The electric vehicle (EV) market is set to witness a significant surge in the coming years. McKinsey research predicts the presence of 120M electric vehicles on the roads by 2030. However, the effective implementation of charging infrastructure poses a potential bottleneck in accommodating this expected growth. The demand for charging energy is projected to reach a staggering 280B kilowatt-hours, compared to just 18B kilowatt-hours in 2020.
So if you want your EV charging solution to stay competitive in this growing market, you need to build efficiency and innovation into its core. This involves taking into account all aspects of the hardware, embedded software, various industry-specific requirements, the components necessary for seamless user experience, etc.
Why develop a custom EV charger
To address the charging needs of electric vehicles, there are three levels of charging stations:
- Level 1 (AC 120 volts)–the slowest charging option that utilizes household outlets;
- Level 2 (AC 240 volts)–commonly found in public places and office parking lots, providing faster charging;
- Level 3 (DC)–the fastest charging option that is typically found in dedicated locations (e.g., highway rest stops, fleet depots, etc.).
According to McKinsey, levels 1 and 2 are expected to account for 60-80% of the energy electric vehicles consume. Meanwhile, lever 3 is about dedicated places, and only a few end-users can really benefit from it.
The next question is–if you should use an out-of-box solution or opt for custom EV charging solution development. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It's important to carefully compare the costs and benefits to decide if making a custom charger is right for your needs and goals, as custom development requires a significant upfront investment. Nonetheless, it has a range of benefits. Let’s take a look at the factors that encourage businesses to create custom EV chargers.
To meet users’ specific requirements
Custom EV chargers can be designed to meet specific requirements, considering factors such as charging speed, power capacity, connector types, user interface, and integration with existing systems.
To ensure scalability and future-proofing
Custom chargers are designed with scalability in mind, accommodating future upgrades and advancements in EV charging technology. This ensures that the charging infrastructure remains relevant and functional for an extended period.
To implement unique features and functionality
Custom chargers can incorporate unique features and functionalities that may not be available in standard chargers. This could include advanced user interfaces, smart charging algorithms, integration with renewable energy sources, or even specific branding and aesthetics.
To boost performance
Designing a charger specifically for a particular location or use case makes it possible to achieve optimal performance and efficiency. This can lead to reduced charging times, lower energy consumption, and improved overall charging experience.
To make data collection and analysis easier
Custom EV charger development presupposes advanced data collection capabilities, allowing in-depth analysis of charging patterns, energy consumption, and other relevant metrics. This data can be valuable for optimizing charging operations and making informed decisions.
To ensure a competitive advantage
For businesses in the EV charging industry, offering custom solutions can provide a competitive edge, attracting customers who require charging stations tailored to their specific needs.
Keep in mind that it is vital to perform a thorough cost-benefit analysis if you consider developing smart EV chargers. Moreover, there are a range of challenges that need to be addressed when it comes to EV chargers of any kind. Let's take a look at some of them as well as the ways they can be mitigated.
EV charger development: key challenges to address
As electric vehicle adoption continues to grow, the development of EV chargers presents various challenges that must be addressed to ensure the widespread and seamless integration of your EV charger into the whole charging station management system.
Challenge: Charging speed
Level 1 and Level 2 chargers can take several hours to fully charge an electric vehicle, which can be too long as opposed to standard fueled vehicles. Level 1 chargers, using standard household 120-volt outlets, typically offer a charging speed of around 1.4 to 1.9 kW, providing approximately 4-5 miles of range per hour of charging. This slower charging rate can be suitable for overnight charging at home but needs to be faster for drivers requiring charging during the day.
Level 2 stations, which use a 240-volt power supply, offer faster charging than Level 1, with charging speeds ranging from 3.3 kW to 19.2 kW. That means that level 1 chargers require 24+ hours to charge the vehicle, and level 2–around 8 hours or less. The speed depends on the EV's battery capacity and starting charge level.
Solution: Dual capability
The EV charger should be capable of functioning as both a Level 1 and Level 2, enabling faster charging whenever possible to reduce charging time. This type of charger, commonly known as a dual-level or hybrid charger, provides greater flexibility and convenience for users, allowing them to adapt the charging speed based on their specific needs and time availability.
Here are several advantages of a dual-level charger:
- Faster charging options. With the ability to function as a Level 2 charger, users can take advantage of higher charging speeds. This feature is especially beneficial for home charging, where users can connect to a higher-voltage outlet, reducing the charging time compared to Level 1 charging.
- Overnight Level 1 charging. While Level 2 charging is faster, Level 1 charging can still be suitable for overnight charging at home. Level 1 chargers can be connected to a standard household 120-volt outlet, making them widely accessible and convenient for regular overnight charging.
