What is EV charging load balancing?
Electric vehicle (EV) sales continue to accelerate. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that EV sales were up 25% year over year for the first quarter of 2023, and they’re expected to end the year up 35% over 2022 levels. That would put EVs at 18% of total vehicle sales for the year, marking an unprecedented market share.
While this represents exciting progress toward long-term electrification goals, it also means charging demand is higher than ever. That growing demand highlights not only the need for more chargers but also better load management to make charging as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
As more cars call for energy to recharge their batteries, it puts pressure on the electrical grid and strains charging stations that are ill equipped to deliver power when needed. To keep up with expanding EV charging demands, station operators must deploy smart charging stations capable of EV charging load balancing.
EV charging load balancing explained
Load balancing is a method for evenly distributing EV charging power among charging ports. Each charging station has a maximum power output, which is spread among the number of ports attached to it.
For instance, say a site has a 40-kilowatt (kWh) capacity across five charging stations. If it has effective load balancing, it will share its available energy evenly among those five stations, at a maximum level of 8 kW each. Without load balancing, those 40 kW of electricity would simply be taken by the first few cars that plug in, leaving no juice for others.
How load balancing works
Theat previous example is a basic overview of EV charging load balancing. In practice, though, the process gets more complex. Every EV can accept electricity at a specific maximum speed. This is known as the EVs acceptance rate, and it differs by car.
In the above example, if four EVs with 10 kW acceptance rates begin charging, that leaves no charging power for the final port, so a fifth car would have to wait for one of the other cars to finish before it could charge. However, with load balancing, the station limits each charge port’s load to 8 kW. The cars will thus charge below their maximum acceptance rates, but each gets its fair share.
Dynamic load balancing
Energy distribution gets even trickier when you introduce dynamic load balancing. Unlike static load balancing, which is described above, dynamic load balancing adjusts load limits for each charge port in real time based on factors like electricity pricing or the charging needs of each car currently plugged in.
For example, say those three cars begin charging, leaving two open charge ports. Since they can each accept 10 kW and there is a total of 40 kW available, the station automatically distributes 10 kW to each one. When two more cars join, the station then automatically adjusts to distribute 8 kW to all five vehicles. Some smart charging solutions would even allow the system to distribute electricity based on the current charging level of each vehicle, offering more to the cars with lower initial charge levels.
Benefits of load balancing
This type of smart load management offers a variety of benefits to the electrical grid, station operators, and EV drivers.
Electrical grid load management
Greater EV charging demand puts more strain on the electrical grid, especially during peak demand times when businesses also require greater amounts of electricity. Without proper load management and balancing methods, the grid can get overloaded, leaving many without power. Smart, dynamic load-balancing software can throttle charging capacity to reduce electrical demand during peak times. So, for instance, a 40 kW station may only offer 20 kW, distributing 4 kW to each charger.
Throttling charging station capacity and evenly distributing the load also helps charging station owners control their electricity costs and run more sustainable operations. Not only can they avoid overpaying for electricity during peak times, but they can also control how much electricity is used at charging stations at any given time. If you only want to pay for 20 kW of energy use per station, you can limit station capacity to that amount and distribute it accordingly, regardless of how many cars are plugged in.
EV charging load balancing also helps operators limit the costs of charging infrastructure upgrades. By limiting station capacity and spreading charging levels evenly, operators may be able to avoid or put off making changes to their electrical panel, running more cable, or other expensive system updates.
Lower wait times
For drivers, load balancing ensures they can get the juice they need more often. They may not be able to charge at their vehicle’s maximum acceptance rate every time, but a balanced charging load provides at least power at every charging port. Especially as charging infrastructure catches up with demand, this helps ensure more drivers can charge when they need to.
Planning for a balanced EV charging load
Load balancing and load management are crucial considerations for apartments and condominiums, workplaces, universities, event venues and more. Investing in a smart charger with built-in load management capacity will pay off in lower costs and more satisfied customers.
For a commercial or public charging property, planning for load balancing from the start can help you better manage capital and operating expenses over time and ensure that drivers who use your system get energy when they need it.
With Enel X Way, you can deploy smart EV charging load management immediately and save on capital and operating expenses. Our commercial charging stations and JuiceNet® software platform are equipped with load management features that allow you to save in three primary ways:
- Leverage existing infrastructure: Typically, installing more charging stations requires expensive electrical upgrades. Not with load balancing.
- Demand charge management: Set a cap on the energy you use to limit what you pay in demand chargers and distribute energy as you see fit.
- Reduce consumption: By limiting charging capacity, you can reduce your energy bill by lowering electricity draw.
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