The key to successfully implementing charging infrastructure is to plan ahead.
With more and more electric vehicles being driven on the road with each passing month, there is a greater need for charging infrastructure, which means that using simulation tools to help with effective planning is more important than ever.
EV charging simulation tools can help electric vehicle operators to plan the number of chargers needed, the type of chargers, the number of vehicles that can be charged at a site, and more.
In this article, we’ll explore the challenges of planning and installing EV charging points and sites before looking at how simulation software and tools can help overcome these challenges.
Challenges Associated with EV Charging Point Planning
When it comes to planning EV charging infrastructure, there is much more to consider than just where to put them. The specific challenges can be divided into three main areas — the type of site required, the power constraints at each site, and the type of operations each charging site will serve. Let’s take a look at each area individually.
Site Type and Location
Each charging site will need to be categorized differently, depending on where it is positioned. There are three main types of EV charging sites — residential, public, and commercial.
Deciding on the positioning of the site will depend on factors such as available land and utilities, as well as demand in the area. It also depends on the building infrastructure that the site could be connected to. Having the correct grid infrastructure connected is key to accessing the energy needed.
Site Power Constraints
EV charging sites are obviously dependent on a good, reliable electricity supply. In other words, the electric grid needs to be up to the task of providing a consistent service. Often, the grid capacity is not high enough to meet the demands of a busy EV charging site and will need to be upgraded.
Upgrading the grid capacity can be a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. It is not just about the grid capacity but having the correct electrical infrastructure for the grid to access the energy.
If you have sufficient grid capacity, the EV site owner should analyze the expected load profiles from the EV charging. We’ve seen that unnecessary peak power demand can lead to high monthly utility charges.
Type of Operations
When planning an EV charging site, the number and type of chargers depend on the type of charging operations that need to be fulfilled. For example, there may be fleet vehicles, individual vehicles, and mixed vehicles (both fleet and individual vehicles). The individual vehicles will usually apply to public and residential sites and fleet vehicles to commercial sites.
The type of vehicles you will be using will also define the type of chargers. For larger vehicles such as buses and trucks, you will need DC fast chargers, which take up a significant amount of energy when in use.
AC chargers, on the other hand, are perfect for residential areas with less access to high volumes of power.
Understanding your needs in terms of numbers and types of chargers can be hard to do without simulating different scenarios.
Utilization of Charging Stations
In many cases, companies have to calculate the ROI on their EV infrastructure investments. One important KPI for this is the utilization of the EV chargers.
For example, public fast chargers on highways might have low utilization of 20%, while slow workplace charges might be around 50-60%. The lower the utilization, the higher the costs per charging session for the end-user.
There are several ways to improve utilization. Smart charging software for EVs is one way. Also, we have seen customers using charging stations for multiple purposes (e.g., fleet overnight charging and public charging). This allowed them to increase the charger utilization by up to 50%.
The Fundamentals of EV Charging Infrastructure Planning
Before installing an EV charging site, operators must first plan it carefully and thoroughly. During the planning stage, there are several important things to consider and analyze, as we will explore in this section.
Identifying Site Requirements
- Amount of vehicles: An estimate needs to be made of the approximate number of EVs that will need to use the site for EV charging at any given time. To arrive at this estimate, a thorough analysis needs to be done, making sure vehicles can charge and depart on time.
- Type of charger(s) needed: Based on other factors, the type of charger needs to be decided. The types of EV chargers include rapid and ultra-rapid DC or AC chargers.
- Site power constraints: The electricity grid at the charging site needs to be optimized to meet the power demand of charging the estimated number of EVs.
- Construction considerations: Installing a charging site relies on some construction work such as ground excavation, building the structure, and connecting it to the grid via cable networks. It is important to minimize the disruption this causes and avoid unnecessary work.
- Electrification upgrades: It is important to plan any necessary electrification upgrades well in advance as they may be time-consuming and costly.
- Site identification: Take the time to run simulations and perform analysis to decide on the site location and type.
Utility Programs and Energy Tariffs
Several external factors are defined by your local utility or energy supplier. Taking them into account before actually building the EV charging site will increase the ROI and maybe even generate additional revenue for the operator.
- Energy tariff structures: Not all energy rates are flat rates. Energy providers have started to offer special energy rates that influence people’s electricity consumption to help manage demand and supply by charging higher prices during peak times, for instance. These programs need to be considered when planning charging infrastructure, as they may affect the type and number of chargers at the site. The power constraints at the site are affected by pricing structures such as TOU rates and spot pricing (depending on the country).
