Wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is happening through a combination of incentives and laws. For example, the US Government aims to ensure that EVs are half of all the new vehicles sold by 2030. The UK plans to ban fossil fuel cars from 2035. EU’s Green Trucking Directive also calls for 50% toll discounts for EVs from 2023 and air pollution charges for gas vehicles from 2026. No country in the world buys more EVs than China. And where the developed world goes, the rest of the world is sure to follow.
But to deliver on this greener automotive future, there’s an elephant in the room: the charging networks will need to meet the demand of millions of EVs. Today’s network is not even close to the massive scale required outside of a few countries like Norway and Iceland.
It’s all about the charging
In every country where EVs have successfully been introduced, so has a charging network. You can only have one with the other. Prime examples include Norway (86% of all new cars sold are EV) and Iceland (72%) — both have led the world in electric-vehicle market penetration.
In comparison, the US barely made the top 20 of EV adoption global leaders with just five percent sales as a percentage of overall vehicle sales. And despite government promises, there’s still a long way to go to make EVs commonplace.
On the demand side, the ubiquity of typical gas stations is still unmatched by public and private EV charging points. Charge anxiety has, without question, prevented many people from switching to electric. Another concern is the reliability of existing public charging stations, which are typically unstaffed (most are in shopping mall parking lots) but require regular monitoring.
On the supply side, reliability must come in the form of energy generation. The ideal, of course, is power sourced from renewable resources. However, today’s wind or solar farms cannot supply the same continuous energy as a coal-fired power station.
This means supply and demand must be carefully matched, deterring drivers from overloading the supply network at peak times.
In Norway, for instance, few people charge their EV during the day unless they must. It’s also much more costly than charging at off-peak times (usually overnight). This is one factor driving the adoption of smart home EV chargers, discussed below.
Public EV chargers
One critical difference between Tesla and other EV manufacturers is the quality of charging networks. Tesla’s Supercharger Network is one of the fastest charging systems in the industry (charging a vehicle up to 80% in just 30 to 40 minutes). It’s also in several convenient locations. Fortunately, select Supercharging stations are now accessible to non-Tesla EV drivers via the Tesla app.
However, speed and reliability must become the norm for all public EV charging stations. Some governments are recognizing this. The UK’s Public Charge Point Regulation 2023 states that the country’s EV public rapid charger networks must be 99% reliable, annually. Such uptime requires predictive and real-time monitoring, ensuring operational problems are either completely avoided or quickly rectified.
To ensure success, explosion-proof wireless connectivity on a country-wide scale is needed to collect real-time data from each charging station. Currently, the only standards-based technology that can do this is the cellular Internet of Things (IoT). Cellular IoT connectivity would allow EV charger data to be relayed remotely to a central platform for immediate response.
For now, EV drivers must plan long road trips by strategically mapping the locations of public EV charging stations. These chargers must work every time, or risk leaving drivers stranded by the roadside.
Private EV chargers
The private or home EV charging network is essential to broad EV adoption. Ultimately, it will be more widely deployed and used than public charging. But there are improvements to be made. Few users want to suffer peak charging rates or be forced to manually plug and unplug their vehicles each time a charge is needed.
Currently, the private market is served by a range of ad hoc individual suppliers with two types of home chargers. One is low-cost and without Internet connectivity. This alternative is Internet-connected but has a limited place in the future of EV charging. Although WiFi is an excellent wireless technology already available in most homes, it isn’t ideal for mass EV charger deployment for several reasons.
Relying on a driver’s private home WiFi hub or access point requires enough range to reach the garage or parking location (this is not feasible in most condos or apartments). Using a private WiFi hub is not currently standardized, so there can be connection issues, depending on the vehicle. Additionally, conventional WiFi was never designed to support multi-million node installations in proximity.
There are newer standards, however — such as the low-power IoT version of WiFi specified within WiFi 6 — which does offer the massive scalability required for smart city deployments — especially if backed up by the reliability of cellular IoT.
Standardizing cellular IoT (faster LTE-M and basement-penetrating NB-IoT technologies) with regular and low-power WiFi options offers an ideal solution for massive EV private chargers. Bluetooth LE for local connectivity could also be included. This would provide end users flexibility and future-proofing.
Including private EV chargers as part of the Matter standard is also important. Matter is an open-source connectivity standard for smart home and IoT devices, aiming to improve manufacturers’ interoperability and compatibility.
Cellular IoT offers the ideal combination of geographical ubiquity, low-power bandwidth, and out-of-the-box seamless installation. It’s designed to support millions of nodes and can be configured via Bluetooth.
Electric utilities will likely be unable to properly plan and manage the adequate power supply to homes if EVs truly take over the roads in the near future. It would mean offering a utility-owned home EV charger that’s reliably connected and continuously monitored. The 2.4 GHz band used by WiFi, Bluetooth, Apple HomeKit, Amazon Sidewalk, and Matter is already busy enough in the smart home environment. Cellular operating frequencies in combination with WiFi 6 would better serve EV chargers.
Cellular IoT and EV charging
Whether public or private, EV chargers require continuous monitoring on a massive scale. This means massive IoT. Only one LPWAN technology can deliver reliability and geographical coverage: cellular IoT.
The need for massive IoT will drive cellular IoT in the EV charging market. This opinion is supported by an Ericsson-produced report that says cellular IoT’s LTE-M/NB-IoT connectivity can help EV charging companies manage the complex ecosystem of stakeholders, including drivers, hardware and connectivity providers, utility companies, automotive OEMs, and asset owners like parking operators, cities, and homeowners.
According to the report, Connected EV Charging: “EV charging stations are critical to ensure a steady adoption, and there are significant business opportunities for EV charging companies and the related ecosystem. By connecting charging stations with cellular IoT, EV charging companies are better positioned to manage their orchestration, administration and maintenance effectively, offering a smoother driving and customer experience.”
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Filed Under: Charging, Electrification, Offboard Charging