grid. At the moment, the new regulations only apply to home charging and not public charging, as home charging is still the means most EV drivers use to charge their vehicles.
A smart chargepoint must have a data connection in order to measure, record and transmit usage data, and to delay or slow down charging when the grid demands are at their highest. A chargepoint will also have a user interface, in the form of a smartphone App, through which the user will configure the parameters of how the chargepoint operates and how the EV is charged.
What are the benefits of smart charging?
Fundamentally, smart charging reduces the need for a costly infrastructure upgrade to provide more peak capacity for the national grid. In addition, smart charging will help EV drivers utilise cheaper, overnight energy tariffs, and the introduction of smart technology will standardise chargepoint functionality so that it is the same, regardless of the chargepoint manufacturer.
Smart charging will enable users to manage when and how they charge their EV. Off-peak charging will be cheaper for the user, so the smart home charger can be pre-configured to avoid charging during peak hours (usually 8-11am and 4-10pm). However, users can override this function if they need to charge ASAP, and the user can also set a schedule for charging overnight.
It is believed that 10pm is the most popular ‘charging start time’ and a smart charger can react to surging demand on the grid and stagger its start time by 10 minutes so that it doesn’t contribute to this demand. This can be extended to 30 minutes if peak capacity is still being affected, but again, the user can override this.
What is a DNO?
A DNO is an EV user’s distribution network operator, the organisation that is licensed to distribute electricity in different regions of the UK, and owns and operates the power lines and infrastructure which connects the electricity network to a property. The home owner must contact them to inform them of the date on which they intend to have a home charging point installed.
In this sense, it is important to distinguish between a DNO and an electricity supplier. The national grid doesn’t connect directly to a home, the voltage would be too high for this. The national grid is connected to homes through the DNO network of power lines and underground cables. An energy supplier is an organisation that sets the tariff for the price that we pay for our electricity.
So the DNO is the ‘middle man’ between the national grid and the energy supplier. But because the DNO is responsible for the distribution of electricity, rather than its cost, the DNO needs to know about the user’s home charging status and the likely maximum demand, to ensure the electricity supply is adequate.
When do the new regulations become effective?
The Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021 were signed into law on December 15th 2021, but don’t become effective until later this month (June 30th). There will also be some additional regulations that become effective from the end of 2022, related to the security issues associated with usage and personal data sent and received by smart chargepoints.
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