- Demand response (DR) and V2G: When thinking about an EV charging project, you might want to identify different types of programs that you can opt for with your utility company. Programs such as Demand Response and V2G (vehicle-to-grid) are proposed by utility companies so they can manage the grid demand, especially during peak demand hours. For example: In a DR event, as an EV charging operator, you would lower your power demand when requested by the utility company. This technology would help balance the electric grid and means you would receive monetary remuneration for these events. When planning a site, it might be beneficial for you to opt-in to one of these programs, as long as you can maintain your site’s operations.
How Simulation Tools Help with EV Charging Infrastructure Planning
What is a simulation tool?
An EV charging simulation tool uses historical data from past real charging infrastructure to automatically create many virtual charging scenarios within a few seconds.
The type of data captured includes battery charging times, user behavior, power usage, peak demand times, vehicle schedules, etc. Data is collected from various sites that serve a combination of purposes — fleet charging, individual vehicles, commercial, residential, etc.
The collected data is then automatically analyzed and used to simulate the effects of EV charging at the planned site by inputting parameters such as site location, type, use, power constraints, etc.
In other words, the simulation tool helps EV charging infrastructure providers to see what potential site usage will look like.
Type of data used in the simulator tool
EV charging simulators rely on historical data from existing EV chargers or can use realistic scenarios. Especially in the case of new sites, EV simulation tools can easily create hundreds of scenarios, giving smart recommendations. For example, it can test a site for 20, 50, 100, and 200 vehicles while varying the arrival and departure time of vehicles, the number of chargers, etc.
At Ampcontrol, we have access to a large quantity of historical data from EV charging points in a wide variety of locations around the world. For that reason, we have developed a simulation tool that will help utility providers, EV infrastructure developers, and charging point operators to plan and implement EV charging sites. Our data will be used to help you achieve whatever goals you have for the charging site.
We decided to create a tool that utilizes the same algorithms as our existing real-time control system. The results are very accurate to the actual implementation. Moreover, this allows us to compare various scenarios with different charger utilization, number of chargers, charger types (AC/DC), grid constraints, vehicle types, energy rates, etc.
We think this tool will be helpful for those who are not only planning for future charging infrastructures but also those looking to upgrade their current setup.
The tool can help address questions like how many more vehicles can my current setup accommodate, how many more chargers I would need for x additional vehicles and many more.
Benefits of EV Charging Simulation Tools
Avoid Grid Upgrades & Optimize Operations
If you plan your charging site carefully by using smart charging software and a simulation tool (such as Ampcontrol’s), you can avoid the need for upgrades to the grid later and make sure that your operations are optimized. The simulation tool will clearly picture power constraints and demand before installation.
Improve Accuracy & Remove Limitations
At the moment, most EV charging installation projects use Excel spreadsheet calculations to plan their charging infrastructure. These practices are a minimal approach as there isn’t much data in the public domain to use, the accuracy is low, the calculation speed is low, and you cannot easily include a wide range of constraints. With Ampcontrol’s simulation tool, you’ll get access to a vast amount of accurate data, and you can change the limitations and parameters with ease.
Ensure On-time Departure and High Utilization
In past months we’ve already used our simulation tool internally for customers that plan large fleet sites. One key question we were able to answer is: “Can this charging infrastructure charge all-electric vehicles on time?”
The simulation tool is one of the most valuable outputs and reassures investors, operators, and site users their operations will be efficient and reliable.
Save Time & Money
Employing a team of data experts to build a complex model by hand, analyze the data, and develop a simulated model is both time-consuming and expensive. Smart charging software-based simulation tools are much faster and cheaper since simulating large-scale operations usually takes a few seconds.
Providing an accurate simulation will help your sales team to explain to potential customers how the charging infrastructure will work and give them an idea of cost and functionality. For teams providing full charging infrastructure solutions, it is hard to convince customers about their plans without showing valid data. Having access to a simulation tool can solve one of the main pain points in sales funnels and provide reliable data to clients.
Using a simulation tool allows you to run many different scenarios and compare the results quickly. If you have a number of potential sites to choose from, this will make it much faster to compare and contrast, then select the best site to go for.
EV charging simulation tools are essential for electric vehicle operators if they want to remain competitive and make sure that they are offering the best possible service to their clients.
Simulators make it possible to accurately model how a charging site will operate to assist planning. The simulator does this by using lots of historical data from existing charging points and allowing you to set the parameters and scenarios you want to model.
Ampcontrol is at the cutting edge of EV charging simulation and has a beta version available for you to try today. Click here to get in touch and