What is smart charging and why our energy systems need it?

Contrary to popular beliefs, electric vehicles (EVs) are not a threat to the electricity grid (and vice versa). In application, thanks to smart charging, EVs have become long-lasting batteries on wheels, and smart EV charging solutions only make our energy systems more efficient, safer, and greener.

But what does it mean in practice? And why should you care?

What is smart charging?

An EU directive on energy efficiency defines smart metering systems as electronic systems with measurement and data transformation functionalities.

Smart charging connects an electric vehicle to a charging device through a data connection and the charging device to a charging operator through another data connection.

Stabilising the grid and offering a great charging experience

Smart charging is a cloud-based technology that makes it possible to adjust how much energy is used by EVs based on the current state of the energy grid and, therefore, how pricey charging events are for EV drivers. 

Additionally, smart charging makes it possible to utilise the energy stored in EV batteries to meet sudden demand spikes on the grid. 

> Read more about vehicle-to-grid (V2G).

 

Did you know? 

Finland was the first country in Europe to include a definition of smart charging into legislation considering EV charging.

 

Why should you care about smart charging? 

Smart charging isn’t just another fancy technology we like to brag about. It will contribute to power the world of tomorrow.

The entire energy sector is transforming

As we’re moving towards environmental-friendlier energy production methods, our usage of renewable energy resources is increasing fast. 

For instance, between 2004 and 2019, European countries more than doubled the share of renewables in their total energy production, from 9.6 % to 19.7 %.


Renewables are an uncertain source of energy

Don’t get me wrong; we at Virta love renewables! More than that, mastering renewables is necessary for us to slow down the clock and win our fight against climate change.

However, there is a significant problem; renewables produced from wind and solar power depend highly on the weather and, therefore, highly volatile. Consequently, we can’t only rely on those to deliver a constant supply of energy to sustain our cities, factories and supermarkets.

Having more electric cars on the roads calls for better energy efficiency

The number of electric vehicles is continuously growing worldwide, and it could become a problem (if we don’t do something about it).Global EV outlook chart-02

As countries are setting new rules to 1. reduce and 2. eliminate the sale of ICE vehicles in the next two decades, we can only expect the global electric car fleet to increase exponentially in the coming years.

From this point of view, EVs may appear as a threat to our current energy systems and raise concerns.

For now, those concerns are irrelevant. Our electricity grids can already sustain hundreds of thousands of cars charging simultaneously. What’s more, according to The European Environment Agency (EEA) predictions, the energy demand of electric vehicles will not have a significant impact on our current electricity systems at least until 2030.

Now, if we don’t rethink how we store and distribute electricity now, our energy systems won’t meet tomorrow’s demand; as the number of EV’s rises, so will the risks to overload our local grids. 

Fortunately, solutions already exist. This is where smart charging comes into play.

How does smart charging work?

With a regular 22kw EV charging station, we estimate that 6 or 7 hours are enough to charge an electric vehicle’s battery. On a 50kw fast-charging station, the time needed to fully charge a battery falls under one hour

As home and work are the most common places for EV drivers to plug their cars into charging stations, we know that electric vehicles stay plugged in for a longer time than necessary.

With smart charging, cars can stay plugged in and only charge when it is the most efficient, both cost-wise and grid-wise (Charging during low demand periods is much more grid-friendly).

Let’s dive into data for a second. The two figures below demonstrate the advantages of smart charging. 

The first one (A) displays a 48h electricity consumption when charging is uncontrolled.

The second one (B) displays a 48h electricity consumption with Smart Charging.

A:

Picture1_fig4

B:

Picture2_fig4

Source: IEA Electricity well below 2 degrees: from challenges to opportunities 2017

MAKE WAY FOR THE FUTURE WITH SMART CHARGING

Renewables and electric vehicles could be a threat to practical energy systems if we didn’t already have the means to exploit them.

With Smart Charging, renewables and EVs set the foundations for a more flexible and greener energy system.

Decarbonisation is our only chance to slow down climate change within the constraints set in the Paris agreement. 

Download our guide to learn more about the EV disruption.

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