Why Asset Management Matters in EV Charging

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and while they offer numerous environmental and economic benefits, their widespread adoption poses several challenges to the electrical grid, primarily through increased electricity demand, peak load challenges, localized strain on distribution networks, and the need for significant infrastructure upgrades.

Effective grid management and strategic investments in grid infrastructure are essential to address these challenges, and the utilities industry needs to understand why asset management and data asset management specifically are so important, and have the right infrastructure in place.

Loads are increasing and are less predictable, and vehicle-to-grid is just one example of new dynamics straining the historically passive medium- and low-voltage distribution networks, creating new challenges that Dynamic Ratings is excited to be facing head on.

The EV Challenges Facing the Utilities Industry

Increased access to Electric Vehicles have created several challenges for the utilities industry, and the widespread adoption of EVs has led to a significant increase in electricity demand, especially during peak charging times, requiring utilities to invest in infrastructure upgrades to accommodate this increased load without overloading the grid or causing reliability issues.

Rapid charging of EVs has also led to increased stress on distribution transformers, which opens the door to further issues such as overheating, voltage fluctuations, and premature failure. Utilities will need to upgrade transformers or install dedicated charging infrastructure to mitigate these risks.

Concentrated EV charging in certain areas has already led to grid congestion and strain on distribution network capacity, particularly in urban areas where EV ownership is high, such as California’s Bay Area, where peak loading has already become the primary concern.

When you consider that Palo Alto’s electrical-distribution system was built for the electric loads of the 1950s and 1960s, when household heating, water, and cooking were running mainly on natural gas, it quickly becomes evident that the system was designed for one-way power, not for distributed-renewable-energy devices sending power back into the system.

According to Robert Charette, Palo Alto’s electrical-distribution system needs a complete upgrade to allow the utility to balance peak loads, manage two-way power flows, install the requisite number of EV charging ports and electric appliances to support the city’s emission-reduction goals, while still delivering power in a safe, reliable, and sustainable manner.

Charette goes on to point out that there have been vigorous debates in the United States and elsewhere as to whether electric grids can support EVs at scale. The answer is a nuanced ‘maybe,’ and depends on several factors, including the speed of grid-component modernization, the volume of EV sales, where they occur and when, and what types of EV charging are being done and when.

To better handle these increased challenges, network operators will need to improve their data management and integration strategies, and utilities must improve their ability to manage large volumes of data related to EV charging, including usage patterns, billing information, and grid impact assessments. Effective data management and integration systems are essential for optimizing EV charging infrastructure, improving customer experience, and supporting grid operations.

Dynamic Ratings is Meeting the Challenge

In order to meet the rising demand of EVs, network operators will need to improve their ability to stabilize the grid at scale, while also maintaining safety, reliability, sustainability, and affordability.

As utilities grapple with challenges in the distribution networks, one thing becomes very clear: there is a severe lack of real-time operating data. Thanks to our platform of robust, field-proven, and cost-effective industrial IoT sensors, monitors and Smart Infrastructure Solutions, Dynamic Ratings is standing behind utilities, ready to offer the strategy and infrastructure to meet the rising demand.

Connecting the Grid

The Dynamic Ratings ConnectGrid™ Smart Infrastructure Solution (SIS) is an agile technology stack that enhances connectivity to grid edge assets for better management. The system is tailored to meet varying security, scalability and availability requirements and has many options available in architecture and communication technology.

ConnectGrid™ provides real-time continuous monitoring of critical electrical assets such as transformers, circuit breakers, and other substation equipment, which helps in detecting anomalies and potential issues before they lead to failures.

By analyzing data trends and using predictive analytics, ConnectGrid™ can forecast when maintenance is needed, reducing unplanned outages and extending the lifespan of equipment. This proactive approach helps in optimizing maintenance schedules and resource allocation. The platform provides valuable insights through data analytics, enabling utilities to make informed decisions about asset management, investment, and operational strategies. This data-driven approach ensures that resources are utilized efficiently and effectively.

The ConnectGrid™ Industrial IoT platform has been designed to take advantage of the latest Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) communication technologies. LPWAN technologies offer decreased power usage, increased range and lower capital and operational costs than traditional communication technologies.

Connected Products

ConnectGrid™ is also designed to integrate seamlessly with existing utility management systems and data sources. This interoperability ensures that utilities can leverage their current infrastructure while enhancing their asset management capabilities.