- Travel flexibility. For users who need to charge while traveling, a dual-level charger provides the flexibility to use faster charging or a slower one, depending on the needs that may change during traveling.
Charging systems need to be well-secured to ensure the privacy and security of users. As such systems have access to user details, payment information, and other confidential data, it is vital to secure the entire charging line.
Solution: Using the Open Charge Point Protocol version 2.0.1
The protocol should be used for communication between the EV charger and the Charge Point Operator (CPO). This version supports secure communication, OTA updates, and compatibility with ISO15118. It, in turn, aims to provide a secure and standardized way for EVs and charging stations to communicate during the charging process.
ISO 15118 focuses on the communication between the EV and the charging station, enabling features such as plug-and-charge (PnC) and bidirectional power transfer (vehicle-to-grid or V2G). Here are some key aspects of ISO 15118:
- Plug-and-charge: it allows for seamless authentication and authorization between the EV and the charging station, eliminating the need for separate authentication cards or apps. The vehicle and the charging station can communicate directly to establish a secure connection, making the charging process more user-friendly and convenient.
- Digital certificates: ISO 15118 utilizes digital certificates to ensure secure communication between the EV and the charging station. These certificates are used for authentication and to verify the integrity of the communication.
- Payment authorization: ISO 15118 supports the Plug&Charge approach that allows the EV and the charging station to handle payment authorization securely and without user involvement. This helps ensure the confidentiality of payment information during the charging process.
- V2G communication: ISO 15118 supports bidirectional power transfer, allowing EVs to supply energy back to the grid when needed (Vehicle-to-Grid or V2G). This feature can contribute to grid stability and enhance the integration of renewable energy sources.
Challenge: Electricity costs
Charging a vehicle's battery to full capacity can result in high electricity costs, which may deter potential EV owners. However, the issue of high electricity costs can be mitigated, making EV ownership more appealing and economically viable for a broader range of consumers.
Solution: Smart EV charging features
Through various features, EV chargers can incorporate smart charging capabilities that optimize the charging process and make it more cost-effective.
- Charging scheduling during off-peak hours. When energy costs are lower, users can benefit from reduced charging expenses.
- Load balancing. It ensures that the charging consumption does not exceed the allowed household consumption limits. It also optimizes energy distribution when multiple electric vehicles charge simultaneously, or other electric equipment consumes energy concurrently.
- Restricted access. This approach involves regulating who can access and use the charging stations, thereby optimizing their availability and preventing unauthorized usage. For instance, limiting access to employees only can be implemented in office parking lots to maintain control and security over the charging infrastructure.
- Charging process monitoring. It enables the monitoring of parameters, including payment status, charger temperature, EV charging level, current and voltage values, ensuring a smooth charging experience.
Challenge: Timely OTA updates
To ensure the proper functionality of smart EV chargers, regular over-the-air (OTA) updates should be performed, keeping the chargers up to date with the latest features and security enhancements.
Solution: partnering with an experienced vendor
Regarding smart EV chargers, ensuring timely and effective OTA updates is of prime importance. And it, in turn, takes profound internal expertise. If building such expertise is not your priority at the moment–consider partnering with an experienced and reliable tech vendor. When selecting a vendor, consider the following factors:
- Expertise in EV charger development: Choose a vendor with a deep understanding of EV charging technology and infrastructure. They should be familiar with the requirements and challenges of remotely updating charging stations.
- Security measures: Verify that the vendor prioritizes cybersecurity and follows best practices to ensure secure OTA updates. They should have robust encryption and authentication mechanisms to protect against potential threats.
- Flexibility and compatibility: Ensure that the vendor's OTA update solution is compatible with various charging station models and supports different communication protocols. This will allow for seamless integration with your existing charging infrastructure.
- Integration with your management system: The vendor's OTA update solution should seamlessly integrate with your charging station management system, making the update process more efficient and streamlined.
Now, we have one more question to answer—how to bring your EV charging development project to life. N-iX experts have gathered all the required components and tools to create an efficient charging solution.
The proposed implementation of the smart EV charger
Essential components of a smart EV charger
The EV charging system involves various components to facilitate its operation and ensure a seamless user experience. These components include:
- NFC reader responsible for reading user information and payment details through Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, allowing for secure and convenient authentication and payment processes.
- Screen provides a visual interface to display relevant user data, such as charging status, energy consumption, and transaction details, ensuring transparency and clarity for users.
- Control panel allows manual input from users, enabling them to initiate or stop charging sessions, select charging options, and perform other interactive actions to control the charging process.
- BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) enables connectivity between the EV charging system and a mobile application, facilitating remote monitoring, control, and data exchange. Users can access real-time charging information, receive notifications, and manage their charging sessions through the mobile app.
- PLC (Power Line Communication) powers the communication between the EV charging system and the electric vehicle through the existing power lines, allowing for data exchange, control commands, and monitoring signals without the need for additional communication infrastructure.
- ISO15118 stack ensures secure communication and data exchange between the EV charging system and the electric vehicle, supporting features such as authentication, charging parameters negotiation, and billing information exchange.
- Main CPU serves as the central processing unit responsible for running the EV charging application and coordinating the operations of various components. It handles data processing, control algorithms, and interfaces with external systems.
- OCPP stack enables the communication between the EV charging system and the Charge Point Operator (CPO), facilitating the exchange of charging-related data, such as charging session information, energy consumption, and billing details.
- WiFi/LTE: The EV charging system can be equipped with either a WiFi or LTE communication module to establish connectivity with external networks. This enables remote monitoring, software updates, and communication with backend systems.
- Signal conditioning involves processing and conditioning input power lines to ensure proper voltage and current levels for safe and efficient charging operations.
- Voltage sensor measures the input voltage from the power source to monitor the charging process and ensure the stability of the electrical supply.
- A current sensor measures the input current flowing into the EV charging system, providing essential data for monitoring and controlling the charging process.
- A temperature sensor monitors the temperature within the charger itself, ensuring safe operating conditions and preventing overheating.
These components work together to create a reliable and user-friendly EV charging system, providing secure authentication, real-time data display, convenient control options, seamless communication, and efficient power management. There are many solutions on the market you can choose from. Let’s take some of them–provided by Nordic Semiconductor as an example.
Leveraging nRF5340 and nRF7002 by Nordic Semiconductor in EV charger development
Nordic Semiconductor, a leading provider of wireless communication solutions, offers a diverse range of products suitable for IoT systems. Among their offerings, the nRF5340 stands out as a versatile solution capable of serving as the main CPU and facilitating Bluetooth Low Energy communication.
With built-in security features, low power consumption, and robust processing capabilities, the nRF5340 is well-suited for handling EV charging applications. Additionally, its compatibility with the Zephyr operating system simplifies implementation for engineers, making it a convenient choice.
Depending on the desired connectivity type, Nordic Semiconductor provides two options for modems that enable communication with the Charge Point Operator. For WiFi connectivity, the nRF7002 is an excellent choice, offering reliable wireless communication capabilities. For LTE connectivity, on the other hand, the nRF9160 (also known as nRF7002) is the ideal solution, enabling seamless communication with the CPO over cellular networks.
N-iX partnered with Nordic to deliver efficient and innovative IoT solutions to our customers. As a software development service company, we specialize in a wide range of technological solutions, with IoT and embedded software being among our core expertise. Our experts have seamlessly integrated Nordic's technology into a multitude of projects spanning diverse sectors, including telecommunications, manufacturing, logistics, supply chain, healthcare, and automotive.
Leveraging flexibility and OCPP support with AWS
By utilizing AWS as a proxy between the EV chargers and the CPO, you can achieve seamless communication and data exchange. The integration of AWS's proxy OCPP support allows for efficient management and control of the EV charging process.
Overall, Nordic Semiconductor's nRF5340, nRF9160 (nRF7002), and AWS's OCPP support provide a comprehensive solution for EV charging applications. With Nordic's wireless communication solutions and AWS's flexibility and OCPP support, the implementation of EV charging infrastructure becomes streamlined and efficient, offering a seamless charging experience for electric vehicle owners.
EV charger development: N-iX success story
Our partner is one of the largest networks of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, operating extensively across the USA and various other nations. Having facilitated nearly 100M charging sessions for over 5,000 clients, their services have garnered significant recognition.
Our customer aimed to modernize the existing EV charging systems and develop new solutions to expand their business to the European market.
Together with our partner, N-iX professionals launched several projects with diverse tech stacks to help our client expand to new markets. They included:
- Working on the solutions that handle the communication and management of all charging stations connected to the cloud platform of our customer;
- Developing the back-end of the new type of charging station that was launched by the client;
- Migrating the EV charging software to the cloud, as well as monitoring and improving its reliability.
In conclusion, the surge in the electric vehicle market is driving the need for efficient and reliable EV charging infrastructure. Custom EV charger development offers significant advantages, such as meeting specific requirements, scalability, unique features, and improved performance.
N-iX professionals have the right expertise and experience to bring your EV charging solution to life and help you benefit from custom EV charger development.