Optimising EV Charging Infrastructure

In recent times, the importance of electric mobility has been steadily increasing as a strategic means to reduce dependency on fossil fuels in the transportation sector. Consumers are gravitating towards electric vehicles due to their minimal environmental impact, lack of greenhouse emissions, improved performance, and economical travel. Within this framework, the establishment of a robust electric charging infrastructure emerges as a matter of utmost significance. Within the Indian power sector, the electrical distribution network is well-suited to accommodate both AC and DC charging systems. These charging systems can be accessible in either a captive mode or a public charging mode, managed by charging service providers often referred to as charge point operators. Nevertheless, the Indian power sector encompasses numerous state- and privately-owned distribution companies responsible for catering to residential, industrial, commercial, and agricultural power demands. The introduction of additional electric vehicle charging loads by operators into diverse distribution networks may lead to load congestion, elevated end distribution losses, grid instability, and a rise in feeder traffic or network intricacies...

This article proposes the significance of power management strategies, including Charger-As-A- Service (CAAS), Network-As-A-Service (NAAS), integration with Distributed Resources (DER), Battery-As-A-Service (BAAS), and Charging Management System (CMS). The adoption and implementation of these strategies can potentially lead to the efficient optimization of charging infrastructure and yield optimal results in the utilization of charging stations by operators.

The nationwide adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is significantly on the rise over the classic fossil fuel vehicles, the major reasons behind that are increasing classic fuel cost, environmental impact, and high maintenance of the vehicle in long run. However, the purchase price of an EV may still be the main constraint in the market since the shortage in charging infrastructural growth in developing counties like, India.

In countries like India, consisting majorly economically weak and middle-class section, the people are lacking awareness, knowledge and acceptance on energy sustainability and economic growth. The energy sustainability plays a vital role for consumers with environmental awareness and vision to electricity based on renewable or substitute to traditional energy.

The customer prefers EVs due to their low ecological impacts with no greenhouse emissions and performance improvements, suitable charging network, affordable range, low running cost for travel etc. Also, provision of services by operators on flexible payment model, digital payment – such as UPI, wallet, easy pay outs, transparency in charging process and 24×7 service support availability would benefit consumers to select, EVs more efficiently and willingly.

Thus, Indian policies, regulations and market needs to have a robust backbone for charging infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country with considerations of traffic and population density. In this business, one can generate revenue by manufacturing or selling electric vehicle charging equipment. There can be two ways of providing electric vehicle infrastructure solutions: first, standalone delivery – to install at home, workplace, or for public charging; and second, in partnership with EV manufacturers, offering the hardware as a part of the vehicle.

Nonetheless, there are specific challenges underscoring the necessity of establishing scalable, secure, and reliable charging stations in India. One of these challenges pertains to the limited presence of charging infrastructure at parking facilities, which poses a significant issue for EV owners residing in apartments or lacking personal driveways for home charging. For them, the installation of such infrastructure can be hindered by the associated costs, space requirements, and potential conflicts with residential society committees.

Another critical factor involves the need for an extended charging infrastructure network to alleviate drivers’ “range anxiety” and enable longer commutes with minimal charging delays. Range anxiety denotes the driver’s apprehension about the car running out of power before reaching a nearby EV charging station. Therefore, it is crucial to develop a flexible public network of charging stations to effectively serve the EV market. Achieving this entails optimizing both the charging network’s implementation and the adoption of distribution points simultaneously to ensure seamless service and increased satisfaction.

A Charging Point Operator (CPO), generates revenue by operating a network of chargers and plays vital role in developing charging infrastructure across the nation in coordination with state distribution companies. Variety of services provision, flexible points and seamless operation may attract consumers to select CPOs as best available option in Indian EV charging portfolio throughout the city, highway etc. These power management strategies enable CPOs to reduce the extra financial burden associated with expanding the distribution network for additional charging points. This helps in avoiding delays in reaching the target number of charging points in the country, managing demand and supply more flexibly, and alleviating the burden on the companies involved in distribution.

Figure 1: EV Charge Point Operators (CPOs) Functions…

Charge point operator

The role of a charge point operator is to manage, set up and operate a network of EV charging points for semi-public or public use. They may own the EV chargers or may operate the chargers on behalf of the charge point owners. CPOs cater to different arrangements and can simultaneously manage a mix of client-owned and self-owned charge point networks.

Charge Point Operators (CPOs), the service provider for the charging infrastructure is widely using all the charging topologies as per the customer or footfall requirements in the region.

As stated in Fig. 1, CPOs main functions are:

  • Supply chain management: Charger & Switchgear Protection
  • Charger erection: Installation & Commissioning
  • Operation & maintenance: Troubleshooting & Service
  • Payment & billing: Digital Service & customer Support

Capitalisation of all the functions provide essential charging stations for 2W, 3W, 4W and bus charging infrastructure. On the other hand, the widespread EV charging topologies adoption by CPOs is accompanied by numerous challenges such as in context from energy, transportation, distribution, and operation. CPOs at a public charging station requires the development of charging platforms, digitalisation, and infrastructure.