Dynamic Ratings offers several monitoring devices that natively integrate into the ConnectGrid™ IoT platform. There is also a serial gateway to integrate third party devices that support an RS 232 or R485 connection. This allows all customers to maximize the benefits of this exciting technology to improve grid edge connectivity and analytics for their entire system.

With real-time data and analytics, ConnectGrid™ enhances the reliability and performance of the electrical grid. Utilities can quickly identify and address issues, ensuring a more stable and efficient power supply.

Consider this Case Study

To demonstrate how Dynamic Ratings can help utilities improve grid stability as more EVs are introduced, we’d like to highlight a case study, wherein we helped an Australian company reduce their EV charge rate and ease the impact on the network.

When Jemena Networks, a Melbourne based distribution utility, and four other Australian distributors began a government funded trial project to understand the technical, social, and network impacts of dynamic electric vehicle (EV) charging in 2020, Dynamic Ratings partnered with the trial to provide engineering support and monitoring equipment to help realize the project goals.

The population of EVs has begun to dramatically increase, driving the need for improved charging infrastructure. Distribution utilities are looking ahead to build better options for managing the steady electrification of the transport sector.

Because energy networks are designed to protect against overloading, if there is too much load on a given low voltage (LV) street circuit, the network protects itself from damage – in this case by blowing a fuse at the nearby distribution substation (DSS) transformer.

Unfortunately, this protection mode impacts more than the electricity users contributing to the problem; everybody connected to the transformer is impacted by an outage, waiting for the maintenance crews to attend the site. Furthermore, other impacts such a voltage drop along an LV feeder may not receive the same visibility due to lack of monitoring, while still contributing major negative impacts on the users at the ends of a circuit where the voltage may be being pulled lower than regulatory limits.

The Solution We Presented

Obvious network solutions such as transformer upgrades were not off the table, however the cost and breadth of the problem made them untenable except in specific areas of the network. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funded a project with a group of distribution network operators (DNOs) and industry partners to trial real-time EV charger control utilizing an operating envelope determined by network constraints.

Dynamic Ratings worked with Jemena Electricity Networks (the DNO for Melbourne and Victoria) to supply LV monitoring devices and the calculation platform that calculated the operating envelopes and sent them to the EV charger service provider. Jemena developed an operating envelope (OE) algorithm that calculates available network capacity for EV chargers.

Now, when network capacity becomes constrained, a reduced operating envelope is sent to the EV chargers to reduce their charge rate and ease the impact on the network. The system determines network capacity based on three major constraints: distribution substation capacity, individual LV circuit capacity, and end of circuit voltage.

By providing widespread monitoring that can tie back into the operational data realm, projects like these are now being realized around the globe, resulting in better network performance and asset management gains.

Modernizing the Grid Moving Forward

Implementations like the one above are part of a broader, infrastructural shift that needs to take place in order to accommodate EV use moving forward.

While there are definitely technical solutions available to help spread EV charging peak loads, utilities will have to make the investments in better transformers and Smart Infrastructure Solutions, as well as petition for regulatory permission to change electricity-rate structures to encourage off-peak charging. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G), which allows an EV to serve as a storage device to smooth out grid loads, may be another solution, but for most utilities in the United States, this is expressly a long-term option. In the end, metropolitan electrical-distribution systems will need a complete upgrade to allow the utility to balance peak loads.

In the meantime, working with companies such as Dynamic Ratings provides real-time monitoring to help mitigate errors, reduce downtime and load constraint, and extend asset lifespans.

Contact Dynamic Ratings

Dynamic Ratings is a trusted advisor that helps you make the right decisions for your asset monitoring. We focus on our customer’s objectives and priorities and provide solution-based products that help utilities meet their goals, such as reduced maintenance, risk mitigation, and improved planning, while also offering a suite of benefits that enhance the management, monitoring, and performance of electrical assets.

Our ConnectGrid™ smart infrastructure solutions offer a comprehensive set of SIS for the effective management of electrical assets. Its benefits in predictive maintenance, improved reliability, cost savings, safety, and data-driven decision-making make it an invaluable tool for modern utilities aiming to enhance their operational efficiency and service quality.

If you would like to transition to proactive and intelligent EV charging solutions as well as enterprise asset management software based on a data driven approach, contact us today.

Author: Tyler Willis, Dynamic Ratings