Charging behaviour data holds key to infrastructure planning

A new platform promises to collate genuine customer activity, a goldmine for utilities planning for the future of the grid

Charging behaviour data holds key to infrastructure planning
Actionable data will be key for building the grids of the future

Legacy OEMs BMW, Ford, and Honda have announced a joint venture (JV) to create Chargescape, a platform which places data exchange between users, automakers, and utilities at the heart of the effort to optimise electric grids for EV adoption.

The move could establish a key precedent of collaboration between parties for the benefit of charging and grid infrastructure, the need for which has been highlighted by recent research from the US’ Zero Emissions Transport Association (Zeta) and the IEA.

Chargescape hails the financial benefits for consumers for managed charging and energy-sharing services. But it also highlights that the opportunity for data exchange “will unlock entirely new value that EVs can provide to the electric grid”.

EV users  sharing information about when and where they charge their vehicles can be highly valuable to utilities and planners — helping with all aspects of grid planning, from long-term transmission planning to daily load demand forecasting.

The central problem currently faced by grid planners is that while, full electrification of transport is approaching steadily, “we still do not know exactly when that is coming or exactly where those vehicles are going to be parked and needing to charge”, Garret Fitzgerald, senior director of non-profit the Smart Electric Power Alliance tells EV inFocus.

“The more we know about that, the more proactive a utility can be in starting to plan for the load that is going to be required in certain pockets on the grid,” says Fitzgerald.  

The data that will be most useful for grid planners is the sort that will be shared over the Chargescape platform. This includes “aggregated electricity demand response, alignment of charging and EV battery utilisation with off-peak, low-cost hours and the availability of high renewable energy”, according to Honda.

This data will help streamline current forecasting methods used by utilities, which recent research has found lack sufficient granularity for optimal long-term distribution planning and daily load forecasting. This makes it hard for utilities to control electricity supply throughout the day to meet peaks in demand.

Daily demand peaks currently are predictably in the mid-to-late evening hours, and by rewarding non-peak time charging, Chargescape will incentivise grid-friendly behaviour. However, there is also a risk that without the right preparation, widespread non-peak time charging may lead to new circuit peaks and capacity constraints that must be addressed, Zeta warns.

As such, the job of demand forecasting, and therefore of controlling the transmission of electricity supply, will be made more difficult as more geographically and temporally specific pockets of electricity demand emerge.

Indeed, workplace charging during the day, for example, could lead to demand peaks earlier in the day. Or public DC charging could lead to spikes in demand in specific areas around stations.

Currently, utility companies will need to opt into the Chargescape platform. If they do choose to participate, the potential to gather analysable data on emerging patterns of charging behaviour could be invaluable for modelling future demand curves and optimally building out grid infrastructure.

Chargescape is expected to launch in 2024. Other automakers are invited to join, the JV says.

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