If you're the proud driver of an electric vehicle, or even if you just have an interest in battery-powered cars, you may have heard the term 'smart charging' used in advertisements and informational articles.
But what does smart charging actually mean? Sure, charging smart sounds much better than the alternative - but is smart charging really the energy-efficient, time-saving solution to EV charging that it claims to be?
This question, and many more, will be answered in this article.
We'll be delving into what smart electric vehicle charging actually is and how it works before exploring the multiple benefits of smart EV charging for customers, corporations, and charging networks alike.
What does Smart Charging Mean?
First thing's first: what is smart charging for electric vehicles?
Well, put simply, the difference between traditional and smart EV charging can be summarised in a single word: data.
Smart charging for electric cars requires the vehicle and the charging station to communicate with one another via data shared through the cloud.
For anyone unfamiliar with computing, this is essentially an amalgamation of servers, software, and databases stored in data centers worldwide.
This type of storage eliminates the need for physical servers and allows inter-device communication by negating localized storage.
So, Smart EV charging involves cloud-based data transmission between the vehicle and the charger.Because of this, charging smart allows users to monitor and even refine their vehicle's charging process.
The extra control afforded to EV owners by smart systems is one of the biggest reasons why they're increasing in popularity today.
How do Smart Chargers Work?
Smart EV charging, as we've already briefly explained, works on the basis of data communication.
But there's actually a little more to it than this, so let's explore further.
Specifically, a smart EV charging system operates by sharing its data, in real-time, with a central cloud hub, which also receives the charging data from other smart EV systems in the area.
Then, by means of a charging operator, the data is automatically analyzed from 2 perspectives: available energy, and energy demand.
Using the data available to it, the charging operator is able to determine the best time to charge your electric vehicle based on your energy requirements and the current demand from the grid!
Now, there are multiple exciting benefits to this, which we'll get into later (see Benefits of Smart EV Charging over Conventional Charging below).
For now, though, we'll summarise smart chargers as electrically-powered data-sharing appliances designed to enhance energy efficiency through a central platform.
What is a Smart Charging Station?
So, now we know what charging smart for electric vehicles involves and how it works. But what does one of these stations look like, and how do they operate on a daily basis?
The term 'smart charging station' can be applied to both public and residential charging systems.
Public charging stations are accessible to (you guessed it) the public by means of individual payments or memberships.
Residential systems, of course, are smart EV chargers that can be installed in a customer's home for personal use.
Moreover, there are different types of EV charging stations, also known as charge 'levels'. Level 1 charging is typically limited to 120-volt operation with charge outputs of roughly 12 to 16 amps.
Level 2 chargers are suited to 240-volt operation and typically offer a more powerful charge of between 30 and 80 amps.
As you can see, Level 2 chargers are clearly the more efficient of the two types, and therefore, most smart chargers are rated at Level 2.
A smart charging station usually looks like a box or pillar of some kind with a cord attached. This cord is the physical connection between the charging station and the vehicle.
Stations can either be wall-mounted or floor-mounted, although wall mounting is the more space-efficient option and is typically favored for installation in a residential building.
Public charging stations can either operate on a pay-as-you-go basis or, in some cases, you may be able to purchase a membership.
If you buy your own residential smart charger, you don't need to pay each time you use it (aside from electricity costs), but you will need to make an initial transaction for the product.
The Benefits of Smart EV Charging over Conventional Charging
The first major benefit of charging smart is that it optimizes energy consumption.
It's an established fact that, when it comes to buying a smart charging station, you're likely to pay more upfront than you would for a conventional charging station.
The reason so many EV drivers consider the extra upfront costs to be worth it is that these clever devices actually save on electricity costs over time.
Because smart stations are able to work out the best time to charge based on energy consumption in the area, avoiding high-demand, peak energy hours has never been easier!
EV owners who use smart stations can make incredible savings on their energy bills while benefitting from the next advantage on our list:
Faster Charging Times
When electric vehicles first launched onto the automotive market, some of the biggest complaints from EV owners were related to charging times.
Put simply, conventional charging can't offer the same fast charging speeds that smart stations can.
When charging smart, you can expect maximum power ratings of up to 150kW, which translates to fast charging and, to circle back to our first point, more efficient energy usage.
In fact, fast charging is directly correlated with energy efficiency here because shorter charge times make it easier to avoid peak hours altogether.
One of the more common customer concerns around purchasing an electric vehicle is the notion that doing so will involve a drastic lifestyle change.
From locating nearby stations to finding the time for daily charging, customers may worry that an electric vehicle could become a hindrance in their lives.
Fortunately, with smart charging, almost all of the inconvenient aspects of EV ownership are rectified.
Firstly, one of the most convenient features of smart EV systems is, as we've mentioned, their ability to share data.
An additional advantage of this feature is that a smart EV battery can keep track of smart stations in the nearby area, meaning you'll never have to drive around aimlessly in search of a charging point.
Moreover, because smart charging for EVs can be done automatically based on energy demand, residential charging doesn't require nightly trips outside to put the car on charge.
Just leave your car plugged in when you get home and let the data center take control of the rest.
Unlike conventional chargers, smart chargers don't require constant active monitoring. Multiple home smart chargers now exist alongside their own applications, connectable via Bluetooth or wifi.
EV owners can use these apps to receive notifications concerning their charge status or alarms when their attention is required. In this way, smart charging stations allow EV drivers and customers to go about their lives unimpeded.
Any system involving electricity comes with the potential for risks, but smart systems manage these risks much more effectively than conventional chargers.
Because factors such as voltage and current are regulated automatically, the risk of overloading and short-circuiting is greatly minimized.
Additionally, smart charging requires less direct contact with the electrical system. So, overall, smart charging is much safer than conventional charging.
We've talked a lot about how smart charging can benefit individuals, but businesses and corporations also benefit from smart charging services!
Successful business owners need to understand, interpret, and make adjustments around their current utility and energy consumption statistics.
Switching over to a new smart charging system allows for more informed decisions regarding business costs, prices, and services, thanks to the available data.
Individuals and businesses aren't the only ones who can benefit from smart charging. In fact, smart charging stations are amongst the most effective electricity-related solutions to climate change.
By charging your EV battery using smart technology, you'll be contributing to building a greener future in a real, tangible way.
Because the main purpose of smart charging is to optimize energy usage, far less fossil fuel is wasted per charging session. For example, charging during off-peak hours puts less strain on fossil fuel plants to supply grids.
So, if (like many EV owners) you've chosen to go electric to save the planet, it makes sense to switch over to smart charging, too!
If you've been on the fence about investing in a smart electric vehicle charger, we hope that this article has encouraged you to take the next step!
Powering EVs using smart charging methods incurs benefits for individuals, businesses, and the planet.
Now that you know exactly how smart EV charging works, all you have to do is purchase a membership or device to get started!