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Distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) software plays a critical role in helping utilities achieve energy security and mitigate climate risks. A 2020 study found that proactively managing distributed energy resources (DERs) like EVs can reduce the curtailment of renewable energy by up to 40%.
Supply chain disruptions are impacting the rollout of large-scale renewable energy projects. Still, leading utilities are investing in automating individual and aggregated DERs to increase clean energy supply.
With transportation electrification policies set to make electric vehicles the new norm, communicating with EVs is and will continue to be an important component of your DERMS software.
According to SEPA’s 2023 Utility Transformation Profile, 52% of respondents are engaging with external partners to increase EV charging deployment to manage demand in their service area.
Last summer, Rolling Energy Resources (RER), helped utilities across 16 states in the US run 30 demand response events. Powered by Smartcar’s API, they can efficiently communicate with EVs to detect when and where vehicles charge and how much energy is consumed while charging. They can also automatically start and stop charging select EV brands and models.
In this guide, we explore how a connected car API platform can help DERMs software:
Utilities can communicate with EVs using Level 2 chargers, but only 35% of households with EVs have these chargers installed. This introduces some points of friction:
97% of EVs are connected vehicles, giving utilities the perfect opportunity to leverage software-based integrations.
Hardware-agnostic connectivity is more agile, cost-effective, and user-friendly at scale. But the time and headcount investment for building and maintaining this data infrastructure is comparable to establishing an entirely separate team or organization.
This is because the reliability of your EV integrations depends on your ability to manage fragmented proprietary APIs, standardize large volumes of vehicle data, and meet enterprise-grade security compliance standards.
This is what it takes to build a single vehicle integration from scratch:
🔋 Thinking about building EV integrations for your DERMS software?
If you’re deciding between building EV integrations or working with an EV API provider, read our guide to learn:
Here are four reasons why working with a connected car API platform — directly or through a partner — can equip your DERMS software with stable EV API integrations and expertise.
Scalable data collection across EV makes and models
EV industry statistics signal heavy investment and rapid growth in the production of EV models across brands with varying price points and capabilities — with researchers expecting 400 new EV models from 2018 through the end of 2023.
Each brand has unique data that has to be standardized to be actionable and useful. Doing this at scale is impossible without a team of developers solely focused on sorting this data out. A connected car API platform takes this off your plate so you can use a single integration to communicate with a majority of EVs without being held back by brand-specific nuances.
“If we had not partnered with Smartcar, we would have had to invest fully in a development team,” said RER’s CEO and co-founder, Scott Dimetrosky. “With Smartcar, we have immediate, reliable access to nearly every EV on the road today.”
Actionable integrations for load management
Beyond collecting EV data like battery capacity and state of charge, car APIs also power event-based action. Utilities can automate active load management across EV brands that support the capability to remotely start and stop charging.
Optiwatt, an EV charging mobile app, uses this API functionality to give customers a “set it and forget it” charging schedule that automatically kicks in when energy is less in demand and costs are lower.
Smartcar also gives utilities and utility partners standardized resources to leverage brand-specific capabilities to actively manage EV charging. For brands like Tesla, Chevrolet, and Cadillac, you can use our SDKs and APIs to set a vehicle’s charge limit during charging sessions.
Easier opt-in and onboarding for customers
EV telematics reduces friction in customer enrollment by omitting the need to install compatible smart charging hardware. Residents simply need to connect their vehicle to your DERMs software by logging in to their connected services account — which most EV drivers access regularly.
This shorter onboarding and learning curve means fewer roadblocks for expansion and more opportunities for utilities to scale marketing efforts and provide better customer education on the benefits of new offerings.
RER has seen success with this software-driven onboarding process (you can also watch Scott walk through this in the video below):
Real-time visibility into API errors and service interruptions
To give residents a reliable EV integration, you need a dedicated team to monitor and address API irregularities immediately to avoid downtime. It’s important to note that OEM APIs are also continuously evolving. The integration you’ve built today will look different in the next six months because of API changes made by automakers every month or so.
