Communication technologies: key enablers for EV integration

With utility networks growing increasingly complex, how can they ensure their systems connect accurately and securely?
Published: Mon 06 Aug 2018

The integration of electric vehicles (EVs) into utility networks relies on several important assets, among which is a reliable and accurate communication network.

Luckily grid operators have a vast array of technologies available to them to help with the integration, such as roaming, NB-IoT, and 4G and 5G technologies. Employing such technologies is a key aspect for operators to consider to ensure that EVs and the EV charging infrastructure communicates in real time and reliably.

In the inaugural Engerati Meet on EVs this June, we asked Richard Stamvik, Ecosystem Business Development at Multitech, about the communication needs of a connected and integrated network ready for EV integration.

"In the new grid, everything needs to be connected, everything needs to communicate,” says Stamvik. “With electric vehicles moving into the grid, there is need for good communication networks - we need mobility, roaming, and this lends itself well to the existing infrastructure being deployed worldwide now.

“For example, roaming technologies are being deployed, and this allows the vehicles to keep in touch with their home base. It allows the grid operator to balance the grid, so that when vehicles connect and charge, or, for that matter, when the grid extracts power from the vehicle batteries to balance the grid, you have control. It's all about control."

Richard Stamvik, Ecosystem Business Development at Multitech, explains the use cases of communication networks for grid operators integrating EVs.

Use cases of communication technologies

For Stamvik, there are several use cases for communication networks and technologies within the EV context for utilities, the most obvious of which is the installation of a charging infrastructure.

“You need to connect your charging point with the control point so you know how much energy goes into the car. You also need to connect the vehicle so that at any point you can know what the vehicle is doing, what power level it has, when it is expecting to need refuelling and so on, so you can plan ahead,” comments Stamvik.

However, the connected EV also has the advantage of serving as a stationary battery if it has a bidirectional grid connection. “When it is connected and it is sitting there idly, when you have fuelled it up, you can use it as a battery and a means to balance the grid.

“In all these use cases you need communications. The charge point and the vehicle need to communicate with the cloud. There are various entities that need communication abilities using different technologies. There are various things you need to track, like the consumption of electricity, and there are various control points you should have to regulate the flow of electricity in and out of the vehicle and so on."

Stamvik discusses different types of communication technologies utilities and other players have at their disposal to ensure reliable, secure and real-time EV integration into the grid.

Technologies as energy assets

With many different communication technologies at their disposal, grid operators must analyse the benefits and disadvantages of each one, and how to employ them for optimal results. One important point to consider, says Stamvik, is deciding on how to employ licensed or unlicensed technologies.

“Licensed technologies have lent themselves well because they are well deployed around the world,” he explains. “They allow for mobility, roaming, perhaps so far with the exception of the newest technologies, NB-IoT, where roaming agreements aren't really in place, but that will come in time.

“There are unlicensed technologies as well, such as wide-area range technologies, local technologies and even personal area networks. The range of technologies we will use is broad and wide. It's technologies fit for purpose, depending on use cases. Communication is one thing, but you also need security, you need the interface with the local systems in the car and the charge points, a safe connection back to the cloud, a cloud platform, etc. There are many components in that puzzle that you need to put together."

With so many options in place, utilities have the opportunity to tweak the electrical grid and make it more integrated and modern. Grid operators can then provide energy as a service across communication channels and across systems, not as a commodity; and having control over the grid means that utilities can then provide real value-added service to customers in the form of controlled and smart EV charging.