11 Jan 23

How to solve EV charger reliability and power constraints

New technology remotely fixes charge points and prioritises the order in which fleet vehicles recharge.

The double-whammy of unreliable charge points and limited power capacity at business premises are creating major challenges for large fleets as they rapidly transition vehicles to electric powertrains. Put simply, with vehicle uptime essential for business operations, fleet managers cannot afford to have EVs start their working days with insufficient charge in their batteries.

As an ever growing number of vehicles require access to workplace and depot chargers, fleets need solutions that prioritise the supply of power, determining which EVs are charged first, how charging is balanced to stay within the capacity of the site, and optimising the time of charging to take advantage of any lower priced, off-peak energy tariffs.

These are issues that Driivz is solving with software solutions for the entire EV ecosystem, working with fleets, charge point networks, and even national grids as countries look to balance energy demand and exploit vehicle-to-grid opportunities.

The Israel-based EV charging and smart energy management software platform operates in 30 countries across Europe, North America and Asia, and supports more than 1 million EV drivers, as well as large customers such as Shell, Mer, Instavolt, Mol, ESB, Centrica (the UK’s third largest fleet with 14,000 vehicles), and EVgo, the largest public fast charging network in the United States.

Charge point reliability 

Doron Frenkel, Driivz founder and CEO (pictured below), said: “The number one issue with EV charging is drivers getting to a charger and finding it does not work. It sounds trivial, but it’s really common. So, our number one goal is to make sure chargers are up and running. We have developed solutions like self-healing algorithms to fix chargers remotely. It means that in up to 80% of cases we can fix faults automatically and remotely. In about 2% of cases there is a need to send someone to the site, and the remaining cases can be fixed remotely.”

The algorithm was designed to help charging networks ensure all their charge points are in service, but the same technology applies equally to chargers at offices and depots. The software has the ability remotely to restart a charge point or its entire station, untrip a breaker, and resolve any of the myriad issues that stop chargers from working.

“There are hundreds and thousands of commands that work with chargers,” said Frenkel. “We learn those commands, some are generic but many are proprietary, and we add them to our algorithms. In some cases, it may be one command to solve a fault, and in others a chain of commands.”

Yet even if chargers are working, there is no guarantee that all vehicles will have sufficient power in their batteries at the start of a shift to complete their day’s work. Vehicles arrive at depots at different times, have different lengths of time to charge, and often have to share the power that is available.

“The number one issue for fleets is not having a vehicle ready to drive,” said Frenkel. “So, we have a specific software product for fleet managers that creates alerts if something goes wrong – perhaps a vehicle is not charging on time or the charger isn’t working.”

Back-to-depot fleets

For back-to-depot fleets, so much depends on energy management, he added, making sure vehicles are charging at the right time of day and in the right priority order, without placing excessive demands on the grid. The Driivz platform monitors the available power capacity as well as charging activities at every charger in a depot, allowing it to allocate electricity consumption to vehicles in real-time.

“We know how much energy each vehicle needs, how much power is available, and then fleets need to buy the electricity at the right price. In future, when there are more types of demand response interfaces, this will be crucial for fleet costs,” said Frenkel.

Battery storage

Where power capacity issues do exist, on-site battery storage can provide a solution. Driivz has a sister company, called Sparkion, which installs battery packs, made from first and second-life batteries, in company car parks. Businesses can recharge the batteries overnight and use the stored electricity to recharge EVs during the day.

Home charging

Frenkel said about 80% of charging will take place either at work or at home, where Driivz also has a software solution to track home charging so employers can accurately reimburse drivers for business miles. The technology can monitor each domestic charging event, verifying that it is a company rather than private vehicle that has been plugged in, measuring the amount of power drawn, and applying the appropriate energy tariff to calculate the cost of the electricity.

“The driver or fleet manager can enter these tariffs into the system, or in some countries our rating engine can interface with servers that hold data about electricity prices and the system works automatically. We can then calculate the cost of the energy and even take into account charging at night when prices may be cheaper,” said Frenkel.

V2G and V2X

He is excited about the V2X and vehicle-to-grid applications of electric vehicles that exploit their batteries as flexible storage solutions which might store power when there is excess supply and re-supply it to houses, buildings or the grid when power supply is low. The concept is still in its infancy, and will require artificial intelligence to calculate how much power that drivers need to retain in their EV batteries and the price at which they are willing to sell the power back to the grid.

Images: Shutterstock and Driivz

Authored by: Jonathan Manning