Powering the era of e-mobility with smart charging

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E-mobility is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to model the future of decarbonised road transport and the world has started seizing it. Year after year EV sales have broken new records worldwide. This week, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) EV Outlook showed that 14% of all new cars sold worldwide in 2022 were electric, compared to 9% in 2021.

China, the EU, and the US are the pioneers of this EV-olution, as confirmed by the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s 2035 target for the phase-out of internal combustion engines. According to Eurelectric-EY newly released report, there are 8 million EVs driving around Europe, with new sales capturing over 20% of the market up from 17% in 2021.

The future of e-mobility looks bright. Yet, the path towards EV full uptake is not without challenges.

Would you ever buy a state-of-the-art newly designed mobile phone without a charger to make it work?

The same question applies to electric vehicles. Today, while the number of EVs hitting the road is growing at record speed, the same can’t be said for the number of charging stations. The lack of user-friendly charging infrastructures is one of the biggest deterrents to EV potential buyers. Their rollout across Europe is deeply uneven.

Eurelectric report on smart chargers shows that the Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, and the UK account for 66% of total public chargers whereas ten European countries do not have a single charger per 100 kilometres of road.

Long permitting processes and delays in grid connections are among the main obstacles to a speedier rollout of chargers. Yet, as these barriers progressively fade and the number of chargers ramps up, the biggest hurdle to EV’s full uptake will be balancing distribution grids.

How to ensure a resilient power supply for millions of EVs charging at the same time when renewable generation is low or at times of peak demand? How to better manage the risk of congestion and grid overload? This is when the industry started looking at smart charging, and today you’ll learn all about it.

What is smart charging?

Smart chargers are today the most efficient charging technology for electric vehicles.  A charging station is labeled “smart” when equipped with advanced technologies, such as internet connectivity, data analytics, and machine learning that optimise EV charging by adapting charging cycles to power system conditions and drivers’ needs.

How does smart charging work?

These stations are capable of determining the best time to charge your EV by analysing various factors, such as the time of day, electricity demand, grid capacity, the amount of renewable energy available locally, and customers’ preferences.

Whenever an EV is plugged into a charging station, data on the vehicle’s charging time, speed, and power level is sent via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a cloud-based management platform. Data is then matched and compared to the local grid’s capacity and the energy use of the specific charging site at that given moment. The information gathered is ultimately analysed and shown in real-time by the platform, to help make automated decisions on when it’s best to charge the vehicle.

This way, charging operators can easily track and manage energy usage through the platform, often available on the web as well as through mobile applications. The EV owner, on the other hand, can enjoy a smooth charging experience by monitoring the process and even making payments via the mobile app.

Are there different types of smart chargers?

The answer is YES.

Along with the basic time-of-use charging system – which consists in encouraging consumers to adapt their routines to price signals by communicating when charging is less expensive – there are several other smart chargers that rely on more sophisticated technologies.

  • Unidirectional Controlled Charging (V1G)

    This is the simplest type of smart charging. It allows for increasing or decreasing the rate of charging in one direction. Charging rates and time can be modified dynamically by the EV thanks to data connection, thus minimising costs.
  • Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G)

    A more advanced type of charging, this technology allows the bidirectional transfer of electricity from the grid to the vehicle’s battery storage and viceversa. This system can therefore be applied to provide flexible power and help balance the grid.  

  • Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) and Vehicle-to-Building (V2B)

    These are forms of bidirectional charging where EVs are used as a residential backup power supply in case of power outages or to enable self-consumption of the energy produced on-site from, for instance, rooftop solar panels.

What are the benefits of Smart Charging?

When we look at the multiple benefits of smart charging, it’s easy to understand why this is the best charging option for cities, EV owners, and distribution operators.  


By optimizing the charging process, smart chargers can reduce charging time, improve battery life, and minimize energy costs. Being completely automated, the charging process only requires the driver to input the desired departure time. The system then adjusts to price signals, grid capacity, and battery’s level.

Managing the charging process becomes an easy experience for customers, especially when charging stations are integrated in public buildings or private homes. A home-based smart charging station can allow intelligent and energy-saving management of electricity capacity. For example, smart chargers can pause whenever another domestic appliance has a more urgent energy need, as well as share available power amongst multiple vehicles in an apartment building’s shared parking area.


Another benefit of smart chargers is their ability to integrate with renewable energy sources. With the increasing adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, smart chargers provide an efficient means of charging electric vehicles using clean energy. These chargers can be programmed to prioritise charging during periods of peak renewable energy production, reducing the need for energy from non-renewable sources.

Additionally, smart chargers can be set up to store excess renewable energy in the vehicle's battery, providing a backup power source during power outages. The integration of renewable energy sources and smart chargers offers a sustainable and cost-effective solution to powering electric vehicles.


Electric cars participating in V2G services can function as flexibility assets to help boost the efficiency, reliability, and resilience of electricity networks. Flexibility services such as load balancing, peak shaving and frequency regulation can all ease the integration of growing renewable generation into the grid.

A McKinsey study on EV integration in Germany concludes that when local EV penetration hits 25%, peak load can grow by 30% in the absence of smart charging. Using a V1G strategy and time-of-use tariffs, the peak load increase can be reduced by 16%.

