By Andreas Fuchs, co-project leader, Electric Mobility, EKZ, Kanton Zürich, Switzerland
It is estimated that by 2050, 95 percent of cars will be equipped with an electric socket. This will mean that more than five million parking lots in Switzerland alone will be need to be equipped with a charging station to enable electric vehicle (EV) charging. Now imagine if all of these cars began charging at the same time and the impact it would have on the power grid.
While the electrical grid in Switzerland is not yet “smart,” the fact remains that EVs are being purchased. It is therefore, up to the auto manufacturers, utilities and equipment suppliers to ensure that the charging process is coordinated and controlled in order to prevent grid overload.
This was the driving incentive behind the Smartphone application (app) pilot that we are conducting with IBM Research in Zürich and the University of Applied Research Zürich in Winterthur, ZHAW. The goal is to study how mobile communication can be used to remotely control the EV charging process.
As you can read here and watch here – the driver can set boundary conditions for the charging process, using a smartphone, such as immediate or later charging, or delegate the charging responsibility to the utility. From this point, a charge schedule is created based on the availability of renewable resources such as sun and wind, as well as current grid conditions.
The main menu
In the graphic above you can see the interface for the app, which is web based and works on all of the latest smartphones and tablets. Going in an counter-clockwise direction:
- Starting on the lower right edge: “Vehicle” one can choose which EV they plan to drive. This could be particularly useful for car sharing programs or for managing an EV fleet of cars, similar to what we have at EKZ.
- On top to the left: The battery state of charge and an estimation of the remaining range in kilometers is displayed.
- On top to the right: Users can see a GPS map showing the locationof the EV in relation to the closest charging stations (data by www.lemnet.org).
- Bottom, to the left: This button offers EV drivers with the option to select from three charging modes – the first being “Immediate” which basically means that once plugged in, the car will begin to charge. For this project, the Twingo car was set with a default charging current that would provide drivers with a typical daily distance of 40km in Switzerland.
- The second charging option – “Premium” automatically shifts the charging period to the night. This will help avoid adding strain to the grid during the day, when most systems are running.
- The third option – “Intelligent” allows the user to delegate the charging to the utility. Using a virtual power plant application, a utility can determine time of charge and load based on the charging history. For example, a car that is needs to be charged up to 85 percent at 4:30pm when the owner leaves for work.
Many companies are making in-roads in developing innovative technologies that have the potential to not only change how consumers get from A to B, but also change their level of interaction and control.
Before, consumers would just grab a set of keys and go – however, in the years to come, it will be a more connected experience. To prepare, many countries – especially in Europe, are implementing infrastructures to support the mass adoption of EVs – look no further than Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom or Ireland and of course Switzerland. We have the cars, now all we need is reliable energy, and the roads, charging stations, technology, as well as the consumers to keep up.
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