The technology that underpins the electric mobility revolution has evolved dramatically. For context, in 2010 electric cars typically came equipped with 25kWh batteries and had a maximum range of around 175 km. Today, the average EV has a 64 kWh battery and an average range of 330 km, while more advanced models can even reach 600 km on a single charge.
However, it’s not only vehicle innovation that is driving the electric mobility industry forwards. Innovation in charging technology is evolving in leaps and bounds. This is where smart chargers come in. In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what smart EV charging is and what homeowners should be aware of.
The next generation of EV charging, defined by emerging technologies to make charging more economical, efficient, and intuitive is aptly named Smart Charging. But smart charging isn’t just one thing and nor is it set in stone.
Smart charging is an umbrella term for a variety of intelligent features.
Some are readily available on the market whilst others are just appearing. Some are still in development and there are potentially many others that haven’t even been conceived of yet at the time of writing this guide.
The common thread connecting them all is a sort of “enhanced connectivity” compared to the first generation of EV charging stations.
Why choose a smart charger?
In short, the benefits of smart charging correlate to a set of features — some readily available and some being rolled out across the globe — including dynamic load balancing, vehicle-to-grid (V2G), and hub/satellite configurations.
While the benefits differ per feature or situation, generally speaking, the list is as follows:
Control: Control charging via your smartphone.
Safety: Avoid blackouts and protect your home’s electrical circuit.
Efficient: Optimize charging speeds to avoid drawing excess energy from the grid.
Sustainable: Connect to a solar system and charge with renewable energy.
Reduce costs: Charge your vehicle when electricity prices are lower.
Connectivity: Connect your EV to a home energy management system.
In the next section, we’re going to unpack each of these benefits in more technical detail and link each with the current features which are in development or on the market today.
What makes an EV charging station smart?
Just like today's mobile phone can do a lot more than just call or text, electric vehicles today can do a lot more than just drive. In turn, EV charging stations must evolve to keep up with these advances in technology. That’s where connectivity comes in.
Smart EV charging stations come equipped with a set of advanced features that use the connection between your car, your home, and your electricity supply to leverage data and insights intelligently, optimize and personalize your charging sessions, and increase energy efficiency.
What is a connected electric car charger?
A connected EV charging station, as the name implies, is a charger that can establish a wireless connection, typically via Bluetooth or the internet.
This connection enables real-time communication between the charging station, the car, the EV driver, and the electrical circuit of the EV driver’s home. This enhanced connectivity can give you far more control over the charging process and can provide insights into energy usage so that you can optimize and personalize your charging sessions.
This connectivity is typically managed via a charging app, which allows users to view and control charging sessions and settings directly from their phones. However, this connectivity also works in the background, making it easier to optimize the station's performance, update its software, and even troubleshoot challenges as they arise in real-time.
What technology enables smart EV charging?
A smart charging station has the ability to connect to the internet. On the hardware side, this requires a modem or even a sim card physically built into the charging station. By leveraging this network connection, a smart charging station can transmit data to and from an EV and a home.
To enable smart charging features, a smart charging station needs software to let a user control and manage it.
Depending on the backend, this software can give the user the ability to control charging sessions remotely, optimize energy efficiency, and even gather accurate information on their charging behavior.
Connectivity and government regulation
Governments around the world are even mandating that all new EV chargers have to be connected. This type of legislation—which is already active in the UK (but also expected in the EU and US soon)—further propels the growth of connected EV charging.
This enhanced connectivity enables a plethora of possibilities to improve the charging process.
Smart charging can’t be defined as simply one thing, it’s an umbrella term referring to various intelligent functionalities that can enhance the charging experience.
It’s true that a smart charging station has to be connected to enable the use of smart charging features, but this doesn’t mean that every connected charging station comes equipped with smart charging features like dynamic load balancing, vehicle-to-home (V2H), or renewable energy integration.
What to look out for in a smart EV charger
As smart charging technology and government regulation evolve, more and more features will become available to EV drivers. But you don’t want to have to buy a new charging station every time a new feature comes out. One of the most important smart charging features is the ability of a charging station to become smarter over time.
Thanks to the enhanced connectivity which makes charging stations “smart”, the next generation of home charging stations will have the ability to receive over-the-air updates. Over-the-air (OTA) updates are essentially the ability to download software updates or applications and service or troubleshoot challenges over the internet. With OTA updates, a charging station that is sold without a smart feature could receive them via a software update when they become available in that particular region.
