Take charge – overcome EV charging challenges with the cloud

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June 24, 2024

Take charge – overcome EV charging challenges with the cloud

Dick Kronman

As the global electric vehicle (EV) transition continues to gain pace, it remains to be seen how operators will be able to manage the associated, typically unmanned global charging infrastructure and ensure a seamless 24/7/365 operation.

But there is a solution. By migrating to the latest cloud-based energy services, operators can access the real-time intelligence needed to ensure the productivity of assets and predict future maintenance requirements. Here, Dick Kronman, Global Solution Technology Manager, Digital Systems at ABB, explains why it’s time for EV charge point operators to fully understand the benefits associated with cloud-based energy technologies and embed these into their future systems.

2024 is certainly proving to be a busy year for electric vehicles. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) over 2.3 million electric cars were sold in the first quarter, about 25 percent more than in the same period in 2023. By the end of the year, it is expected that we will hit 14 million EV sales representing a 35 percent year-on-year increase.

While this signifies significant progress in reducing global carbon emissions, it does bring new challenges. Principally is the task of navigating the complexity surrounding the EV charging infrastructure required to support such escalating demand.

To put it into context, operators see an increase in charger usage. This means the market needs more chargers to serve all customers on time (24/7). This is especially crucial when looking at the highway situation referred to as cross-bordering.

It is also important to remember that the EV sector is still evolving. As it continues on the journey from niche to mainstream, this can make EV charging management incredibly challenging.

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For charge point operators (CPOs), EV charging networks are frequently required to be connected to the electricity grid. This means balancing demand during peak hours and accounting for ultra-rapid charging requirements of up to 350 kW or even mega-watt charging. Add to the equation, the prospect of hundreds of thousands of EVs plugging onto the grid to charge during peak hours and the result is a formidable balancing act for the modern utilities provider.

Interoperability between the vehicle, charging infrastructure and grid presents another hurdle to overcome. As EV manufacturers continue to strengthen the speed and scale of innovation, interoperability can only be achieved through smooth communication between utilities and CPOs. Therefore, testing in early development stages gains more and more importance. Strong partnerships are the result.

Perhaps even more significant are the issues surrounding reliability and ease of use. Historically, the EV customer experience has not always been as seamless as sector stakeholders would like, with challenges around the connection between vehicle and charger, unreliable charging power levels and finding chargers out of service. So while many more consumers are driving electric, the long talked about ‘range anxiety’ remains a constant barrier to widespread, global EV adoption.

This poses a formidable challenge for CPOs, particularly during a period of energy market volatility, adding further pressures and complications. The good news is that there is, at least in part, a solution to support the more reliable operation of charging infrastructure.

Cloud control

Cloud computing, the act of storing and accessing all your data, applications, storage and networks over the Internet as opposed to a physical hard drive, can have a transformative effect on the efficacy of EV charging management.

Moving to a cloud-based approach, where all charging units and power distribution technologies are connected, ensures full access to charging data and analytics, both on an individual unit or site-wide basis in real-time, 24/7 from anywhere in the world. With many EV charging sites located in remote locations and typically unmanned, this makes it much easier for CPOs to manage multiple sites and locations without the need for a physical presence.

Armed with this rich intelligence it is possible to gain critical insights on everything from utilization rates for individual charging units, time-of-day patterns for utilization and the range of chargers deployed, as well as peak energy patterns and any recurrent points of failure. Such data is invaluable in enabling operators to better manage supply and demand, optimize energy consumption and lower overall operating costs.

Further benefits come in the ability to identify and address issues before they escalate and anticipate similar failures or performance constraints. This not only prevents the revenue impact associated with power deviances but also avoids the frustration of drivers (and resulting reputational issues for the CPO) arriving at a charger that is out of service or not performing as expected. Due to grid capacity limitations, more intelligence and connection to different ecosystems brings another benefit in terms of dynamic pricing. CPOs will be able to manage pricing across their tariffs depending on grid availability and purchasing pricing.

By combining this data with wider market intelligence – such as EV sales statistics, policy updates and trends – it’s possible to realize better forecasting and demand expectations. For CPOs struggling to keep up with developing demand and evolving usage patterns, this foresight proves invaluable in helping to plan more strategically for the future and ensure a more seamless user experience. This deep domain level of intelligence also supports greater technical interoperability between the car, charger and grid, enabling stakeholders to drive further progress across the sector.

Of course, this may appear like a lot of change to get to grips with but help is at hand. At ABB, for example, we have experience working with some of the world’s biggest CPOs to develop and deliver custom-built digitalized power monitoring solutions designed to ensure ‘always on’ operations and optimize energy usage even at the most complex and remote locations.

Keeping the EV transition on the right road

As CPOs continue to come under new pressure to meet soaring demand and maintain net zero goals, there are many hurdles still to overcome. Cloud-based energy services will play a significant role in addressing many of these challenges and keeping the EV transition on track, providing operators with the visibility needed to improve energy reliability, optimization and overall performance.

Dick Kronman, Global Solution Technology Manager, Digital Systems at ABB

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