V2G systems can transform any e-vehicle into a wheeled battery able to store renewable generation when there is more wind or sunlight a turbine or PV can handle. In a second moment, this energy can be discharged at times of peak demand when renewable generation is lower than energy demand.  

In this way, any electric driver has the necessary means to move from being a passive customer to an active prosumer, who gets compensated for providing the energy, previously stored, to the grid.

What is needed for smart charging to become mainstream?

As we have seen, intelligent charging solutions can bring several benefits to several agents. However, there are a number of aspects that need to be addressed in order to make smart charging mainstream.

Infrastructure and clear planning

According to the EY Mobility Consumer Index 2022, lack of public charging stations is the main concern of consumers that prevents them from taking the electric turn: 34% of global consumers, did not buy an EV due to the lack of chargers.

An extended infrastructure is therefore crucial to make the most of smart technologies and drive the electrification of the transport sector. This is why the EU ais at providing 1 million accessible charging stations by 2025 and 3 million by 2030.

In deploying these new chargers, it will be crucial to address the current uneven distribution across Europe, with five countries — Germany, France, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands — accounting for 71% of all European charging locations.


The data collected from smart charging stations also represent a crucial component for smart chargers’ correct functioning. Data allows us to gain insights on infrastructural needs and traffic density. It helps understand the capacity of grid networks and make detailed and informed assessment on renewable energy integration suitability.

Therefore, data is a crucial tool to optimise investments where they are most needed and to keep the whole system up to date.

A smart grid

In Europe, demand of electricity for EVs is expected to increase by 200TWh, accounting for approximatively 5% of total demand by 2030.

To cope with increased load and minimise the need for grid upgrades, alternative mechanisms and smarter solutions are emerging. These include network tariffs, including time-of-use (ToU) tariffs to incentivise EV owners to charge their vehicles at off-peak hours. At the end of 2021, 139 ToU tariffs and services were available across Europe, specifically for EV smart charging.

Vehicle to Grid reaches Munich

V2G potential in 2030 paints an encouraging picture

Private and commercial EVs complement each other well as far as V2G power is concerned: While private vehicles are often parked during working hours and can provide flexibility during the day while loads are high, many commercial vehicles can do the same with their bigger batteries when out of use during nights and on weekends.

In our scenario the cumulative charging capacity of private and commercial vehicles adds up to about 200 MW which represents a significant share of Munich’s peak load of 1,000 MW in summertime – about 20%!

Looking into the different vehicle types we see that V2G capacity of private vehicles offers almost 140 MW during workdays, including about 90 MW of private EVs parked at home and 35 MW of private EVs parked at work. Commercial passenger cars and small vans could contribute up to 50 MW during the day. Our scenario indicates a potential V2G capacity of 10 MW at daytime to 90 MW at nighttime for trucks, and up to 20 MW at night for buses. Trucks and buses are particularly attractive due to their large battery capacities, high-powered charging facilities, and their predictable travel schedules.

Overall, commercial vehicles are expected to deliver between 60 MW during the day and 300 MW overnight. The latter will be of particular interest when more renewable in-feed comes online, and electricity needs to be shifted.

Shaving peaks, emissions, and electricity bills

V2G capacity could provide significant flexibility to Munich’s energy system by 2030. It could be used to balance the city’s load profile, and to store excess renewable energy generated in the surrounding region, for example, to compensate for weather changes affecting solar and wind power. Given the strong differences between the metropolitan area and its rural hinterland, Munich is an interesting test case for using V2G to manage renewable generation and load on a regional rather than local scale; indeed, the scenario suggests that in the future, cities could serve as “batteries” for the surrounding regions.

Load balancing with V2G has the advantage of reducing the need for conventional peak load generation capacity, which would reduce CO2 emissions as well as the overall cost of electricity generation. It would also help planners avoid building oversized renewable generation assets, could enhance demand-side flexibility, and would reduce the need to build additional storage facilities. Finally, V2G load balancing can save additional resources by optimizing usage patterns and costs over the lifetime of BEVs.

The ability to store surplus electricity produced from renewable sources would help avoid further waste due to throttling or shutting down of generation capacity – in 2021, Germany’s energy system had to throttle about 5.8 terawatt-hours’ worth of wind power in order to ensure grid stability. Clean electricity stored in distributed BEV batteries could also compensate for renewable generation shortfalls if weather patterns deviate from forecasts, making conventional supply reserves obsolete.

Overall, the potential of V2G is there for the taking; now, it is up to the regulators to seize the opportunity by creating the legal framework as well as incentives that foster the development of this technology. Then, operators will be able to develop business models to offer tariffs on V2G and sell the aggregated power on spot markets.

Looking ahead

Smart charging is a technology that can allow maximum benefit from EV penetration, both in terms of customer’s service and of impact to the grid.

What Europe needs now are services and regulatory measures that make the most of this valuable
resource to help its transport and energy sectors meet their climate targets. In the
context of the current energy crisis in particular, a more broadly established market for smart charging tariffs and services will help to reduce the need for fossil fuels in both the transport and the electricity system.