CPOs are in synch with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) for Supply chain arrangements of categorial chargers and switchgear panels. In line agreement with customer, erection of charger and switchgear protection panel execute at site. Commissioning of the chargers requires customer power connection or DISCOM approved power supply. Implementation of communication protocol, cloud service, ethernet connection and other operation services successfully completes the process of one charge point or one charger erection demonstration.

Charge Points Operators (CPOs) operate at limited business model to coordinate for the provision of charge points to consumer. Due to limited expansion, technology, and awareness on the Indian standards for EV charging infrastructure, CPOs are quite reluctant to new development in the field – and scheduling to ROI/payback economics of the CPOs are dropping in a worst shape of the investment recovery.

This study is to help all CPOs and power industries to increase their profitability and financial viability in accordance with various charge point operator model or scheme implementation.

Given the need of research background this study with the following objectives:

  • To analyse and suggest Indian Charge point operators (CPOs) best operating practices.
  • Address to the financial viability and technical factors influencing EV charging usage and adoption in Indian market by CPOs.
  • To suggest power management strategies for improvising existing CPOs charging trends in India.
  • To establish a smart connection that will enable distribution utilities to strengthen the network.

Power management strategies for CPOs

With emerging new technologies and development in EV charging business, Fig. 2 indicates power management strategies are important to be implemented for better business financial viability of the CPOs and optimisation of distributed network across the state.

EV smart charging is necessary to manage the charging demand with the available grid infrastructure and generation capabilities. It plays a vital role in achieving different objectives, such as cost minimization, loss minimization, congestion management, grid support and grid stability, depending on the type, preferences, and required infrastructural and computational capabilities of consumers. Designated charging strategies are mostly categorized based on the location of an EV charging station rather than the type of EVs in particular. The primary reason for using a smart strategy is that it provides an opportunity to use optimized charging considering grid parameters and the owner’s choice. Another reason for using these strategies is that the need for infrastructural upgradation can be reduced, delayed, and the cost for additional mandatory infrastructure upgradation can be recovered quickly. The electricity tariffs for EV charging are often based on Time-Of-Use (TOU) or dynamic pricing. Based on the pricing, the charging strategy uses a time-of-use type of tariff, whereas the other strategies use dynamic or time-of-use tariffs.

Figure 2: Power Management Strategies’ Block Diagram…

Charger-As-A-Service (CAAS) with dynamic pricing topology

The CPOs usually provides flat rate charging, which can create rush condition at charging stations. If the prices are frequently changing according to load on charging station, this will reduce the long queues. Real Time Dynamic Pricing (RTDP) mechanism will encourage the electric vehicle drivers or EV consumers to go distant charging, which will ensure less crowd and cheaper price at present time – which can extensively be connected to the CPOs network. The mechanism can reduce the average charging delay time and raise the charging station utilisation by up to 40%. RTDP follows Automatic Demand Response (ADR) method, reduces cost, and reduces impact on grid voltage levels. The power management strategy includes four different charge pricing scenarios, Time of Use (ToU), Real Time Pricing (RTP), Critical Peak Pricing (CPP) and Peak Time Rebate (PTR). From the perspective of willingness to pay for quality services, a customer may be willing to pay one and half times more than current billing. RTP is a supreme form of dynamic pricing in which electricity price changes frequently in a regular interval of time according to the load on grid; thus, it provides great flexibility to EV customers to manage their charging activities at a low cost. Under ToU, prices are high for the duration of peak period and low in off-peak hours. It’s not possible to handle EV load using only ToU, because it may happen that majority of EV customers may move to off-peak period and can create another peak on the system. In a comparison with ToU, CPP is more effective, but comparative price forecasting for CPP is really challenging. The PTR scheme can be introduced to incentivize the EV customers to not overload the grid during peak hours.

EV charging scheduling with such charging price mechanism is a complex optimization problem. An optimized charging schedule is necessary to boost up the efficiency of the grid, aggregator, distribution transformers, and EV itself. CPOs charging scheduling at dynamic pricing mechanism clears objectives including network power loss minimization, electricity cost minimization, voltage violation minimization, and distribution transformer overloading minimization stated in fig 3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Artificial Neural Network (ANN) and Machine learning (ML) with mathematical algorithm techniques to be implemented for the study of real time dynamic charge pricing.

Figure 3: Various Objectives of Charger-As-A-Service (CAAS) with Dynamic Pricing…

Network-As-A-Service (NAAS) with blockchain mechanism

NAAS/(IOT) with Blockchain facility provided by CPOs leads to flexible EV charging, which has a great potential of reducing load congestion, monitored demand and utilisation of charge points, secured transactions resulting from restricted grid capacity in electric power distribution grid. IOT with Blockchain technology is very promising in EV charging business – and joint efforts from EV consumers, CPOs and distribution companies are required to achieve a decentralized and secure EV smart charging system. The combination of smart EV charging and blockchain architecture brings about more business opportunities to CPOs.