From a sustainability standpoint, the longevity (and durability) of a charging station is paramount and with over-the-air updates, you can avoid having to upgrade your charging station hardware to access the latest features. From a consumer perspective, the ability to unlock new features without additional hardware and installation costs only adds to a positive experience; which, in turn, is key to enabling the spread of electric vehicles.
All in all, whilst OTA updates may not be a hot topic like dynamic load balancing or V2H technology, they should be a top priority when choosing which charging station is right for your home.
What are the benefits of owning a smart charger?
A smart EV charging station can bring many advantages to EV drivers and their homes. They allow drivers to safeguard their homes and avoid expensive grid upgrades, optimize charging efficiency and cut energy consumption costs, and integrate renewable sources of energy into the charging mix.
It can get technical and confusing real fast, so let’s first look more specifically why smart charging is emerging as one of the most important topics in electric mobility.
Control your EV charging station remotely
Thanks to the enhanced connectivity that underpins smart charging, you can communicate with your home’s charging station with your smartphone. This ability allows you to stop and start charging sessions with your smartphone, get insights directly on energy usage, and adjust your behavior in real time.
Adjust EV charging speed
Every home has a maximum amount of power that it can draw from the grid. Based on this available power and how fast you need your vehicle charged, smart chargers with Dynamic Load Balancing enable your charging station to set a quicker or slower charging speed automatically. This can be beneficial if you know your home is drawing a lot of power at a certain time or you’re charging more than one EV at a time.
Prevent power overloads from EV charging
Because of the ability to accurately monitor your home’s electricity usage in real-time, a smart charging station equipped with dynamic load balancing, or DLB for short, can adjust the power output to your EV to avoid overconsumption. As a result, dynamic load balancing prevents potential blackouts and circuit overloads.
Charge your EV at off-peak times
The ability to charge your EV at off-peak times allows you to reduce your charging costs and this is technically called load shifting.
Your grid operator may charge you more when using your electricity at specific moments and these times are commonly referred to as peak and off-peak times. Depending on where you live and your energy contract, peak and off-peak can mean different times. However, peak generally refers to when energy usage is highest: from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 2 pm, and 6 pm to 10 pm. During off-peak hours, you may be charged less for the electricity you use than during peak hours.
With the load shifting feature, that we at EVBox call charging profiles, you can set charging times to take advantage of off-peak times. Simply plug in, set charging to begin when off-peak does, and you’ll pay less for each kW than if you’re charging at peak hour.
Charge your car battery with solar
Solar panels at home have become increasingly popular over the past decade and this trend is only set to continue. As the price of gas and electricity rise, generating your own power at home will become even more attractive to those wishing to protect their wallets from fluctuating energy prices.
Thanks to this enhanced connectivity, you can optimize home charging with solar panels, allowing you to partly charge your vehicle with renewable energy. If you produce energy with solar panels or wind turbines and integrate this system with your charging station, it’s possible to charge your vehicle rather than sell excess energy back to the grid. This will also help save on your charging costs.
You won’t be able to charge your battery to 100 percent from empty with solar power over a single day. However, with solar panels and a smart charging station, you will be able to top up your battery—potentially covering your daily commute—or use the renewable energy you generated as an additional power source during peak times. The technical term for the latter is peak shaving.
Avoid meter box upgrades from EV charging
With a first-generation EV charging station, your installer would probably suggest that you upgrade your home’s meter box. In most cases, your meter box may not be able to handle the more intense energy consumption from charging an EV. In turn, this could even lead to circuit overloads or other problems.
With a smart charging station, it’s less likely that you’ll need to invest in upgrading your meter box. Because charging stations with dynamic load balancing can safely adjust the power between the charging station and other home appliances, it’s more likely that you can avoid having to upgrade your meter box, saving significant costs.
Optimize your EV charging process
Smart charging can also help you optimize your charging process. Essentially, from the time you plug in your EV at home, to the time you drive off, a smart charging station can monitor your electrical consumption and the time it takes to charge. With this information, you can adjust your charging behavior to fit your needs best.
Save money with smart charging
Yes, A smart charging station can help you save money when you charge your vehicle. However, there are many different factors that affect how and how much you can save. In addition to what type of charging station you have, some of the technologies below are still being rolled out and may not be available just yet. For instance:
Solar power charging allows you to use free renewable energy to charge.
Charging schedules allows you to charge during off-peak hours.
However, as with most cost-saving initiatives, it all starts with knowledge. In this case, those insights stem from your charging behavior. An essential element of a smart charging station is the ability to provide such insights. With these insights, you can then shift your charging behavior to take advantage of simple cost-saving initiatives like charging when energy prices are lower.
What are the most useful features of a smart charger?
