Imagine yourself out on the road driving your new electric vehicle (EV), feeling the exhilaration of going from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds with barely a whisper out of the engine. Then suddenly you panic as you realize that your batteries are running low and you aren’t sure where you will be able to get your car charged.
Are you going to end up on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck?
This problem, which is often called range anxiety, has a simple solution: building out an infrastructure of tens or even hundreds of thousands of EV charging stations around the world to allow drivers to recharge their vehicles as quickly and conveniently as they can buy gasoline for internal combustion engine vehicles.
But it’s not simply a matter of convenience. Charging stations also provide a great opportunity for property owners to generate extra income and provide services to customers or employees. As more and more EVs enter the fleet and annual sales continue to increase it’s easy to understand why charging stations are popping up in public parking lots, office buildings, shopping centers and gas stations.
“But building out a charging infrastructure is a lot more complicated than simply installing a power outlet in a parking lot,” said Louis Tremblay, CEO of AddÉnergie. Most EV owners prefer public charging stations connected to charging networks that simplify their life with a single monthly fee and the ability to recharge their vehicles at hundreds or thousands of charging stations.
The Internet of Things Makes EV Charging Networks Smart
Belonging to a network requires real-time communication between the charging station and the network in order to, for example, check to make sure the driver’s membership in the network is current and let the network know whether or not charging stations are currently available.
Charging stations also need to make intelligent use of the electrical power supply. Many companies pay different electric rates at different times of the day based on demand. In many cases, rates rise very rapidly if the company exceeds a predetermined limit during peak demand periods.
Charging stations need to be aware of electric rates and have the ability to react. Suppose that five charging stations are in use at one location and charging just one more car would push electric use to a level that would trigger a much higher rate for the company’s entire power usage. Then, when a sixth car pulls in and begins to charge, the charging stations should automatically react by reducing the power to each station just enough to stay below the limit.
Few if any companies installing charging stations have the resources to develop the infrastructure needed to provide these and other state-of-the-art charging station services. AddÉnergie and a few other companies have filled the void by developing a ready-to-use charging station infrastructure and offering it for sale.
AddÉnergie’s Groundbreaking EV Charging Station Infrastructure
AddÉnergie uses the Internet of Things to dramatically simplify the task of setting up an extremely powerful and convenient charging station.
Every charging station supplied by the company is connected to a cloud-based centralized management server. This central server, which is the heart of the network, contains the management software, the database, and the communication interfaces which enable the operation of the network and support electric vehicle drivers and station owners.
“Our strategy was to develop an architecture where the gateway is in the building and can interface with an energy management system in the building,” Tremblay said.
AddÉnergie needed a wireless technology that could communicate with charging stations spread over a large parking lot. Wi-Fi did not provide the range needed for larger installations so the company selected the ZigBee protocol which communicates over long distances by passing data through a mesh network of intermediate devices to reach more distant ones.
Each location uses one Digi ConnectPort X4 routing gateway to connect to the network operations center using the cellular network and to all of the charging stations at that location using ZigBee. The charging stations each have a Digi i.MX28 ConnectCard module. AddÉnergie developed software, algorithms and the database that run on the cloud, the gateway and the charging station to operate the entire network. “Digi was very helpful in the design process and has been a great partner in this adventure,” Tremblay said.
Making Life Simple for the EV Driver
The EV owner simply passes an access card in front of the reader at the charging station. The charging connector unlocks, allowing the driver to plug in a vehicle. The station notifies the driver when charging is complete by sending an email. The charging station transmits data back to the network as well as the owner of the station.
Preventive maintenance software monitors every charging station, identifies any problems, sends out alerts and, when possible, fixes the problem remotely. The gateway communicates with the building’s energy management system and makes any needed adjustments such as reducing charging levels in order to maintain electric rates at economical levels.
AddÉnergie currently provides the charging infrastructure for the two largest charging station networks in Canada, the VERnetwork which has more than 600 public charging stations across Canada and the Electric Circuit with 450 public charging stations in Quebec alone.
Overall, AddÉnergie has sold more than 1,700 charging stations in Canada.
“Our technology platform can be used not only to set up a charging station but also to create a complete charging network,” Tremblay concluded. “We are now working with partners with the intention of setting up new charging station networks in North America, Europe and Asia.”
Image courtesy of AddÉnergie.