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EV Market

Real-World Smart Charging Strategies – Analyzing Charge Shifting and Grid Optimization


July 14, 2023

The electric vehicle (EV) market is growing rapidly, leading to increased demand on the power grid. 

As more people adopt EVs, managing charging is becoming essential in order to maintain a sustainable and efficient energy system.

For EV fleet managers, smart charging strategies play a crucial role in reducing costs and minimizing the impact on the grid. Smart charging strategies help to optimize charging times and align with periods of low grid demand, contributing to a greener and more cost-effective fleet operation.

In this article, we’ll explore findings from a major smart charging program – BMW and PG&E ChargeForward. We’ll discuss how the findings of the program are relevant to EV fleet managers, highlighting the benefits of charge shifting and grid optimization. A complete scientific study into the program can be found here

The ChargeForward Program: Study Design and Use Cases

The ChargeForward program, a collaboration between BMW and PG&E, aimed to demonstrate the potential of smart charging strategies in real-world settings. 

Its goal was to satisfy EV drivers' charging needs while reducing the impact of EV charging load on grid infrastructure.

The program looked at six smart charging scenarios to tackle specific grid problems and EV charging patterns. They tried different incentives and optimization tactics to see if they could encourage people to charge their EVs at different times and save on grid expenses.

To carry out the study, around 400 households in the San Francisco Bay Area participated, providing a diverse range of EV types and charging habits. The study used advanced algorithms and management strategies to optimize charging, while also taking into account the participants' preferences and needs.

Key Findings from the ChargeForward Program

Driver Engagement and Incentives

  • Incentives played a crucial role in motivating drivers to change their charging behavior, helping to align charging patterns with grid needs.
  • The Driver Cohort Plugin Goal use case successfully used incentives to increase charging flexibility, resulting in 70% of home charging being optimized.

Charge Shifting and Grid Optimization

  • The optimizations effectively shifted charging from peak to off-peak times, reducing the impact on grid infrastructure and minimizing costs.
  • Encouraging midday charging helped absorb excess solar generation, optimizing full day charging schedules and benefiting the grid.
  • Grid operational cost savings were relatively consistent across use cases, demonstrating the effectiveness of well-designed optimization routines in reducing costs.

Limitations and Caveats of the Study

  • The study had certain design and participant limitations, such as evolving optimization algorithms and uncontrolled driver responses.
  • Results were based on a specific region, and further research is needed to assess their generalizability to other locations and populations.

Implications for EV Fleet Managers

Benefits of Implementing Smart Charging Strategies

EV fleet managers can benefit greatly from implementing smart charging strategies. Implementing these strategies can help to reduce costs and minimize their impact on the grid. One major benefit is improved charging flexibility, which ensures that the charging needs of drivers are met while optimizing grid usage.

Strategies for Fleet Managers to Consider

Charge Shifting

Charge shifting is a strategy used to manage the demand for electricity by shifting the charging of electric vehicles (EVs) to times when there is less demand on the power grid. Utility companies often provide a range of pricing strategies for customers, including time-of-use rates and demand charges, to help shift charging to off-peak hours. 

Fleet managers should consider taking advantage of these pricing strategies by aligning their EV charging schedules with periods of lower electricity costs. This can result in significant cost savings for the fleet and reduce the burden on the grid during peak demand times.

Smart charging software, such as, can help with charge shifting by enabling the scheduling of EV charging during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper and more readily available. This software can also help prioritize charging for EVs that need it most, such as those with low battery levels, and can even adjust charging times based on real-time information about energy prices and the status of the power grid.

Incentivizing Smart Charging

To achieve more charging flexibility and reduced costs, fleet managers should consider offering incentives to drivers to encourage them to shift their charging behavior to align with the grid's needs. 