Smart charging technologies
Smart charging is an umbrella term that refers to a number of different features. This enhanced connectivity is empowering a wave of innovation in smart charging technology and as a result, many new features are being developed.
Dynamic load balancing
Dynamic load balancing explained
Every home has a maximum amount of energy that it can draw from the power grid. And just like an oven, washing machine, or dishwasher, an EV charging station uses a lot of electricity. If together, your home appliances draw more electricity than your meter box can handle, the fuse will blow. Dynamic load balancing helps prevent that from happening.
To have a better understanding of why dynamic load balancing is such an important development for electric mobility, let's take a look at what happens when you overload an electrical circuit.
How does dynamic load balancing work?
To understand how dynamic load balancing works, you first have to know what happens when you overload an electrical circuit.
Can charging your electric car cause a circuit breaker to trip?
In short, yes. When you try to use more electricity than your home can safely draw from the grid, you get a circuit overload. When exceeding this limit, your circuit breaker will trip and shut off the power to your home. An overload can cause damage to the circuit, connections, and wiring — and also lead to sparks and a risk of fire. When charging an EV, it is possible to overload the circuit, especially if your home is already drawing a lot of electricity from the grid.
How does dynamic load balancing protect your home?
Essentially, dynamic load balancing stops circuit overloads by setting a safe maximum amount of power for an entire house and ensuring that an EV combined with all household electronics never draws more than that. Essentially, a charging station can constantly monitor how much pressure the electrical circuit is under at any given time and automatically adjust its power output based on the available capacity.
Example of Dynamic Load Balancing in practice
For example, if a washing machine, an electric heater, and an EV are drawing power simultaneously and you want to turn on your dishwasher, the power drawn may exceed the maximum your house can handle. With dynamic load balancing, your charging station would notice this excess activity and slow or stop the flow of electricity to the car to free up capacity for that other appliance. Once demand on the circuit decreases — say the washing machine finishes its washing cycle — the charging station will again adjust and increase the power output to the EV.
Dynamic load balancing becomes especially necessary if you’re trying to charge more than one EV at a time from the same circuit — sharing the available electricity between vehicles or could alternatively prioritize charging one over the other — or if you have appliances that draw lots of electricity like an oven or a dishwasher.
Vehicles are only on the road four percent of the time. The majority of the day, an EV is parked in a driveway, a garage, or on the street and sits there unused.
What if we didn't see the battery as a liability, but saw it as a smart way to store (renewable) energy?
That's where bidirectional charging comes in. With V2H, you can tap into the energy from your car to power your house. With V2H, electric car batteries can be utilized during the other 96 percent of the time (when they’re parked) as a personal home energy storage system.
What’s the benefit of V2H?
Vehicle-to-home lets you use the energy stored in your vehicle’s battery to power your home. This allows the EV driver to power household appliances directly from an EVs battery during peak hours when electricity is more expensive. After the peak period, when purchasing energy from the grid is cheaper, the vehicle is then recharged.
Plus, if your home has solar panels, you can also directly charge your EV with solar energy and use this energy at night, further reducing the need to draw energy from the grid. As a result, you can reduce your electricity usage and protect yourself from fluctuating electricity prices and reduce your reliance on unsustainable and unethical energy sources.
What’s the benefit of vehicle to home (V2H) technology?
Our homes are using more power than ever before and this can often be a strain for energy grid operators. As this strain continues to grow — partly due to the increased electricity usage from transportation, our homes and power grids become more susceptible to overloads.
What is V2G?
Vehicle-to-grid allows users to send energy back to the power grid from their EV’s battery in exchange for either cash money or a reduction in power bills. This can be useful for grid operators when the electricity demand is particularly high and they struggle to meet energy demands. By using an EV’s battery to support the energy grid when demand is high, this strain could be noticeably reduced.
Whereas the benefits of V2G technology are straightforward to understand for consumers (cash money), the major benefit of V2G is a bit more abstract: V2G allows you to give back to the community at peak moments, and protect the electricity grid as a whole.
Are V2G and V2H widely available?
Both V2G and V2H have a lot of potential to make our homes and the electricity grid more secure. However, neither technology is widely available yet and many EV models are not yet v2h compatible cars.
Over the next few years, we’re likely to see these technologies becoming a more common feature in electric mobility on charging stations and electric vehicles.
Solar PV integration
Charging your car battery with solar
Next time you're taking a walk through your neighborhood, look up. Chances are you'll spot some solar panels on at least a few roofs. Only a few years ago, solar panels — just like electric vehicles were a rare sight, but now they've become a common fixture on our streets. Whilst this technology is not new, it can become increasingly effective when paired with an EV and a smart charging station.
