April 13, 2022

How to optimize EV smart charging for stronger grids and revenue

Winona Rajamohan

Content Marketing Manager

What is EV smart charging? In Smartcar's joint webinar with Optiwatt and Leap, we discussed how EVs can be maximized as grid resources, integrating EVs into smart charging programs, and overcoming vehicle-to-grid challenges.

The smart charging ecosystem is evolving, and many businesses are looking to break into this market with unique products and services. But an emerging use case like smart charging introduces unfamiliar business challenges for leaders and stakeholders, especially when it comes to monetizing offerings, attracting customers, and implementing technologies at scale.

Here are a few tips from our speakers on how smart charging programs can support electric grids and increase grid revenue (📺 and you can watch a full replay of the webinar here):

🔌 Introducing customer preferences in demand response

🔋 Integrating EVs into the grid

⚡ Monetizing smart charging through energy markets

What is smart charging?

Smart charging is an energy demand response initiative that allows utilities to actively manage when EVs are being charged in a particular territory. The goal of smart EV charging — or managed charging — is to use EVs to reduce electricity consumption when the grid is strained.

So, how does smart charging work?

Unlike conventional EV charging, smart charging automatically schedules charging during hours when electricity demand is lower. For example, PG&E is a utility that can charge higher rates from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Northern and Central California since that's when more customers are at home and using electrical appliances. Smart charging programs will automatically start charging EVs outside of these hours.

Smart charging is most effective when it's built on seamless communication between electric vehicles and the grid. EV smart charging does not have to be bidirectional vehicle-to-grid communication. There are two types of EV smart charging, both of which involve one-way vehicle-to-grid integrations: 

  • Passive EV smart charging: Relies on EV owners to set their own charging schedules after aligning it for their convenience, lower grid emissions, cheaper rates, and more. 
  • Active EV smart charging: Gives EV owners a ‘set it and forget it’ approach to EV charging, using real-time grid conditions to automatically influence charging schedules, avoid peak hours, and optimize household energy consumption.

What are the benefits of EV smart charging?

Research from Leap found that if all Level 2 EV chargers participated in smart charging by 2025, grids could offset a year’s worth of electricity consumption from, 1,700 homes.

Do you need a Level 2 smart EV charger for this?

The fact that not every EV owner has a Level 2 charger — with some studies showing that only 35% of EV drivers have a Level 2 smart EV charger at home — is not a hindrance to the impact of EV smart charging. 

With an EV API, smart charging programs can easily enroll electric vehicle programs through the driver’s connected services subscription. Not only does this eliminate friction for EV owners, it unlocks more granular charging data than what an EV charger can provide — like a vehicle’s state of charge, which is essential for proactive EV smart charging. 

Shifting energy loads away from off-peak hours also gives grids the flexibility they need to rely on sustainable energy and reduce grid emissions. “A lot of solar and wind [energy sources] in the grid can create variability, especially during that day when that power might almost be free,” says Thomas Folker, CEO at Leap.

Does smart EV charging really work? Yes! Studies have proven the impact of EV smart charging to increase the utilization of renewable energy sources, reduce energy costs, and accelerate projects to scale grid infrastructure.

Smart charging benefits everyone:

  • Grids lower carbon emissions: Optimized charging can reduce renewable energy curtailment by 40%.
  • Electric vehicle drivers save money: Peak rates can be 5x more than off-peak rates. Drivers can save over $300 a year in charging costs.
  • Grids save operating costs: 5 million EVs with smart charging can save California grids up to over $600 million in operating costs with automated load balancing.
  • EV businesses generate grid services revenue: Offsetting a year’s worth of electricity from 1,700 homes could generate over $4 million in grid services revenue.
How smart charging apps like Optiwatt help drivers save money

How Optiwatt optimizes EV smart charging efficiency with software partners

There are many moving parts to building a successful smart charging business. Finding the right technology partners can help your team meet product roadmaps and productivity goals without sacrificing the quality of your service.

Optiwatt is a free direct-to-consumer app that helps EV owners schedule charging during hours when electricity rates and emissions are lower.

“Optiwatt’s mission here is to make sure we can enroll millions of EV owners into demand response events in a way that they’re actually comfortable with, without feeling like a guinea pig in the system,” says Casey Donahue, CEO at Optiwatt.

The app gives an EV owner the convenience of personalizing their charging experience. With an intuitive and easy-to-use application, EV drivers can quickly use their utility bills to influence the charging process. Drivers can practice intelligent energy management with visibility into their energy usage, electricity price, and granular information about each EV charging session.

Executing this mission at scale becomes more effective when components like building EV integrations and participating in Independent System Operator (ISO) markets are handled by experienced vendors in the ecosystem. Watch a clip from the webinar below to learn how Optiwatt works with Smartcar and Leap to help EV drivers manage their charging.

Vehicle-to-grid technology for EV smart charging

“Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) is the swiss army knife of the grid. It enables everything a traditional gas power plant can do but clean and decarbonized,” Folker says.

But connecting EVs to the grid isn’t easy. In fact, attendees at our webinar said it was the biggest challenge to implementing an EV smart charging program.

Greatest challenge faced by businesses when implementing smart charging programs

“Not having a way to know when cars need to be recharged or having a way to control when a car should charge makes it difficult to manage the addition of all the EVs were adding to the grid,” says Sahas Katta, CEO at Smartcar.

The great news is that we don’t need hardware to make it happen. Roughly 97% of EVs today are shipped with built-in 4G or 5G cellular modems. But developers still face the bottleneck of having their software communicate with these vehicles at scale.

Building and maintaining EV APIs with over 200 unique models across a dozen brands is difficult, especially if your team is focused on the implementation of programs and the acquisition of participants.  

That’s why Optiwatt uses Smartcar’s APIs to see when and where an electric vehicle is charging, the amount of charge a vehicle needs, and to automatically start charging at optimal times.  You can learn more about how Optiwatt uses Smartcar’s APIs in this customer story.

How do smart charging businesses get revenue?

Smart charging businesses can monetize their efforts by participating in energy markets. Leap’s infrastructure helps apps like Optiwatt sell or buy back power at attractive prices so that EVs can be used to replace electricity generation from fossil fuels.

When EVs are connected to the cloud, they’re able to communicate with Leap and integrate themselves into the energy market. If your company isn’t in the business of trading energy all day long, outsourcing those efforts to platforms like Leap helps you focus on product goals and technology development.

As a free app, Optiwatt makes money by helping utilities reduce peak load. Using Leap, Optiwatt is notified when there are peak load events so drivers can be prevented from charging during those hours. By lowering grid stress while ensuring drivers get their vehicles charged on time, Optiwatt meets customer needs for scheduled charging while seamlessly monetizing their efforts.

How EV businesses monetize their smart charging programs

Are you launching an EV smart charging program or service?

At our webinar, 43% of our attendees came from companies that are currently monetizing EV smart charging while 14% said they had plans to monetize EV charging soon.

If you’re curious to learn more about how to optimize your EV charging business for increased grid revenue and customer acquisition, watch a replay of the webinar here.

We’ve also included a few helpful resources below. For more information, get in touch with someone from Smartcar and Leap or download the Optiwatt app today!

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