Chapter Corner

Digitalization and the Future of EV Adoption

Posted in: Features, July/August 2018

According to the Energy Information Agency1, by 2025, zero-emission vehicles will account for 6 percent of national light-duty vehicle sales. Looking out further, Bloomberg New Energy Finance2 forecasts that, by 2040, 33 percent of all new cars worldwide will have a plug. The technology for electric vehicles (EV) is continuing to improve with numerous cars that can now travel over 200 miles per charge and a dizzying array of over 50 new models hitting the market in the next year. The electric car has arrived. But the industry still faces a challenge – how to build the electrical infrastructure to make fueling EVs convenient and cost-effective.
 
digitalization.jpgOur view at Siemens is that major investments are needed in infrastructure – from the charging stations themselves and the software capabilities to manage new business models to the electrical network that makes the charging possible. As more EVs are added to the road, cities, transit authorities, housing complexes, and businesses, we must update crucial electrical infrastructure and install scalable, effective charging equipment that can grow as more and more consumers convert to EVs. Energy providers then need to have the hardware and software capabilities to ensure that the combination of having more EVs and more charging infrastructure does not overwhelm the electric grid. The key to solving both challenges lies in the combination of electrification and digitalization.
 
To keep up with the growing EV market, communities will have to deploy infrastructure and use business models that can support the widespread electrification of transportation. Installing EV chargers won’t just require the deployment of charging stations, but also integrated equipment that consumers rarely see, like transformers to adjust voltage to appropriate levels, switchboards to direct and re-direct electricity, and meters to measure energy use. Updating and integrating this equipment in a scalable and cost-effective way becomes critical for EV charging and the success of the EV market overall.
 
With 170 years of expertise in the power distribution business – and now as one of the top ten software companies in the world – Siemens brings the electrical and the digital world together. The EV industry is a unique blend of solutions from the old and new, combining the latest charging stations and software with a complete electrical equipment bundle to ultimately deliver reliable cost-effective charging of the EV. These solutions can scale from single family homes to office buildings, hospitals, and airports – all of which require different amounts of power to meet end-user demand. By building digital solutions on top of these hardware assets, Siemens can control and monitor power flow, capitalize on time periods when energy is abundant, and ultimately deliver this energy through the Siemens VersiChargeTM charging system. Through open standards-based communication, utilities and end customers can gain access to their data, setup critical control parameters, and ultimately charge during the most cost-effective time of day.
 
Once behind-the-charger solutions are deployed, a new set of challenges arise for EV owners and energy providers alike, such as balancing load during peak charging times and developing new pricing models – all while ensuring charging stations are readily available and affordable. According to a recent Rocky Mountain Institute report3, the next five years of expected EV deployment growth in the U.S. could add over 11,000 GWh of load to the power grid. Not only does this additional load put immense strain on an already aging electric grid, but the study indicates that charging EVs could add about $1.5 billion in annual electricity sales. And while this is a boon for the energy industry, such a massive change impacts the pricing and cost structure that has been the basis of the utility industry for many decades.
 
To both re-imagine EV charging stations and new business models, Siemens has once again found that the answer lies in the digital revolution that is driving innovation across the energy value chain – from transmission and distribution forrenewable energy generation to microgrid technologies. Enabled by digitalization, EV-charging applications within the EnergyIP platform – connected to ready-made hardware – can facilitate communication between end-users and energy providers to manage billing, analyze power consumption with built-in metering, call upon distributed energy resources, and support a flexible demand response profile for consumers to leverage utility rate programs.
 
With this model in mind, Siemens designed its VersiChargeTM SG to leverage IoT, big data, and cloud computing to
predict peak demand for charging times, help store and dispatch excess electricity, and facilitate billing and pricing models between customers and energy providers. VersiChargeTM has gone through rigorous industry and utility testing for revenue accuracy on the internal energy meters, and now utilities around the country are leveraging this capability as the next generation of a sub-billing model.
 
At the same time, Wi-Fi connectivity in the charging station allows owners to monitor and control their usage remotely via a mobile or web app. With the new technology, an EV owner can automatically turn charging on or off; schedule charging when rates are lowest; and view past power consumption data, including usage and cost for the first time in a graphical form. The cloudbased charging station also interacts with utilities, receiving demand response and pricing signals so consumers can better shape and shift their charging experience and utilities can effectively
shed energy during peak needs.
 
Yet to truly scale EV charging, solutions are needed to meet projected demand and ensure consumers have access to chargers at work and in public settings, charging systems will have to be able to accommodate dozens, if not hundreds, of EVs at once. That is why Siemens developed its VersiComm solution which allows multiple commercial and industrial customers to charge vehicles at once by linking multiple VersiChargeTM SG charging units together through consolidated cellular signals. This solution allows customers to use one data plan without using on-premise WiFi connections and enables installers to easily add additional units as EVs become even more prevalent in company parking lots, city garages, and retail centers.
 
While much of the hype that surrounds technology breakthroughs in the transportation electrification industry centers on the dropping costs and growing driving ranges of EVs, innovative solutions and business models for EV charging is just as important to the long-term transformation of the future of mobility. After all, without cost-effective and convenient ways to charge a vehicle, the rapid adoption of EVs would fall short of providing businesses and consumers with the long-awaited benefits of improving air quality and making full use of renewable power. The link that helps bring both EV technology and the needed infrastructure to support transportation electrification – such as chargers – lies in realizing new business models. With this in mind, Siemens can help cities, utilities, transit authorities, and enterprise customers with a comprehensive consulting and solution offerings. Brought together, this combination of hardware, software, and services gives consumers affordable and convenient ways to charge their EVs at home or on the go, while helping energy providers and government officials deploy new business models and policy planning mechanisms.
 
John DeBoer III is Director of Emerging Businesses in the Energy Management Division of Siemens. In this role, he is responsible for the identification, incubation, and global expansion of disruptive technologies in the low voltage electrical arena. His areas of focus include connected electric vehicle infrastructure, fleet electrification, storage, sub-metering, and advanced electrical protection schemes.
 
CITATIONS
1. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Annual Energy Outlook 2018 with projections to 2050. U.S. Department of Energy, 2018.
2. Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Electric Vehicles: Global Sales Outlook. Bloomberg Finance L.P., 2018.
3. Fitzgerald, Garrett and Chris Nelder. From Gas to Grid: Building Charging Infrastructure to Power Electric Vehicle Demand. Rocky Mountain Institute, 2017.