Adaptive Load Management: PowerFlex’s Answer to EV Congestion

The number of electric vehicle (EV) owners is steadily expanding, and businesses have responded by installing EV charging stations. EV charging isn’t merely a service to their customers; these businesses are also making a strong statement in support of electrification and a sustainable future. Drivers, however, have found that some stations are not as capable as others. A common culprit is EV congestion, which leaves drivers frustrated and disappointed. Fortunately, a market-ready charging solution is available as an answer to EV congestion: intelligent, adaptive EV charging. Let’s learn more.

What Is EV Congestion?

EV congestion stems from insufficient charging distribution. To visualize the issue, imagine the electricity supply as water, the electric vehicles as people, and the EV chargers as water fountains.  

When just one fountain is in use, the water comes out quickly. But as more people start to drink at the same time from the other fountains, the flow of water slows down. Lines begin to form at each fountain, and people in line must wait for the person in front of them to finish drinking before they can quench their thirst.

Similarly, in an EV charging network, congestion could look like every vehicle plugged into the network and slowly charging at the same rate. Or, congestion might keep incoming drivers waiting until the EVs that are plugged in have completed their charging sessions.  

Drivers get fed up with EV congestion because it conflicts with their busy schedules. While some people are fine leaving their car to charge for extended periods, others may only have an hour to spare and need a quick top-up charge. As you can imagine, leaving without getting the charge you want is frustrating.

It benefits businesses to pay attention to how well their charging network works. If charging doesn’t serve drivers, they’ll start looking elsewhere (which isn’t great for business). The good news is that reliable and timely charging for EVs is possible with the correct energy setup.

What Is Adaptive Load Management?

Adaptive Load Management® (ALM) is PowerFlex’s patented solution to optimize charging, a feature of the PowerFlex X™ energy management platform. ALM brings intelligence to EV charging networks to meet the needs of drivers as well as system owners.

Reid Gustin, Director of Software Sales at PowerFlex, explains, “We can dynamically charge every vehicle so that they all have enough power by the time they leave, all while staying below the facility’s capacity limit.”

Before diving deeper into ALM, it’s helpful to understand the different charging networks out there so you can appreciate how adaptive charging solutions benefit drivers, businesses, and the grid.

Unmanaged Charging

An Unmanaged charging scenario uses “dumb” or non-networked chargers. When a vehicle plugs in, the station pulls power regardless of facility needs or load limits. Unmanaged charging works well for drivers, but without intelligence, it can result in excessive utility charges due to energy demand spiking past the facility’s power limit.

Equal Share Charging

This method works exactly how it sounds. When one car plugs in, it gets full power, but as soon as another car plugs in, the power is split equally between the two. Add a third EV, and the power splits between the three, and so on.  

There’s some intelligence in Equal Share charging, as the total power draw stays below the facility’s power limit. Still, it’s not ideal for drivers. As more cars plug in, the less power each vehicle gets — and the longer it takes to charge.  

First Come, First Served

In a First Come, First Served setup, the first cars to connect to the network receive their maximum charging rate. However, once enough EVs plug in, the network reaches its power limit, and any new vehicles must wait until the previous ones have finished charging. This delay is notorious for aggravating EV congestion woes.

Adaptive Charging With PowerFlex

A more sophisticated way to manage charging is with adaptive software, which manages power loads to meet driver and facility needs. Smart algorithms dynamically adjust the power to each charger so that every driver has enough charge by the time they leave, all while staying below the facility’s capacity limit.

Learn more about these different approaches to EV charging in our Guide to Commercial EV Charging Methods.

How Does ALM Relieve EV Congestion?

EV congestion happens when drivers arrive to charge their vehicle only to find that it’s charging too slowly, or they must wait until another vehicle finishes charging before they can even start. With adaptive charging, it doesn’t matter how many drivers are connected or who arrived first — everyone gets the charge they need when they need it.  

PowerFlex’s Adaptive Load Management® software optimizes energy use by adjusting the power to each EV charger in real-time based on driver inputs, such as how long they plan to charge, how much charge they need, and their vehicle type. Every time a new vehicle plugs into a PowerFlex network, the distribution to each charger is recalculated based on new information, which is crucial to alleviating EV congestion.

Building owners also benefit from ALM, as it considers the facility’s power preferences. For example, it limits the total power the EV network consumes to avoid expensive utility billing models like time-of-use and peak demand charges.

So, what types of customers is ALM best suited for? The answer is all different kinds, including:  

  • Businesses that want to keep their EV-driving customers happy and support sustainability while taking advantage of energy savings
  • Multi-Unit Dwellings that are looking to attract high-value tenants and retain existing ones with convenient EV charging on their premises
  • Workplaces that want to demonstrate commitment to emissions-reduction initiatives and meet ESG goals while accommodating employees and visitors who drive EVs

Expanding Charging Networks With ALM

Another cause of EV congestion is when there simply aren’t enough chargers to go around. The logical step, of course, is to scale up the existing EV charging network to service more vehicles. This will ensure more drivers are able to charge when they need to and improve the overall charging experience at that particular site.

However, expanding an EV network can come with issues like electrical service upgrades, multi-year timelines, and expensive price tags. With intelligent ALM software, adding more chargers to a network costs less and is completed a lot sooner. How? Adaptively managing EV charging demand removes the need for infrastructure upgrades and allows more chargers to be installed, and quicker. All said and done, ALM can help save you up to 60% on implementation costs.

Ready to Get Started on a Commercial EV Charging Project?

It’s important for commercial EV charging systems to adapt and keep up with driver needs. Avoiding EV congestion with Adaptive Load Management® is just one reason to choose PowerFlex for your EV charging project. We also offer turnkey end-to-end EV charging solutions, including everything from site validation and development to installation and asset management.  

PowerFlex: Your Partner in Energy Management

Whether it’s your first EV charging project or you’re upgrading an existing network, PowerFlex’s adaptive energy management platform, PowerFlex X, can optimize all your onsite energy resources. By combining EV charging with other energy assets, such as solar and battery energy storage, PowerFlex X helps maximize driver satisfaction, energy savings, and sustainability benefits.

Contact PowerFlex today to learn more about what a commercial EV charging solution will do for your business.