Some examples of incentives include:

  • Bonuses: Fleet managers can offer a bonus to drivers who consistently charge their vehicles during off-peak hours, or who avoid charging during peak demand hours to reduce the impact on the grid. These bonuses can be in the form of cash, gift cards, or other types of incentives that drivers find appealing.
  • Priority charging: Fleet managers can provide priority charging to drivers who charge during off-peak hours or times when the grid is underutilized. This can provide an incentive for drivers to charge their vehicles when the grid is not experiencing high demand, reducing the overall impact on the grid.
  • Gamification: Fleet managers can implement a gamification program that rewards drivers for charging during off-peak hours or times when the grid is underutilized. This can encourage friendly competition among drivers and provide a fun and engaging way to encourage sustainable behavior.
  • Educational campaigns: Fleet managers can provide educational campaigns to drivers on the benefits of charging during off-peak hours and how it can benefit the grid. This can help drivers understand the importance of aligning their charging behavior with the needs of the grid and encourage them to do so voluntarily.

Away-From-Home Charging

Additionally, investing in charging infrastructure for away-from-home charging can enhance charging availability and flexibility. This is especially true if the fleet operates in multiple locations or requires long-distance travel, as away-from-home charging infrastructure can enhance the flexibility and availability of charging options.

For example, if a fleet of electric vehicles needs to travel long distances, having access to charging infrastructure at various locations en-route can help ensure that the vehicles can make it to their destination without running out of charge. 

Importance of Collaboration 

It’s important to note that effective smart charging strategies require collaboration between all stakeholders, including automakers, utilities, and fleet managers. Cooperation and integration of interests, skills, and resources are necessary for the mutual benefit of all parties involved. 

Integrating Smart Charging Software Solutions

In addition to the strategies discussed above, fleet managers should consider integrating smart charging software solutions into their operations. Platforms like offer advanced features that can streamline and optimize EV charging management for fleets.

Automated Optimization and Scheduling

Smart charging platforms use advanced algorithms and machine learning to automate the optimization of charging schedules. By taking into account factors such as grid demand, electricity rates, and driver charging preferences, these platforms can create customized charging plans that maximize cost savings and minimize grid impact.

Real-Time Monitoring and Control

Smart charging software platforms provide real-time monitoring and control capabilities, allowing fleet managers to track charging progress, identify issues, and make adjustments on-the-fly. This level of insight and control can help improve overall fleet efficiency and ensure that charging needs are met in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Integration with Existing Systems

Smart charging software solutions can often be integrated with existing fleet management systems, enabling seamless communication and data sharing between the two platforms. This can help fleet managers more easily incorporate smart charging strategies into their overall fleet operations and decision-making processes.

Data Analytics and Reporting

Platforms like also provide powerful data analytics and reporting tools, enabling fleet managers to gain insights into their charging patterns, costs, and energy usage. This information can be used to make data-driven decisions and further refine smart charging strategies, ultimately leading to greater cost savings and a more sustainable fleet operation.

Next Steps and Future Research

Researchers have plans to expand the ChargeForward program, aiming to involve over 1,000 participating households. This will generate a larger data set and include a broader range of BEVs and PHEVs.

Further examination of additional use cases, such as aligning charging patterns with regional renewable energy production, will take place, as well as exploration of emerging developments in V1G and V2G technologies.

To tackle the study's limitations and delve into new research areas, the investigators will concentrate on understanding driver motivations, determining suitable incentive levels, and investigating how to better utilize renewable energy while reducing environmental pollution from power production.

Stay tuned for updates on the next phase of research and its potential implications for EV fleet managers.


The ChargeForward program showcased how smart charging strategies can reduce grid impact, cut costs, and meet driver charging needs, offering valuable guidance for EV fleet managers.

As the EV market expands, these smart charging strategies will become essential for optimizing the power grid and seamlessly integrating EVs into it. It's vital for EV fleet managers to embrace and cultivate best practices in smart charging and grid management. Doing so will help you benefit your fleets, as well as contribute to a more efficient grid and a healthier environment for all.

To find out how Ampcontrol can help you to achieve your smart charging goals, get in touch today.


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