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Cloud-based Vs Local Smart Charging: Which Is Better for EV Charging?

Updated: Feb 17


More and more EV charging stations are networked. In other words, they are connected to the internet or a similar kind of communication network.


So, why do we still see the local load management system for EV charging being used?


The Limitations of Existing Charging Infrastructure


In contrast to data storage, energy management systems have often been installed locally. Usually, it was only simple control switches for generators that turn on or off.


This was fine to begin with. First load management systems for electric vehicles simply rely on decisions such as, “If 3 chargers are connected, reduce all charging power by 30%”.


Modern systems go way beyond this. The modern Smart Charging system needs to analyze energy, grid, and vehicle data.


The industry is moving towards AI-based optimization tools for Smart Charging. The systems use data and insights from previous charging events to identify charging patterns and even predict upcoming charging events.


The question is, can you run such a complex optimization on a local controller? Let’s compare the two options, i.e., cloud-based and local smart charging.


Cloud-based Smart Charging


A cloud is a type of a server, which is remote (usually in Data Centers), meaning you access it via the internet. Smart Charging solutions use either their own or rented servers.


When talking about intelligent cloud-based charging, we are actually talking about EV charging stations connected to the internet and constantly communicating with a central system.


Decisions are made remotely on the cloud system rather than on the local charging equipment, then the instructions are sent back to the physical charging station over the network.


Pros:

  • Speed: Cloud systems perform calculations a lot faster than even the most powerful high-end local controller

  • Algorithms: Due to its high computing power, cloud-based load management can apply more advanced optimization methods such as neural networks

  • Storage: Bigger storage capacity on cloud servers, allow deep analysis of historical data and continuous optimization of the system

  • Interconnected: Easier to connect to the user and vehicle data, as well as third party systems (e.g. Fleet Management Software) for user-centric optimization

  • Maintenance & Updates: Cloud systems are easier to replace and can easily be upgraded

  • Cheaper: Server cost are continuously decreasing, while local (on-site) implementation is cost-intensive


Local Smart Charging


As the name implies, the local version of smart charging has all of its functions installed locally on-site.


Nearly all charging stations either lack or have very poor, decision-making systems installed on the hardware. Consequently, you often see a separate controller installed next to the chargers.

Prices of control switches usually start at around 100-200 USD and are limited to the connection of 5 or 6 charging stations.


Pros:

  • No connection required: As the local system has all the equipment set up on-site, no internet communication is required

  • Unaffected by internet downtime: If the internet fails or suffers connectivity problems, the local load management usually carries on unaffected

  • Connection speed: Even though the calculation time may be slower than the cloud system, the exchange of data between local controller and charger is usually fast


How are cloud-based systems dealing with connectivity and security?


Could Server

The second argument in favour of local smart charging (i.e., remaining unaffected by internet problems) leads us to think about the general security of the cloud-based system.


Even though complete internet breakdowns are becoming less and less frequent, a system must still be protected from cyberattacks or server failures.


It’s similar to the concept of a bank. It’s usually safer to keep your money with other people in a bank rather than sitting alone in your dresser drawer.


The security protection of cloud systems has been devised by some of the world's best software developers and data security staff, and they’re pretty good at keeping things safe online.


For instance, in case of a server failure, the cloud system simply uses one of the multiple back servers. Your charging station won’t even notice any change.


We see a similar development regarding communication reliability. Although 5G and LTE systems become more and more reliable, thousands of experts are continuously improving these systems. Despite the constant security upgrades and network updates, the systems continue uninterrupted due to the use of multiple back servers.


The energy market often uses private networks with more secure devices connected to autonomous vehicles or fast trains.


Conclusion


The EV market is changing rapidly.


The development is much faster than we can recognize from the energy and utility industry.

Local control systems are extremely slow to adapt.


Local load management solutions will inherently limit development, rather than enable intelligent EV charging.


Consequently, local systems are often more expensive and time-consuming to implement on-site, and worse still, local Smart Charging Systems are quickly outdated.


On the other hand, smart charging systems are learning and adapting every day. New concepts such as the smart charging plug-in of ampcontrol.io suddenly become available for any charging point operator in the world.


They stay 100% up-to-date, contain multiple backup versions, and outperform other charing methods.


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