Blockchain is a distributed data structure and computation network mechanism control by smart contracts. Implementation by CPOs allows rewards to EV users for their charging preference and for payment for energy consumed as per fig 4.

Figure 4: CPOs Market Architecture Using NAAS…

Flexibility (power and time) in charging infrastructure is traded within the blockchain platform provided by CPOs. By this, additional investors will be attracted into the EV charge points business and through flexible offer, peak demand of charging can be shifted to off peak time leads to great profitability to CPOs.

Charging Management System (CMS) with Distributed Energy Resources (DER)

Charging Management System (CMS) enables maximum utilization of distributed energy resources with the lowest possible charging cost as production cost compared to centralised system cost is less. CMS also stated as energy management system which operates with energy arbitrage and dynamic pricing model on real time basis. CMS provides many benefits, such as Demand Response (DR), real time user interface, data analytics, charging stability, load & charging profile, and controlled power infrastructure. Implementation of CMS promises high performance in demand response and reduces energy cost. The model also reduces the dependency on non-renewable sources and brings down carbon footprints on a wide scale. The effective utilization of CMS aspects such as bi-directional power flow, integration of clean energy sources, demand forecasting, power scheduling and reliability of power supply in the complex distribution network can be overcome in Indian Power sector.

The CMS can provide long term economical option with interaction of DERs real time pricing specially with solar, battery and may possess V2X (vehicle to anything) alternatives in future requirement of smart power system. The umbrella term V2X is often used for indicating any unidirectional (V1X) or bidirectional (V2X) Charging Management System (CMS) aiming to provide benefits like peak reduction, load shifting, and flattening load profile together with DERs self-consumption optimization. The charging power flow can be controlled by CMS algorithm under CPOs observation through various communication protocols, automated sensors, remote SCADA and IOT based inputs.

Figure 5: Charging Management System (CMS) with Distributed Energy Resources…

The charging management algorithm has two objectives: minimizing the charging rate and maximum utilization of distributed energy resources. CMS can achieve reduction of charging cost of CPOs up to 40% in daytime due to solar, wind combination, and up to 22% in nighttime with help of battery, wind combination. However, smart charging or discharging with V2G/V2V/V2B technology promises 28% of flattening of the load curve in standalone conditions. CPOs market coverage due to CMS algorithm implementation may bring down operational cost up to 30%.

Conclusion of the study

In Indian charging business, CPOs are facing difficulties to achieve charge points utilisation factor more than 5% due to low penetration of EVs in the area. Due to improper study of EV footfall analysis, other barriers such as fixed pricing at charging stations, power quality issue, no flexible charging options, less awareness on the charging infrastructure, limited services of payout, barriers with distribution companies for power availability, no subsidies or incentives or rewards in the market on charging station utilisation etc., creating difficult situation for CPOs to increase availability of the charger and more deployment in the market.

This study explored from various perspective for effective utilisation of power management strategies to optimise charging infrastructure without impacting environment and operate charge points with optimal efficiency of more than 90% in Indian EV charging business. Also, these strategies help CPOs to organise and communicate with distribution companies and customers for the optimal availability of the charger points nearest position such that scheduling of charging can be planned and most of the benefits of dynamic pricing, off peak time utilisation, congestion of load management etc., to be provided to both the stakeholders.

The proposed power management strategies showcase coordinated controlled charging network with structured, hierarchy, decentralised and infrastructural topologies, which are highly suitable for the optimisation of availability of charging station up to 80%. More availability shall improve the revenue of the CPO and viability of the business in the Indian market.

However, this study suggests CPOs and distribution companies may consider dynamic charging price as EV charging activity and electricity pricing are directly linked with each other, as changes in charging price directly influences the customer’s charging behaviour. Therefore, this study mainly focuses on optimized scheduling of EV charging under dynamic pricing schemes including Real Time Pricing (RTP), Time of Use (ToU), Critical Peak Pricing (CPP), and Peak Time Rebates (PTR). This improves financial performance of the CPOs and reduces the burden on distributed network.

The study has also focused on the optimization charging infrastructure including power loss minimization, electricity cost minimization, peak load reduction, voltage regulation, and distribution infrastructure overloading minimization can be resulted up to 25-40%.

This study also proposes the use of distributed energy resources integrated with smart technologies results in reduction of operational cost by 20% and higher customer satisfaction.

Eshwar Pisalkar is a Team Lead at Reliance BP mobility Limited for EV/BSS infrastructure development in India. He has 10+ years of industrial and research experience in the field of renewable energy solar, EV, BSS and Energy efficiency. He has a Master’s degree in Power Distribution with Smart Grids and Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering. He is a certified Energy Manager and Solar Engineer in India.

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