We recently published our first report focused solely on electric vehicle charging. It’s a deep dive into residential EV charging stations, public EV charging stations, multi-family building and commercial EV charging stations, EV service equipment innovations, EV charging business models, and electric vehicle adoption trends. Below is one section of the report.
Grid-Scale Demand Response Capability
The significant, constant usage of electricity from a single source like a plug-in vehicle has opened up a new market for grid-scale demand management. Grid-scale demand response bundles charging plug-in vehicles together into a single demand unit when they are using smart chargers connected to a utility. The utility can then have the charging speed throttled up and down to balance the electricity load on the grid. Electric vehicle charging equipment, aka electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE), manufacturers and plug-in vehicle EVSE network operators are partnering with utilities to trigger a throttling of these aggregated demand units up and down instead of installing more power generation or energy storage to absorb grid usage spikes. This is an added value to the grid that electric vehicles and smart EVSE offer utilities and ratepayers.
Here’s an example: As the day warms up, electricity customers turn on air conditioning units. Instead of ramping up expensive-to-operate and polluting gas peaker units, the utility can compensate an EVSE manufacturer or plug-in vehicle charging network operator to decrease the charging rate of plug-in vehicles charging in specific regions of the grid. Decreasing the charge rate and spreading it out over periods of lower demand keeps the grid balanced and more efficiently uses the resources on the grid.
The eMotorWerks JuiceNet has demand response capability and is actively used in production today on a number of its 25,000 deployed charging stations. That number is expected to grow over time as more utilities get on board with the program, as EDF did through a partnership with eMotorWerks in September 2017. Enel’s recent acquisition of eMotorWerks and other demand response technology companies speaks to its realization that demand response is going to play a crucial role in stabilizing the renewables backed electrical grid of the future.
ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano shared with CleanTechnica in an interview in August 2017 that ChargePoint was actively working on demand response functionality but that it was not a financial game-changer for the company. Indeed, it pales in comparison to the revenue generated from building, selling, and installing EV charging stations or managing a charging network, but nevertheless, it is a part of the business plan that can add to revenue at relatively little cost.
Greenlots CEO Brett Hauser shared with CleanTechnica in November 2017 that connected EV charging stations capable of demand response are an important part of the company strategy moving forward and that, “with over a thousand EV chargers operating on the Greenlots network, the majority are demand response enabled.” Greenlots is convinced that connected chargers are critical at scale for utilities to be able to adapt and adjust to plug-in vehicle charging loads — and to adjust those charging loads — throughout the day and night. This is critical for maintaining grid stability.
Other EV charging equipment and network leaders are certainly looking at the potential of demand response services as well and are designing their products to enable this efficiently and smoothly.
The Tesla Wall Charger is not a connected EVSE, but instead utilizes the network connection of the Tesla vehicle plugged into it for a network connection. The charger then gives the driver information through the Tesla smartphone app as well as a handful of controls over vehicle charging. When a consumer has these as well, Tesla has also integrated its residential energy storage product, Powerwall, and information from the customer’s SolarCity/Tesla rooftop solar system into the app for deeper visibility of these home energy systems.
Cutting-edge utilities already compensate EVSE manufacturers and plug-in vehicle charging network operators for providing more flexibility in demand load. That payment provides a revenue stream for operators and provides an incentive to plug-in vehicle charging customers for their participation in the program.
Leveraging EVSE for demand response is a rising trend with residential EVSE manufacturers and will gain popularity in the implementation of workplace charging stations in the coming years, which we discuss in more detail later in the report. Public plug-in vehicle EV charging stations are not well suited for accommodating the flexibility required for demand management, as customers paying for charging as a service are less willing to be inconvenienced by the possibility of a slower charging rate, but this still has the potential to be a factor as the need for grid-scale flexibility increases in the coming years and EV charging technology gets smarter and smarter.
As noted above, a handful of EVSE manufacturers, led by eMotorWerks and Greenlots, have the functionality for grid-scale demand response in production devices today. Additionally, numerous EVSE manufacturers have products capable of demand response in the pipeline. Expect to see connected, intelligent EVSE with demand response capabilities becoming the norm in the coming 18–24 months as these products make it to market.
Smart Home Technologies
The increasing focus on “Smart Home” technologies that negotiate the complex relationships between residential rooftop solar systems, intelligent energy storage, and EVSE will push more consumers to look to “Smart Energy Management” systems as a way to reduce home energy bills.
With plug-in vehicles expected to consume a significant percentage of a home’s electricity, the ability to control and moderate that consumption to minimize cost and impact on the grid will be more desirable. Much like the Nest thermostat disrupted what previously seemed like a boring segment of home improvement stores, intelligent and connected EV charging tech is poised to become a critical component in the smart home of the future.