Connectivity a driving force to standardise EV infrastructure

By Martin Lesund, Technical Marketing Manager – Cellular IoT, Nordic Semiconductor
Monday, 08 May, 2023

Connectivity a driving force to standardise EV infrastructure

As the world transitions away from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to help meet climate targets, the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) as a viable, more sustainable transport alternative is increasing.

Government mandates and regulatory incentives have been a key driver of the growth in EV adoption. The US Government is aiming to make EVs half of all new vehicles sold by 2030. And the EU’s Green Trucking Directive calls for 50% toll discounts for EVs from 2023 and air pollution charges for gas vehicles from 2026.

But deployment schedules around the world are still patchy. According to the Global EV Outlook from the International Energy Agency, Europe’s Nordic nations — with Norway (86%) and Iceland (72%) at the top — led the world in global EV market penetration in 2021, while the US barely made the top 20 with 5% EV sales as a percentage of overall car sales.

One roadblock to faster EV adoption is that infrastructure and customer experience challenges remain. The drivers of EVs rely on the availability of dedicated EV charging stations to efficiently plan their journeys. While traditional fuelling stations for ICE vehicles are readily available, a much smaller network of operational EV charging stations has prevented many people from making the switch to electric. And the charging stations that do exist must be kept reliably up and running. Companies also need to continue to invest in smart charging technologies to generate faster charging options, while also reducing potential grid overload during peak charging times, says analyst ABI Research.

According to a new report, Connected EV Charging, from global telco infrastructure leader Ericsson, “EV charging stations are critical to ensure a steady adoption, and there are significant business opportunities for EV charging companies and the related ecosystem.”

Despite these challenges, there are signs of movement with a recent study by Berg Insight forecasting 9.7 million charging points in Europe by 2024.

The need for connectivity

As in so many other industry sectors, reliable, secure wireless connectivity to EV charging stations enhances their value proposition. Connectivity enables data to be gathered on how customers use the station, as well as the availability and condition of charging sockets. Data can be relayed to a central platform for staff to respond to disruptions or problems remotely. Avoiding potential technical issues can improve maintenance and uptime at the electrical outlet. It can also help charging companies plan when and where to scale their charging network based on demand. Data gathered can even be used to provide real-time visibility of all stations to drivers directly, helping them map out their journey.

Cellular IoT will be a driving force for the fledgling EV charging market, according to the Ericsson report. The report suggests LTE-M/NB-IoT connectivity can help EV charging companies manage the complex ecosystem of stakeholders including drivers, hardware and connectivity providers, utility companies, automotive OEMs and asset owners like parking operators, cities and homeowners.

“By connecting charging stations with cellular IoT, EV charging companies are better positioned to effectively manage their orchestration, administration and maintenance, offering a smoother driving and customer experience,” the Ericsson report stated.

A flexible approach

Cellular IoT is not the only wireless tech with a role to play in the future of EV charging. Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity are all needed to enable a flexible approach for EV charging stations. With the ability to seamlessly integrate short-range, Wi-Fi and cellular devices using the same Nordic nRF Connect SDK (software development kit), developers can create innovative and reliable charging solutions that meet the evolving needs of the EV industry.

An example comes from India-based tech company Intellicar. The firm’s multiprotocol edge intelligence solution has been developed for the EV value chain. The Nordic nRF52833 SoC-powered Flashμ gateway with a cellular modem enables customers to deploy edge analytics on their remote assets including batteries, swap stations, charging infrastructure and vehicles. The SoC provides seamless Bluetooth LE connectivity for connecting assets and data to the cloud in the absence of cellular coverage.

The use of multiple wireless technologies will also be beneficial when EV owners are charging their cars at home. We need to futureproof applications by adding EV charging stations to the Matter-enabled networks of tomorrow’s smart homes. In residential building use cases where apartments have shared parking spaces, several hundred EV charging stations might need to communicate together for different reasons. Matter is a smart-home standard that brings interoperability to Wi-Fi and Thread products.

This article is republished from Nordic Semiconductor’s Wireless Quarter with permission.

Image credit: Hahn

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