What’s the benefit of charging a car battery with solar?
We are in the middle of an energy crisis and self-generated renewable energy is appealing to many households. By charging your EV with solar (or wind) energy, you can reduce your reliance on the electricity grid, charge more sustainability, and reduce your transportation costs.
Can solar panels charge electric cars?
The vast majority of home solar systems would not produce enough energy to charge your vehicle from zero to 100 percent on a daily basis. For example, an average size solar PV system may produce around 10-15 kW of energy per day; far less than a 60 kWh battery that is becoming standard in EVs across the board.
However, most vehicles aren’t driven empty on a daily basis either. So, to better answer this question, let’s take a look at a typical scenario: An average daily commute, the average EV, and the amount of power which an average solar PV system produces over a sunny day.
Now, let’s look at how much energy you can produce with solar panels. An average household solar set-up can produce around 5-15 kW of electricity per day. This obviously depends on how many solar panels you have, how much energy they can produce and how much sun there is where you live. But let’s consider a day when you produce 10 kW of self-generated electricity.
With all of this in mind, to drive 40 km, an average EV with a fuel efficiency of 0.20 kWh per km, you would need approximately 8 kW per day, within the range of how much your home produced with solar panels.
How can smart charging optimize solar charging?
Although you do not need to have a smart charging station in order to charge your car with your solar panels, smart charging helps optimize solar charging sessions.
Because a home solar panel system only produces energy during the day, smart charging helps you set charging schedules that become particularly important.
You can connect a smart charging station to a home energy management system to distribute power effectively and efficiently. As a result, you could choose to dedicate a bigger amount of solar energy to your car or to your home.
Additionally, if you have more than one EV, you would be able to prioritize the charging of one EV rather than the other, because you would need it fully charged for the next morning
So while having a smart charging station is not required to use the electricity generated from your solar panels, it can greatly help you to manage the charging process and control when and how much electricity from your solar panels is used to charge your EV
Plus, when paired with a smart home energy management system and V2H, solar charging can be especially beneficial as the EV’s battery could be used to store the sustainable energy produced and which is not directly used. As a result, a driver could use solar panels and its EV to power household appliances during the day and charge the battery at night when electricity is cheapest.
Load shifting and peak shaving
Load shifting and peak shaving
Let's first note that load shifting and peak shaving were well-established terms in the energy sector long before the rise of electric mobility and the creation of smart EV charging solutions.
So, if you go online to learn more about peak shaving or load shifting, you're likely to end up on a page that explains flexible control measures in industrial processes to lower a company's energy costs; not exactly the information you were searching for.
Nevertheless, the terms and their definitions stay intact; the perspective and application of load shifting and peak shaving work differently and at a much smaller scale.
So, instead of bombarding you with technical language, let's break these terms down from a more identifiable point of view: charging your electric car.
What is load shifting?
To understand what load shifting entails in its most basic form, think of switching equipment off during times of higher demand and only turning it back on at times of lower demand (and lower electricity prices).
This is the most simple way of explaining load shifting, you –quite literally– shift the load of energy to a different time of the day.
So, your daily energy consumption does not change, the times you use some of this electricity does. As a result, you may be able to save cost as you decide to only turn high-energy-intensive equipment (such as your dishwasher, washing machine, or charging station) on during low-peak hours.
Imagine having a smart charging feature that enables you to plan your charging sessions in order to "shift the load" of charging your car to more affordable times, and you know exactly what load shifting does.
What is peak shaving?
Where load shifting focuses on moving energy-intensive activities to more optimal times, peak shaving helps avoid demands in peaks entirely.
To explain, electricity usage is often referred to as 'load' in the energy industry, and whenever there is a great deal of consumption, there is a higher 'demand' on the electricity grid.
Peak shaving is also known as load shedding, and it has two ways of reducing the load on the electricity grid. The first is quickly turning off equipment with a high energy draw at times when the peak is at its high or– and this is the more interesting option regarding smart charging– by adding a local source of energy to help even out the peak in demand.
Traditionally (in the energy industry), a production company could add a diesel generator to generate additional energy during peak times.
So, how would this look with smart EV charging?
Well, an increasing number of homes are installing solar panels, and some even have an external battery storage unit to store the renewable energy they generated during the day.
Consider having a smart charging station that can access this stored energy with the electricity you use from the grid while charging your car during peak hours.
By doing this, you add a local source of energy supply to help even out the peak in demand.
Of course, for many, this is still a distant dream, but in combination with the aforementioned vehicle-to-home feature, peak shaving might become very common in many households. Because when this technology becomes more widely available, you could even use your car's battery as local storage to help power your house and reduce demand in peaks.
