The INteractive CHarging (INCH) project introduced the next-generation charging station for electric vehicles (EVs), named Etrel Smartcharger. It enabled charging of an increasing number of EVs in a smart and sustainable manner, which is the only way to optimise energy use in transport and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. In the long term, it will not be possible to use EVs without using solutions such as the Smartcharger.
The Smartcharger is a new version of Etrel's current product generation, designed as a low-voltage AC charging station for use at homes, offices, and car parks. It will bring down the cost of smart charging infrastructure deployment where it matters the most (more than 90 % of charging takes place at home or at work). At the same time, it will bring the charging network to a new level, allowing each and every connected car to adjust its consumption to the needs of the energy grid.
Market adoption of the Smartcharger will be driven mostly by EV drivers who require an interactive solution that can automatically charge their car in the desired time without overloading the circuit. The Smartcharger will allow each EV user to save 140 EUR per year in charging costs and will return the investment in 3-4 years, roughly a third of its lifetime.
Users will be able to share control over their charging with power companies in exchange for financial compensation. This will give the power companies an option to control EV charging load, in order to reduce it in time of peak demand or use the batteries as a reservoir for electricity from renewable sources at times of high production. With an additional investment of 1.322.000 EUR, an estimated 67M EUR of profits and 65 new jobs within the company are expected over the course of 10 years after the end of the project.
The INCH project will also present an enabling technology for the integration of EV charging into European smart grids and for the provision of new services in electromobility.
More sustainable electromobility with next-generation charging grids
The EU-funded INCH project is heralding the next-generation of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs), with the technology promising to become indispensable in the drive for greener and cheaper electromobility.
The Etrel INCH wallbox charging station, called the http://etrel.com/products/interactivecharger/ (Interactive Charger), will enable more electric vehicles (EVs) to be charged in a smarter and more sustainable way, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while optimising energy use across the transportation sector. The new EU-funded product was launched last October (2017) to visitors of German trade exhibitions.
Smart Grid equipment, in an Internet of Things environment.
The new Interactive Charger is in fact an updated version of a previous product, produced by Etrel that had been on the market for four years. Like its predecessor it is designed as an electric vehicle charging station for use principally in homes, offices, and car parks (more than 90 % of charging takes place at home or at work). This new wallbox product grew out of input gleaned from extensive ‘testivals’ (software testers’ events) which focused on functional improvements.
Reflecting on how well the new product has so far been received, project coordinator Mr Miha Levstek says, “Our competitive advantage is derived from synergies within our product portfolio, resulting in the ability to offer a comprehensive solution for charging station management. We can gain deeper understanding of the needs of EV drivers and charging station operators, adjusting the physical design accordingly, in addition to covering a range of industrial partners’ business models.”
This knowledge and flexibility means that communication between different nodes of the system, alongside algorithms, allows consumption to be adjusted in accordance with the needs of the overall energy grid, giving more control over EV charging load to power companies. They can now reduce load during peak demand or use batteries to store electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, at times of high production.
Interaction between charging stations, smart metres, charging station management solutions and ultimately the energy management system of distribution system operators or energy suppliers, enables the system to respond to data inputs such as EV departure time, state of charge, type of vehicle or the owner’s contract type. Communication is conducted using different industrial protocols such as: WiFi, PLC, Ethernet, Modbus, GPRS, RFID and NFC.
This holistic approach results in the provision of ancillary services to stakeholders within the electrical power system, ultimately delivering cost savings for both those using and running the system. As Mr Levstek reflects, “We are passionate about placing end users at the very centre of the energy revolution by transforming them into prosumers. The challenge is to make the process easy and so worth the effort, while reaching critical mass to influence the grid. Our INCH project simplifies this complex process.”
Shared control over charging, for greener energy and reduced costs
While it will remain possible to charge cars with current chargers, effective greening of electromobility, in line with EU directives on energy efficiency, more renewables, clean air, less GHG pollution and less energy dependence, will only be possible if the energy sector contributes to efforts. As Mr Levstek summarises, “Interactive charging reduces the need for new electricity production by enabling more renewables in the complete production portfolio. Charging should breathe, with volatile wind and solar energy production and this is not possible without interactive chargers, which allow business models that reward controllable charging at home and public locations.”
The team are now working to further optimise individual product components for cost, architecture and metrology, as well as improving the system’s artificial intelligence and algorithms, after its time in use. With initially positive feedback, there has already been interest from several B2B partners and the project team is in final negotiations for orders.
Project members are also keen to explore the potential for including the INCH approach into a wider variety of business models. As Mr Levstek concludes, “There are many different configurations of INCH possible for public or private use, for example we could adapt the INCH display screens to become POIs (points of interest). We are passionate about design, even if it is just infrastructure, it should be designed smartly!”