Key trends and technology for electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is moving beyond the initial challenges of range anxiety to solving additional problems and enhancing the driver experience.

EV owners are beginning to expect interoperability so they can reliably charge anywhere they go. The growth of EVs on the roads means power grids must be prepared to manage demand and explore vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) applications that can make cities more resilient — especially in the event of an emergency that disrupts power availability.

Drivers want to charge anywhere and everywhere

EV charging stations are a little like point-of-sale (POS) terminals — they vary everywhere you go. The difference between a POS machine and an EV charger is that you’ll always be able to pay, but you may not be able to charge your EV at every charging station you drive by.

As the demand for public EV charging stations increases, interoperability amongst EV charging stations is becoming table stakes — drivers want to be able use the nearest charger, regardless of their provider. Interoperability is becoming the “last mile” for assuaging charging access concerns and range anxiety while simplifying the user experience.

The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a critical enabler of interoperability. Developed in 2009, it is an open standard used internationally without charge and license requirements. The OCPP enables communication between a charging station and a central back-office system, and is supported by major EV industry companies, including charging station manufacturers, charge point operators (CPOs), back-office software suppliers, and utilities. Software solutions can be developed around the protocol.

A good analogy for EV charging interoperability is cellular roaming. Before major providers had coverage everywhere, they relied on roaming so that customers could user other provider’s cellular network infrastructure when they left town. They had coverage no matter what tower they connected to. EV charging stations must support roaming the same way so drivers can use any charging station they want. Companies such as EV Connect provide charging stations and corresponding software that uses an open network for station interoperability, which enables EV drivers to use charging stations across platforms and providers.

Interoperability is necessary to make EV charging infrastructure as ubiquitous and user-friendly as gas stations.

Smarter payments, security, and other charging station features

EV charging interoperability isn’t just about making sure any vehicle can use any charging station regardless of provider, but also about making it easy to securely pay.

The good news is that there’s potentially so many ways to pay for EV charging — the trick is making sure a driver can use their payment method of choice with peace of mind that the transaction is secure. Among the methods available today:

  • Mobile app: Many charging networks enable online payments through a smartphone app using your payment method of choice at the charger — this app must be a component of the specific network in which the charger operates, however.
  • RFID cards: Some charging networks have opted for a company-specific RFID card to facilitate payment. Drivers can load funds to pay for charging services at network-specific chargers without the need for a smartphone app. RFID cards work well for fleet operators because they ensure charging is only accessible to authorized vehicles.
  • Contactless payment: This method eliminates the need for hardware such as credit card readers to process payment because it’s as simple as scanning a QR code — drivers can pay using an e-wallet without a network-specific app or subscription.

Beyond payment systems, charging stations are generally getting smarter so that they can be better managed with set configurations and the ability to monitor them in part due to the OCPP, which also enables more robust security through firmware updates, logging, event notifications, profiles for authentication, and secure communications.

Some charging stations now have sensors to detect if a vehicle is blocking a charging station or if an EV is overstaying its welcome so other drivers are notified by an app that the station is unavailable. EVs staying past their charge times is a problem as the number of EVs grows and drivers have trouble finding a free station.

Smarter charging stations also play a role in enabling V2G and V2H applications.

Giving back to the grid

The long-term vision for EV batteries and charging stations is that power isn’t going to flow one way — charged EVs could be used to power buildings in the event of a blackout, for example.

With between 250 million and 320 million EVs (including plug-in hybrids) and more than 2 million electric buses cruising the roads worldwide by 2030, there’s a great deal of available capacity on wheels that could provide low-cost energy storage and keep some of the building’s critical systems working in case of power failure. Many cities around the world already require buildings to install EV bi-directional charging stations in their garages so that the electricity stored in EV batteries can be transferred back to smart building infrastructure in real-time when a power failure occurs, eliminating the need for polluting diesel generators.

However, there’s concern that drivers won’t be open to sharing their battery for fear that even more frequent charging and discharging will shorten its lifecycle. Drivers also want the car to be fully charged whenever possible — they wouldn’t want to start a trip to find they only had an 80 percent charge because of a V2G application. EV drivers might be more amenable to sharing their EV energy with their own homes, however.

Transforming EVs into storage assets for electricity grids needs to be efficient, which has led to the development of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and software to harvest the necessary data and make the energy-transfer process seamless. These technologies are simultaneously enabling charging station providers to monitor and optimize their infrastructure.

Blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) also have a role to play in V2G applications. EV drivers may need incentive to share their battery power with the grid, and blockchain offers a decentralized immutable digital ledger that makes V2G billing and reward transactions more transparent. AI algorithms, meanwhile, enable V2G management systems to optimize energy consumption by accurately and quickly generating trends and forecasts in part by monitoring the grid status and electricity production to recommend charging and discharging patterns.

Those are just a few examples of V2G applications. Many startups are working on their own V2G solutions.

Load management gets smarter

With more and more EVs hitting the road, there’s increased pressure on electricity grids, which must get smarter to manage the load and reduce the chances of a power grid becoming destabilized or overloaded.

Static load balancing manages the available power to charging stations based on the fixed allocated supply capacity within a cluster, distributing traffic regardless of the system’s present condition. Dynamic load management is more intelligent, thanks to software in increasingly smarter charging stations, so that power distribution is managed when many EVs are getting charged at the same time. If there are more cars demanding a charge than the grid can handle, the charging infrastructure can respond by rationing the amount of power at each charging station.

While the primary purpose of load balancing is to maintain the health of the power grid, smarter charging stations could also be directed to prioritize EV customers who are willing to pay more for priority charging and support new business models and offerings from charging providers.

As EV adoption grows, keeping the grid balanced and ensuring convenience for drivers becomes increasingly important. With range anxiety starting to fade in the rear-view mirror, expectations are higher, which means smarter charging infrastructures and more resilient power grids are necessary for the next leg of the journey.

Are you on the list?
Sign up to receive exclusive offers, product announcements, and the latest industry news.

Related news articles

Latest News

Sorry, your filter selection returned no results.

We've updated our privacy policy. Please take a moment to review these changes. By clicking I Agree to Arrow Electronics Terms Of Use  and have read and understand the Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Our website places cookies on your device to improve your experience and to improve our site. Read more about the cookies we use and how to disable them here. Cookies and tracking technologies may be used for marketing purposes.
By clicking “Accept”, you are consenting to placement of cookies on your device and to our use of tracking technologies. Click “Read More” below for more information and instructions on how to disable cookies and tracking technologies. While acceptance of cookies and tracking technologies is voluntary, disabling them may result in the website not working properly, and certain advertisements may be less relevant to you.
We respect your privacy. Read our privacy policy here