jun 11

Must-Have Smart Charging Features for Electric Vehicle Fleets

In our previous article, Smart Charging Electric Buses: The Ultimate Guide we have covered the most important aspects of smart charging, from the top benefits to the main functionalities, and from use cases to OCPP requirements. In case you need a refresher, we highly recommend having a look at our previous post. 

Now, we want to delve into two very valuable Smart Charging functionalities that ViriCiti offers and which can really help save costs and improve operational efficiency. 

Let’s begin! 

Set maximum power limit per group of chargers 

This functionality allows you to group several chargers together and set a maximum power limit for this group. This is also known as Load Balancing. Most of the time you would use this to group together all the chargers in your depot or group all charging stations that are connected to the same transformator. This Smart Charging feature can help mitigate potential damage to your equipment and lower equipment costs. 

Why would you need this? There are two main benefits of this functionality:

  1. Lowers or delays investment costs infrastructure (such as new transformers)
  2. Lowers cost associated with demand charges (also known as peak shaving)

Firstly, it lowers or delays investment infrastructure costs

By setting a maximum power limit for all your chargers in your predefined group, you can avoid power peaks and thus, charge more vehicles simultaneously with the same infrastructure. 

This allows you to delay the purchase of additional transformers that can add up to a huge investment in both time and money. We heard from our customers that a transformer can cost them up to $500.000, while it could take up to 2 years to get the necessary approvals from the city hall and have the grid operator install it.

Secondly, it lowers demand charges (peak shaving).  

Demand (measured in kW) is a measure of how much power a customer uses at a given time. In many countries around the world, utility companies apply charges for the entire month based on the maximum amount of power that a customer uses, usually measured in intervals of 15/30-minute rolling averages,  during the billing cycle. 

So, if you connect all your vehicles at the same time, even for a short period of time, the power peak created by this demand, will add significant costs to your energy bill. Frequently, this demand charge cost can be as much or more than the energy cost itself.

By setting a maximum power limit for all your chargers in the depot, you can make sure that your power demand will be distributed over time, and will not create costly power peaks. 

💡 Best Practice: It is important to choose an OEM-agnostic smart charging software provider because it will allow you to simultaneously manage all your OCPP chargers from one single platform, regardless of their manufacturer.  Furthermore, all predictions, reports and calculations will be done using the same logic, making it easy for the operation team to compare and understand the performance of your chargers. 

Set power limit per group of chargers, during specific time intervals

This feature provides additional functionality to the bulk power limit, allowing you to optimize your charging scheduling based on your cost and route schedules.

Why would you need this?  There are two main benefits of this functionality:

  1. Further lower energy costs by making use of Day/Night energy tariffs 
  2. Less manual work 

Firstly, it will help you further lower energy costs by making use of Day/Night energy tariffs. 

Increasingly, energy providers are introducing On-Peak and Off-Peak tariffs, charging higher energy rates during the day and lower energy rates during the night. 

Let’s consider the following example assuming the lower night tariff starts at 10PM. If some of your buses come back to the depot at 8PM, and are immediately plugged in, they will immediately start charging. This means that you will pay the day tariff (more expensive) for all the energy charged between 8PM and 10PM.

By contrast, if you are able to delay or lower the total power for your charging stations between 8PM and 10PM, and increase it after 10PM, your buses will use most energy during the low tariff time (cheaper) , thus lowering your energy bill. 

Secondly, this feature will result in less manual work. 

This is an often overlooked – but very valuable – benefit. Let’s replicate the scenario above, where your buses start charging after a certain hour. Without this smart charging functionality, you would need someone physically in the depot waiting around and plugging in the buses at the right time. This adds personnel costs and increases manual work, which is prone to error. 

Furthermore, managing the charging process manually is also not scalable when you add more and more electric buses to your fleet.

💡 Good to know: Furthermore, with a smart charging software platform, everything can be set/changed remotely. And in case something goes wrong, the system sends out an alert so you can mitigate issue early enough

About The Author

We are the ViriCiti marketing team. A group of EV enthusiasts writing about the most important aspects of operating electric fleets. From monitoring to smart charging.