EV Fleet Charge Control

Local Control allows operation during internet outages

As commercial vehicles transition from fossil fuels to electric power, EV fleet charge control will allow operators to reduce electricity costs and increase charging reliability.  These performance improvements result from applying smart charging algorithms to enable EV peak load management during off-peak times.  In this post, I’ll look at the advantages of local control versus cloud hosted systems for fleet EV charging. Specifically, we’ll review our experience with charge control systems that we’ve deployed over the last 10 years.

Connection Reliability

The internet is a fantastic tool that continues to revolutionize the control industry.  The ability to monitor and control systems from around the world provides real-time information and the ability to remotely configure equipment.  However, from experience we’ve learned that the internet suffers outages that impact control system operation.  Depending on the equipment being controlled, even a short communication problem can lead to loss of control and excessive energy usage.

Wired internet suffers less temporary issues than wireless, but when a wired system fails, it can take a long time to get it repaired.  The most frequent cause for wired network problems is our customer’s IT department.  Network security professionals don’t like systems that they don’t control, and on multiple occasions our systems have been disconnected as a result of security upgrades.  To the IT department, this is a non-critical system so this type of outage can take a long time to fix.   For this reason, we strongly discourage customers to use their existing connections.

For these reasons, we now strongly recommend that our customers use a cellular connection, but these suffer from interruptions as well.  Most are short (5 to 15 minutes), but at least once per year most cell modems will go offline for more than one hour.  For cellular networks, the frequency and duration of outages varies based on carrier, geographic location, interference from fixed and movable objects such as trees, walls, doors and even electric vehicles.  Weather can cause significant issues with signal strength especially in areas prone to thunderstorms.  In working with Verizon, ATT and Sprint we’ve learned that despite their promises all companies periodically drop connections as they perform system upgrades.

Advantage of Local EV Fleet Charge Control

In order to deliver the highest reliability, controls engineers rely on on-premises unit controllers for mission critical systems.  Our commercial and industrial HVAC customers wouldn’t tolerate a control system where an internet failure meant lost control.  They insist that their equipment operate normally until an internet connection is restored.

Most of today’s EV chargers are designed to charge personal vehicles and rely on cellular data connectivity.  For public facing retail chargers, losing connection causes more of a nuisance than an emergency.  Consumers might be frustrated that a particular charger won’t accept their credit card, but they can  often move to another charger without a significant impact.  However, fleet charging is very different.  A fleet customer requires both charged vehicles and dynamic load management regardless of connectivity.  Furthermore, adaptive load control systems must have immediate access to facility meters in order to quickly respond to changes in demand. We’ve found that especially in industrial sites, loads change quickly.  Even a short, one hour outage on a hot July afternoon could result in a customer setting a summer demand peak which could result in increased electric bills for an entire year.

EVauto® includes both local control and cloud access

The core architecture of the EVauto® Fleet Charge Control platforms allows it to take advantage of both cloud computing and effective local control.  EVauto® FleetController provides low-cost local EV Fleet Charge Control that can operate indefinitely during an internet failure.  It includes all of the processing power, control interfaces and meter data inputs needed to independently deliver reliable smart EV load management.  EVauto® FleetManager is our cloud hosted user interface that replicates inputs and data with EVauto® FleetController.   It hosts the user interface, provides long term data storage and advanced analytics.

With EVauto®, customers don’t have to choose as they get both proven, reliable local control and convenient remote access.