Load shifting vs peak shaving
Let’s summarize the difference between these energy management strategies in one sentence.
Load shifting shifts energy usage to more efficient timeslots (potentially lowering your energy bill). This does not change the total amount of energy being used.
Peak shaving allows you to even out peaks in demand by adding an additional source of energy. This does change the total amount of energy being used.
Smart charger regulations
As electric mobility technology continues to evolve, governments around the world are working to standardize regulations for smart charging stations, ensuring consumers and the electricity grid are protected. Given the opportunities and advantages that smart charging stations can allow as well as the increased load on the power grid, these regulations are extremely important to enable these technologies.
Depending on where you are in the world, these regulations could enable or potentially dissuade the use of smart charging technologies. Let’s take a look in more detail at three of the key regions where these regulations are being developed: the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States.
The United Kingdom
The UK was the first country to adopt a concrete package of smart charging measures. As a result, the UK is leading the pack in terms of smart charging regulations. Within the UK’s smart charging regulations package, which was first introduced in June 2022, all EV chargers sold in England, Wales, and Scotland must support certain smart functionalities and meet some minimum requirements.
For the sake of this guide, we will talk strictly about the ones which mainly concern connectivity, off-peak charging, and phased charging times. For more information about the package, see the UK’s government website here.
At the center of the UK’s new smart charging regulations is a requirement that all EV charging stations must make it easy to check the electricity usage during the charging session. This must be enabled by an integrated data connection and managed via a smartphone app, allowing the user to access information about the charging station and manage charging sessions remotely. This enhanced connectivity is also beneficial for the manufacturer because it allows them to notice and troubleshoot problems remotely.
As more homes start to install EV charging stations to charge at home, electricity usage will rise. To combat peaks in electricity demand, all new charging stations must be set by default to avoid charging during peak hours, specifically between 8 am and 11 am and 4 pm to 10 pm. This measure is aimed to increase the stability of the grid, allowing energy providers to smooth out peaks in demand and avoiding disruptive blackouts.
Phased charging times
To avoid a peak in electricity demand at 10 pm from millions of EVs beginning to charge simultaneously, all charging stations should be able to delay charging by up to 30 minutes, to protect the electricity grid. In this manner, EVs can start charging in phases, smoothing out the increase in demand over a longer period, thus making it more manageable. In both cases, EV drivers will always stay in control and can manually override the delay if they wish to charge immediately.
The European Union
The EU is also considering adopting measures regulating smart charging in the form of the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation (abbreviated in AFIR) and the Renewable Energy Directive III. Let’s give both a look more in detail.
The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR)
EU’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) states that all new publicly-accessible charging stations in Europe will have to be digitally connected and capable of smart charging.
Similar to the UK, the EU is also worried about grid stability. As such, the AFIR also states that charging stations should be capable of enabling vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology — allowing charging stations to leverage an EVs battery and give back to the grid during peak hours.
The Renewable Energy Directive III
Besides the proposed AFIR, the EU has tabled another package of regulations that focuses on consumer experience. The Renewable Energy Directive III requires all private charging infrastructure to support smart charging, essentially enabling EV drivers to benefit from real-time control over the charging session, optimized information on the status of a charging station, and a complete overview of charging times and costs.
The United States
Just like in Europe and the United Kingdom, the United States is also busy implementing regulations incentivizing electric mobility under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. The program will allow States to strategically deploy EV charging infrastructure and establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability.
Whilst the program is not specifically about enhancing smart charging in itself, the outcomes desired in the program are facilitated by smart charging technologies. The program aims to standardize the EV infrastructure network across the country creating a more efficient and consistent experience for EV drivers.
In addition, funding will be made available for states to install chargers on key transport corridors. These regulations are specifically designed to make EV charging more user-friendly, accessible, and reliable across the United States.
The future of smart charging
Smart charging stations are a critical part of electric vehicle infrastructure and the electric mobility revolution overall. Thanks to innovations in technology and supportive government regulations, smart charging is becoming the new norm, making charging an EV more efficient, economical, and sustainable. Plus, as more households transition to electric mobility, smart charging will ensure that the electricity grid is able to handle the increase in load.
As a result, smart charging stations will continue to make the overall electric mobility transition more intelligent, user-friendly, and sustainable. If you’re considering installing an EV charging station at your home, you might have more questions about how EV charging works, have a look at our comprehensive guide here.
How does it work?
What is smart EV home charging and how does it work?
Learn what smart EV charging is and how it can optimize energy efficiency (and lower your electricity bill) when charging your electric car at home.