Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is needed to support growing EV adoption and keep pace with government mandates for EVs — but it can be costly and frustrating to install if not done right. Advanced load-managed charging is key to making sure EV charging benefits everyone: the drivers who use chargers, the property owners who provide access to them, and the larger grid that supports them.
When applied at scale, traditional charging methods become expensive and cannot support the growing EV landscape. Advanced load-managed charging, on the other hand, offers a reliable, cost-effective solution for larger EV charger installations. Let’s look at the practicalities of three different methods for distributing power to EV chargers, and why advanced load-managed charging makes the most sense.
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, thanks to infrastructure requirements. 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.
In the circuit-sharing method, two or more EV chargers share power from a panel. If one vehicle is charging and another EV plugs in, the power supply gets split equally. Or, charging can be sequential — the second driver waits until the first EV is charged.
Circuit-sharing generally requires less infrastructure upgrades than standard charging, but there’s no intelligence in terms of how the technology optimizes for the use case. The power is split irrespective of driver schedule, how much charge a vehicle may need, or what’s happening with the grid.
Power management that considers multiple factors related to EV charging requires an overarching intelligent technology. Adaptive Load Management (ALM) is a PowerFlex-patented software platform that manages charging for EVs in real time, taking into account the driver’s schedule, the building’s energy load, utility rates, and other factors. It also integrates with onsite solar generation or battery storage for a holistic approach to energy management.
By optimizing the total power available, ALM can power up to 4 times the number of EV charging ports as a traditional system while enabling businesses to shave as much as 60% off the cost of electrical system upgrades and peak demand charges.
According to Andy Hoskinson, Associate Director for Turnkey Solutions at PowerFlex, customer segments with vehicles on site for long durations are well-positioned to capture the benefits of ALM’s advanced load-managed charging: workplaces, multifamily dwellings, residential communities, and airport parking.
“ALM is especially crucial to accommodate large charging networks,” he explains, “such as the 1,200 EV spaces and counting installed at LAX.”
Charging infrastructure must satisfy the needs of drivers for EV adoption to be successful. Powering a vehicle should be convenient, reliable, and efficient.
ALM prioritizes EV charging according to each driver’s schedule and remembers important default settings, such as how much power a driver typically needs for their daily use. With the PowerFlex app, drivers can also specify when they’re leaving and the charge they require, so their EV is ready when it’s time to go.
“EV charging works best when it just folds into the regular rhythm of EV drivers’ lives,” says Andy.
Establishing an EV charging network on a property means working within limits. A real, physical limit is the property’s electrical infrastructure, whereas a financial limit could be energy costs. Advanced load-managed charging optimizes power to EVs within both limits.
Owners and their reps can install up to 4 times more EV charging ports, fitting “more under the hood” of their electrical infrastructure when they opt for an advanced load-managed network. PowerFlex’s ALM software optimizes for the electrical code and factors in all power sources to balance the energy draw, limiting demand charges.
Furthermore, ALM provides a straightforward charging experience, keeping tenants and users happy.
Reliable grid power is the backbone of EV charging — ALM helps ease the challenges that power companies face when supporting a growing number of EVs.
By making the most of grid power, ALM eases the pressure on a utility to build physical infrastructure. Using load management means fewer electrical lines and substations are necessary 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.
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 innovative and intelligent solutions.
PowerFlex’s patented intelligent charging software, ALM, can speed the transition to electrification by optimizing existing infrastructure and limiting energy-use costs. Going forward, load management will be an integral part of the EV landscape that simultaneously benefits drivers, property owners, and the utility grid.
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