Adaptive EV Charging Load Management: How Drivers, Property Owners, and the Grid All Benefit


Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are needed to support growing EV adoption and keep pace with government mandates — but they can be costly and complicated to install if not done right. Better EV charging load management strategies are needed to make sure EV charging benefits everyone: the drivers who use chargers, the property owners who provide access to them, and the utility grid that supports them. Let’s learn more about EV charging load management and why a specific type — adaptive EV charging load management — is the most effective.

What Is EV Charging Load Management?

EV charging load management is the balancing of electricity demand between multiple electric vehicle charging stations installed on a property. Typically, management is achieved with the use of software that controls the flow of energy to chargers that have been networked together. EV charging management software is designed to respond automatically as EV drivers come and go, removing the need for any intervention from the site owner or operator.  

How Does EV Charging Load Management Work?

EV charging load management works by allocating electricity to charging stations based on a variety of factors including the site’s capacity and the number of vehicles plugged in at a given time. Which vehicles receive how much energy and when depends on the specific method of EV charging load management that has been deployed at the site. For example, some methods allow all vehicles to charge at the same time but at a slower rate, while others have vehicles take turns. (We’ll cover the differences between some common EV charging methods a bit later.)

Why Is EV Charging Load Management Important?

EV charging load management is important because it allows a site to stay within its power limit, or the maximum electricity rate the site’s infrastructure is capable of accommodating. Breaching the power limit is likely to trip a breaker and disable all EV charging stations on the property. This isn’t too big of a concern, however, as it’s common practice to establish a power limit that’s well below the site’s maximum electrical capacity.  

What’s more important for site owners is managing the overall cost of powering chargers. Site owners can set a load limit according to how much electricity they are willing to pay to consume, and the EV charging load management software controls the flow of electricity to chargers relative to that limit. Effective EV charging management is also key to preventing sudden spikes in electricity usage, which often cause the utility to charge additional “peak demand” fees for the highest 15 minutes of energy consumption in a billing cycle.

How Does EV Charging Management Distribute Power?

Like we mentioned earlier, there are a number of methods for managing EV charging demand. You can learn about the most common ones in detail by checking out our Guide to Commercial EV Charging Methods. In the meantime, here’s a quick explainer:

Unmanaged Charging

First, it’s helpful to understand what happens when EV charging isn’t managed at all. In a standard “unmanaged” charging network, the electrical infrastructure for each EV charger is sized for chargers that draw at full capacity all the time. For small-scale charger setups, this approach works, but the “full load” assumption is impractical and costly for larger-scale EV charging projects.  

As explained before, the amount of power a site can deliver to EV chargers is physically limited by the onsite electrical capacity. In unmanaged systems, property owners must bear the expense of higher-amp electrical panels and transformers, while utility companies may need to upgrade to larger lines and substations. When applied at scale, traditional charging methods become expensive and cannot support the growing EV landscape.

Equal Share Charging

In Equal Share charging, demand is split evenly among vehicles in order to keep the site below the predefined electrical load limit. For example, a vehicle will receive 100% of the available power until a second car arrives, at which point they will each receive 50%. Power is further divided as more vehicles plug in. This is great for property owners, as it keeps power demand within both physical and financial limits. But it’s not so great for drivers, as it doesn’t take into account different driver needs — some may need more power than others, or need to leave sooner.

First Come, First Served Charging

With First Come, First Served charging, all vehicles receive their maximum charging rate — that is, until the electrical load limit is reached. Once that happens, all other vehicles that arrive must wait until other cars finish charging to begin their session. Much like with Equal Share, this charging method divides power without regard to how much a driver needs and how much time they can afford to wait to charge before they must get to their next destination.

Adaptive Charging

Adaptive charging takes an intelligent approach to distributing power. Using a mobile app, drivers input the make and model of their car, how much energy they want to receive, and how long they anticipate staying. Drivers that must leave sooner are prioritized over those that need the same or less energy but plan on remaining parked for a longer period of time.  

PowerFlex has pioneered this smarter way of charging with PowerFlex X™ — an intelligent energy management platform with Adaptive Load Management® (ALM). It leverages patented algorithms to optimize EV charging in real time, taking into account the driver’s schedule, the building’s energy load, and even the health of the utility grid.

The Broad Benefits of Adaptive Load Management®

ALM enhances the EV charging experience for all parties involved. Let’s take a deeper look at how this technology benefits property owners, drivers, and the larger U.S. electrical grid.    

Driver Benefits

For the transition from gas to electric vehicles to be successful, drivers need to feel confident that they won’t run out of energy while out and about. Adaptive Load Management® helps quell this “range anxiety” by allowing drivers to get the energy they need by the time they get back on the road. And since ALM enables property owners to install more chargers without having to upgrade their electrical system, drivers are more likely to find an open charging station while they’re parked at work, at a store, or at their apartment complex.

Property Owner Benefits

Implementing an EV charging system carries a lot of benefits for commercial property owners. Chargers can help attract and retain customers, employees, or residents who drive EVs. And for businesses that maintain fleets, dependable charging allows more vehicles to be electrified — making good on emissions targets.  

ALM helps properties maximize these inherent benefits of EV charging. By optimizing the total power available, ALM enables the installation of more charging ports compared to traditional systems while avoiding infrastructure upgrades. This means property owners can reduce implementation costs by up to 60%, helping win the approval of internal stakeholders and investors.

Plus, since ALM intelligently balances charging demand with regard to facility consumption, owners can reduce load spikes and shield themselves from expensive utility peak demand fees.  

Grid Benefits

Reliable grid energy is the backbone of EV charging, and ALM helps ease the challenges that utility companies face when supporting a growing number of EVs. By making the most of grid energy, ALM removes the pressure for utilities to build more infrastructure — such as power plants, transmission lines, and substations — to keep up with EV adoption. ALM can also comply with demand response events, relieving the strain on a utility when it’s needed most.

What’s more, EV chargers optimized by PowerFlex X with Adaptive Load Management® integrate seamlessly with other clean technologies like solar energy generation, allowing property owners to power their chargers with zero-emissions electricity and reduce their reliance on the grid.

The Future of EV Charging Load Management Is Adaptive

Today, EV charging may look like a property with 20 or 50 chargers —  but soon it will look more like a regional shopping center with 1,000 electrified parking spaces. However, we’ll never achieve that scale if charging technology doesn’t include adaptive EV charging load management that can balance the needs of drivers, property owners, and the utility grid.  

Want to learn how you can implement an adaptive EV charging solution on your site? Contact us today for a free demo.