With the rise of EVs comes a great deal of new terminology that can sometimes leave new EV owners scratching their heads. So let’s answer the question: What is a smart EV charger? How does it differ from regular EV chargers? And most importantly, what makes it ‘smart’?
This article will help you understand the jargon and how the tech works, we will review smart charger features, the benefits and any potential negatives!
What is a Smart EV charger?
A Smart EV charger offers enhanced EV charging features such as remote control, scheduling, energy usage tracking, and integration with renewable energy sources. It connects to the internet and can use intelligent charging strategies that can optimise cost and efficiency, while also supporting the electrical grid.
How do Smart EV chargers work?
Smart chargers use data from your car and data from the grid, they marry the two sets of information together to ensure optimum charging efficiency. Smart chargers do this via the cloud and this is why they require an internet connection to operate.
Data is used to understand how much power your EV requires and how much energy is available on the grid. The charger will use this data to determine the best time to charge your vehicle.
Through a smartphone app, you can control and monitor your charger remotely. You can schedule charging times to take advantage of the best EV charging tariffs, monitor energy usage, and even control the charging speed.
Some smart chargers can integrate with home energy management systems, solar panels, or home batteries. This allows for coordinated energy usage, charging your vehicle from solar power during the day, or drawing from the grid when rates are lowest.
Smart chargers can also support the electrical grid by modulating the charging rate based on grid demand.
Can I get a Smart EV charger for my home?
Yes, you can install a Smart EV charger in your home provided you have Wifi and your home meets the standard requirements for installing a home EV charger.
Wifi is required for the charging unit to communicate with the app that you use to manage your EV charging. Without the app, you are unable to monitor your usage, adjust the settings or receive notifications about the progress of your EV while charging.
Do I need a Smart EV charger?
If you are buying a new home charge point then UK government regulations, The Electric Vehicles Regulations 2021, state that a new charge point must have smart functionality.
If you prefer not to share data or use the Smart charger functionality, you can still do so under UK regulations. EV owners do not legally need to use the Smart settings on their charger, you can override the device and use the standard settings. The obligation to comply is with the manufacturers, who should ensure all new devices are Smart enabled.
What are the current EV Smart charging regulations?
The Electric Vehicles regulation came into effect on June 30th, 2022 to ensure that EV energy consumption is ‘Smart’, i.e. able to communicate with energy suppliers and share data.
The purpose of this regulation is to make sure that EVs do not place too much strain on the UK electricity grid. The 2022 regulations achieve this through an emphasis on off-peak charging as standard, the ability to delay at the beginning and end of charging, and demand side response functionality (the ability for EV Smart chargers to adapt the energy flow in response to a signal from the electricity supplier).
4 benefits of smart charging
- Energy bills will be cheaper as the Smart charger chooses the optimum time to charge your vehicle. Typically this will be at night when the local consumption is lower and the cost is cheaper.
- The ability to control charging remotely can offer a significant advantage in terms of convenience and control.
- There are Environmental benefits to using a Smart charger. According to a recent report from The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, there is evidence to suggest that using Smart chargers could reduce a charger’s carbon footprint by more than 20%.
- The safety of your vehicle is improved by using a Smart charger. The charger will test your connection prior to the initial flow of electricity and if it detects a fault with either the charger or the EV it will not attempt to charge the vehicle.
- Smart chargers are future-proof as the features can be adapted via the cloud, therefore as technology advances your Smart charger will automatically advance too.
Are Smart chargers fast?
Smart EV chargers are typically faster than an ‘unintelligent’ EV charger as they are able to intuitively use the maximum amount of energy supplied by the grid when charging. Smart chargers are 7kW or 22kW (if you have upgraded your electricity supply to 3-phase) and 3-pin plug chargers are 2.3kW, so if you have installed a Smart home charger you have a significant power advantage over a 3-pin charger.
Are public EV charging stations Smart?
Yes, public charging stations such as supermarket charging stations, are Smart and operate in the same way that a private home Smart charger would. Public charging stations will work as a collective of Smart chargers that are all communicating with the energy suppliers to control the energy flowing between their customers’ cars and the grid.
These smart capabilities of public chargers mean they can do a great deal more than just charge a car:
- Usage tracking
Public charging station providers can track usage data, including how often a station is used, how long charging sessions typically last, and how much energy is used. This data can help the provider manage their network more efficiently and plan for future expansion.
