Home > My Solar Quotes Blog > What is a Smart EV Charger and Why You Should Buy One

What is a Smart EV Charger and Why You Should Buy One

By Aniket Bhor on in Electric Vehicles

What is a Smart EV Charger and Why You Should Buy One

Smart EV Chargers Available In New Zealand

The hype around smart EV chargers is growing rapidly. But at a time when manufacturers are slapping the word ‘smart’ on nearly everything from watches to water, the word ceases to have any clear meaning. This is why the words ‘Smart EV charger’ don’t make much sense until you start looking into its features and benefits - which are - to be honest, quite exciting! Let’s go take a look.

What On Earth is a Smart EV Charger?

An EV charger is not smart because it can score 160 on an IQ test (it cannot). Instead, here are a few impressive things it can do. 

1. Communication:

A smart EV charger is able to ‘communicate’ with you, your car, and your utility company using data connections. The charger typically communicates information such as level of charge, source of charging current, etc.

To communicate with you, most smart chargers offer a smartphone app, sometimes called a ‘companion app’. Through Wi-Fi connectivity, the charger’s mobile app shows information such as state of charge, available range, etc.

Having remote monitoring for the charger also means you can be notified about any problems in the charging system. You can even notify the device manufacturer online and they can diagnose or troubleshoot the issue online.

2. Optimisation:

A smart charger optimises the charging of an EV based on factors such as the cost of power, source of power, etc. For instance, a charger can be programmed to avoid peak hours and charge the car during off-peak hours, essentially making the charging cheaper. 

Of course, it is not impossible to manually optimise the charging, but who wants to wake up at 2 am to plug in the car charger? You can simply leave the charger plugged into the car and schedule the charging time via a smartphone app.

Besides that, the charger can also optimise charging in a way that improves the battery’s range and performance. Some smart EV chargers also offer a ‘boost mode’, which charges the car rapidly in case you need to leave sooner or go farther.

Lastly, most smart EV chargers also offer ‘Dynamic Load Balancing’, wherein the charger monitors the total current drawn by the house, and accordingly adjusts the current drawn by the car in order to avoid an overload. 

Dynamic Load Balancing From Smart EV Charger Illustration
Dynamic load management is also useful when a single property has multiple EV chargers, and the chargers can communicate with each other to optimise voltage and current levels.

3. Charging with solar panels

Some chargers can also prioritize charging the car using solar panels, again making the charging - you’re right - cheaper!

Charging from solar plus grid power (source: Enphase)

The other benefits of charging your EV with solar are also obvious. It makes electric cars truly clean, since they avoid using any fossil energy. This also offers respite from constantly rising electricity prices. Moreover, solar panels last up to three decades or more, which means free charging for the lifespan of at least one, or maybe two electric cars. 

4. Using the EV as a battery storage unit:

One of the most interesting features of smart EV chargers, like the Enphase bidirectional charger, is that they can operate in both directions. What this means is that you can use your electric car’s humongous battery as an energy storage system for your home. 

Enphase bidirectional smart charger

Solar batteries are the second most expensive component after solar panels, and using a bidirectional smart charger can save you substantial amounts of money. For instance, the Tesla Powerwall costs upwards of $17,000. Considering the obvious shift to electric mobility, it’s not a wild idea to ditch the solar battery and buy an electric car instead. Of course, your car may not be as effective and reliable as a dedicated solar battery, but if it saves so much money, it’s definitely worth considering.

What’s more? Thanks to the communication abilities of smart chargers, your electric grid operator can communicate with dozens, perhaps hundreds of EVs plugged in for charging. And in the near future, use all these cars together as an energy storage system. Now that’s something that can impress even your teenage kid! 

Benefits of Using a Smart Charger

The above section discussed the features of a smart EV charger while touching on the benefits of each feature. But let’s review the benefits in a bit more detail.

1. Cheaper

Smart EV chargers can make it cheaper to charge your EV in two ways:

it can choose off-peak times of charging that result in lower cost per km of range
It can prioritize solar power, which is a virtually free source of energy

2. Easier

Smart EV chargers give you fully remote control over the charging. You don’t have to walk to the charger every time to turn it on or off. Just keep it plugged into your car and control the charging remotely. Plus, the previously mentioned ability to schedule the charging times also makes it easier.

The convenience offered by smart chargers is even more noticeable when you are offering multiple EV charging points for your customers or residents. Having a single-point control makes it way easier to control a batch of smart chargers than managing each point individually and on the location.

3. Safer

Smart devices automatically test the connection between your vehicle and the device before they start charging. This makes the charging process safer. Additionally, the dynamic load management feature keeps an eye on the total current draw, avoiding any shutdowns caused by system overload,  and making the home circuit safer.

4. More environment-friendly

By prioritizing solar power, smart EV chargers reduce the carbon emissions caused by traditional, grid power. Even when a home does not have solar panels on it, a smart EV charger can be programmed to operate when renewables take a major share of the energy mix, making the charging greener. 

5. Grid stability

When you charge your car at off-peak times, it not only saves you money, but avoids strain on the local power grid. As more and more people buy electric vehicles, the grid may experience uneven, stressing demand at peak hours (think of evenings when everyone comes home and plugs in their car for charging). Moreover, the possibility of utility companies using EVs as local energy storage can also offer better grid stability. 

How Much Does a Smart Charger Cost?

The cost of a smart charger varies quite a bit. It can range from $1,000 to $3,000 based on the brand, model, features, etc. Although smart EV chargers is a category in itself, different chargers come with different features. They will also sport different designs - from the regular, boxy units to the more advanced chargers with LCD displays. 

Moreover, the ‘smartness’ of each smart charger will also vary. Out of all the features mentioned in the previous sections, some smart chargers may offer only a few of those. For instance, a smart charger may or may not support bidirectional charging. In that sense, smart chargers are similar to smartphones - not all devices are equally smart, and the more money you spend, the more features you will get.

Do I really need a smart charger?

Speaking of smartphones, asking if you need a smart EV charger in the 2020s is like asking if you need a smartphone in the 2010s. Of course, it is possible to live without one, but it doesn’t make much sense. Plus, smart charging may even become mandatory in a few years. Some places, like the U.K. already have laws in place that make it mandatory for all new EV chargers to include smart functionality.

A smart charger costs a bit more than a regular Level 2 charger, but it offers a host of useful features that make the added cost worth it. However, if you have recently spent a few hundred dollars on a non-smart EV charger, you might want to wait a couple of years before spending again on a smart charger. 

Similarly, you also need to check that your EV supports smart charging, as a few older-generation cars do not work with smart chargers.

But if you have just bought or are about to buy an electric car with smart charger compatibility, and don’t yet have a charging unit, getting a smart EV charger is definitely the best option. 

The world of mobility is changing rapidly, and there is no doubt that electric cars will completely replace petrol/diesel cars in a matter of time. As such, it makes sense to invest in a charging system that gives you more control over your vehicle's charging and usage.

Post your own comment

All comments are approved by an administrator so your comment will not appear immediately after submission.

<< Back to Blog Articles