Feb 13, 2019

Smart charging

Since April 2016 Western Power Distribution has been hosting Electric Nation, the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) trial. A significant part of the project is devoted to analyzing customer behavior.

Electric Nation is due to report later this year but interim results have provided some helpful indicators about how customers choose to charge their EVs.

Overall, there are some significant findings discovered about EV ownership. Customers tend to only charge their EV once or twice a week and they tend not to run their vehicles down to empty, avoiding the need for a full charge. It also seems that the bigger the vehicle battery, the less likely it is to require a full charge when plugged in.

Importantly, when given direct information about costs, they’re choosing to time their charging to coincide with cheaper rates during off-peak hours.

“One of our major concerns was that everyone with an EV would drive home and plug their charger in straight away adding to peak period load,” said WPD Innovation and Low Carbon Networks Engineer Ricky Duke.

Graphic that includes statistics from Electric Nation electric vehicle trial.

“That might have required a $2.8 billion (£2.2 billion) investment in upgrading LV networks across Britain by 2050, which would have created a hidden cost to EV ownership. But Electric Nation has revealed that participants are adapting existing behaviours.

“Being cost conscious and setting timers to coincide with lower rates creates a s

pike but is well within network capacity, although it may prove an issue for generators.”

Another question the Electric Nation trial seeks to answer is whether smart charging will be acceptable to customers, particularly at peak times.

“The answer seems to be ‘yes’ provided they all still get the amount of charge they require by the time they need it,” said Ricky. “So reducing a 7kW charge to 6.5kW shouldn’t be an issue.”

Electric Nation has also revealed another charging behavior – customers don’t like to plug their cars in when it’s raining. Instead they wait until later in the day or charge another day.

Electric Nation will be revealing its full findings at a summer seminar. Details will be available at www.westernpower/innovation