- Payment processing
Smart charging stations can handle user identification and payment processing, allowing users to pay for their charging session via a mobile app, credit card, or charging network membership card.
- Reservation systems
Some smart chargers allow users to reserve a charging spot in advance, ensuring they have access to charging when they need it.
- Dynamic load management
Smart chargers can adjust the rate of charge based on the current demand on the local grid or the charging network, helping to balance the load and prevent power outages.
- Remote monitoring and management
Charging station providers can monitor the status of their stations remotely, quickly identifying and resolving any issues, and can also perform updates and maintenance tasks remotely.
What are the best Smart EV charging Apps?
According to an Autoexpress poll, The Ohme charger ranked highest among Smart charging Apps in 2021. The Autoexpress driver power survey asked existing EV drivers to score their apps, let’s look at the results:
Top 9 EV charger Apps 2021:
1. Ohme 82.09%
2. Tesla 81.36%
3. Zappi 79.26%
4. Pod Point 74.88%
5. EV Box 73.68%
6. Wallbox 71.97%
7. E0 68.88%8. BP 62.38%
9. Rolec 61.41%
What is the EV smart charging grid?
In general, the term ‘smart grid’ refers to any electricity grid that is capable of using data to manage electricity flow and demand in real-time. The UK is a leader in smart grid technology, having introduced home smart meters as standard and invested in funding for innovation projects for energy suppliers.
The EV smart grid is the network that connects EV charging units to the local electricity suppliers. The purpose of the grid is to balance the amount of electricity that UK power stations produce and distribute. If the demand increases the grid transmits that information to the generators who will, in turn, react by increasing output.
Smart charging can be “unidirectional” (V1G) or “bidirectional” (V2G or V2L). In unidirectional smart charging, the power flows only from the grid to the vehicle, but the time and rate of charging can be controlled to match grid conditions and electricity prices. In bidirectional charging, the EV battery can also send power back to the grid during peak demand times.
Bidirectional chargers have the ability to flow electricity in two directions, this means as well as receiving power into your EV you can reverse that function and use your EV as a power source. The power could be channelled back into your household at peak consumption times instead of buying electricity from the grid. As the technology improves, bidirectional charging has the potential to redirect energy directly back into the grid eventually.
The concept of moving energy back from an EV to the grid is called Vehicle to Grid (V2G). V2G offers the potential for you to earn money by selling electricity back to your supplier at a higher cost than when you purchased it.
Bidirectional chargers are not common in the UK and typically cost significantly more than a standard Smart charger. There are many V2G trials currently running throughout the world and as the technology improves the usage will increase and you can expect the price of Bidirectional chargers to decrease.
Are there negatives to using a Smart charger?
While smart chargers bring numerous benefits, we should consider if there are any downsides:
With the increased sophistication of smart chargers comes a degree of complexity. Users will need to familiarise themselves with the charger’s features and learn how to manage them, which may prove challenging.
- Connectivity requirements
Smart chargers typically require a reliable Wi-Fi connection to function optimally. In areas with poor connectivity, users may not be able to fully utilise all smart features.
- Privacy concerns
Since smart chargers can track and report data about charging habits, some people will likely have privacy concerns.
The final word on Smart chargers
Smart chargers are actively encouraged by the UK government as the go-to solution to charge electric cars. The regulations are in place to ensure that manufacturers produce EV chargers with Smart functions to manage the flow of electricity through the grid, and there are plenty of benefits to EV owners looking to install a smart home EV charger:
- Cheaper energy bills as your Smart charger picks the optimum time to charge your EV
- The environment benefits from a potential 20% decrease in a charger’s carbon footprint
- Vehicle safety is improved via Smart safety features
- Smart chargers self-update and become more efficient as charging technology advances
- Smart charges can manage the energy flow which leads to faster charging
- They can harness Bidirectional charging, which will eventually provide EV owners with the opportunity to sell power
back to the grid at a profit via Vehicle to Grid technology.
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John is the Editor and Spokesperson for Electric Car Guide.
With over 20 years of writing experience, he has written for titles such as City AM, FE News and NerdWallet.com, covering various automotive and personal finance topics.
John’s market commentary has been covered by the likes of The Express, The Independent, Yahoo Finance and The Evening Standard.