“Our team was challenged with the task of managing, standardizing, and maintaining 3rd party APIs. If any of our supported vehicles had a change in API or authentication, our team had to switch focus to patch the issues,” said Casey Donahue, founder at Optiwatt.
The Optiwatt team wanted an established EV API provider to take this workload off their plate. By working with Smartcar, they get the additional support of an engineering team that focuses solely on keeping track of unannounced API changes. Our engineering cycles include dedicated blocks of time to identify and debug API irregularities as soon as they happen.
Smartcar’s platform for EV APIs gives utilities and utility partners a centralized set of integrations that allow applications to talk to over 100 EV models. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that looks like:
Step 1: Standardization
Smartcar’s platform does the heavy lifting of standardizing the APIs of over 30 brands so developers can work with consistent error codes, SDKs, documentation, and data quality validation. For more granular data on select brands, we also provide an extended list of brand-specific endpoints.
Step 2: Authorization
All requests made to Smartcar require an access token. The access token gives apps a secure way to make the API request, authorize connectivity to a vehicle, and then interact with that vehicle. Token management is another area apps don’t have to worry about, as it’s built into our API platform.
Step 3: Authentication
Before vehicle owners share data, they’re brought through our OAuth2 authentication flow, Smartcar Connect.
Smartcar Connect is the only touchpoint a vehicle owner has with Smartcar — but it’s an incredibly important one. A customer may drop off a managed charging program’s onboarding process if they are unsure about their vehicle’s connectivity, are concerned about data privacy, or if onboarding instructions are difficult to understand.
Smartcar’s user authentication flow was designed to mitigate this with three simple steps:
Step 4: Collection
A vehicle owner only needs to sign in once, and they’re good to go!
Apps can automate data retrieval at regular intervals through our event webhooks, giving utilities and program participants peace of mind to optimize charging with less manual work.
Smartcar is excited to work with utility partners committed to enhancing grid reliability with software-based EV integrations. We’re happy to introduce you to our customers if you believe they would be a great fit for your DERMS programs.
Rolling Energy Resources
RER is an energy efficiency and demand response consulting firm that partners with utilities across 16 states in the US. This allows them to serve one of the largest geographic footprints of any load management company in the country. RER provides demand response, time-of-use assistance, and EV monitoring services to utilities in the United States. Using Smartcar’s API, their software-based solution can connect to 95% of EVs on the road today.
FlexCharging partners with utilities across the United States to create EV managed charging and clean charge rewards programs. The company helps utilities identify charging vehicles and combines charging insights with by-the-minute carbon emission forecasts to charge EVs during the cheapest and most environmentally friendly times. FlexCharging uses Smartcar’s APIs to monitor a vehicle’s state of charge (SoC), check the charging status, and start and stop charging.
Amp X, the technology arm of Amp Energy, is a grid-edge technology platform created to address energy transition challenges like voltage instability, infrastructure costs, and grid resilience. Amp X’s solutions include smart transformers, asset management for front-of-the-meter and back-of-the-meter assets, and an energy management system with smart charging capabilities. The platform uses Smartcar’s API to view an EV’s battery status and capacity, charge status, location, and to remotely start and stop charging.
Kristin White, Chief Operating Officer at Intelligent Transportation Society of America, says in an episode of The Mobility Podcast that there’s a “huge disconnect between design thinking, Silicon Valley innovators, researchers, and implementers on the vehicle and infrastructure side.”
Vehicle-to-grid communication is only one part of the grid modernization conversation. Still, even so, utilities and their partners face challenges in designing programs that are cost-efficient, accessible, and include both home and away charging.
In a webinar on smart charging hosted by Smartcar, we found that more than 40% of our attendees were monetizing smart charging programs. When asked about the biggest challenge to implementing a smart charging program, integrating with electric vehicles and finding a reliable technology partner came out on top.
From our experience speaking and working with utilities and their partners, we want to share a simple checklist of factors you can use to evaluate EV API providers for your DERMS software