Fleet EV Demand Response

If you have spent any time in the south, you know Waffle House.  The 24/7 chain has a loyal following.  They also have a unique way of dealing with their popularity.  When customer counts begin to exceed a restaurant’s capacity, Waffle House doesn’t enlarge that restaurant.  Instead, they build another one.  Across the street.  Or down the block.  There are highway exits with Waffle House restaurants on all four corners of the intersection.

Waffle House does this because people all like to eat at the same time and a restaurant only has so much capacity.  Hungry people will go to another restaurant if there’s no room at the Waffle House.

Your electric utility is like Waffle House.  They are popular and, on occasion, they face more demand than they have the capacity to serve.  That’s why they created Demand Response (DR) programs.  The idea behind utility Demand Response programs is very simple: Your utility offers you a financial incentive to shift your usage of power (kW) to another time.  They’re asking you to eat later.  And they’ll make it worth your while to do so.

EV Demand Response Smart ChargingThe primary responsibility of every EV Fleet Manager is to ensure that every electric vehicle in the fleet is ready to go when needed.  The Fleet Manager’s number two responsibility, and the one that warms every CFO’s heart, is to optimize the cost of EV fleet charging.  The EV Fleet Manager’s dream is a smart charging control platform that makes it possible to fulfill both of those responsibilities without having to spend time micro-managing charging settings – a true “set-it-and-forget-it” solution.

Your EV fleet smart charging control platform should give you the ability to execute a charging strategy which lowers the cost of EV fleet charging.  Your fleet smart charging control platform should provide the flexibility to shift your charging patterns to take advantage of electricity cost reductions during certain periods.

There are multiple ways in which a utility can create incentives to change charging behavior.  By offering cheaper rates to charge at certain times or charging a premium for fast charging, utilities signal when and how they want EV fleet operators to charge their vehicles.  Research studies and actual usage data confirm that utility pricing programs change consumer behavior.  Demand Response programs are one such pricing signal – one that a savvy EV Fleet Manager can use to his or her advantage.

EV fleet charging is uniquely able to leverage DR programs.  That leverage comes from the fact that the energy is stored in an EV isn’t used immediately.  If you need to cool your building on a sweltering summer day, you can’t store electricity in your AC system the night before and draw on it when the sun is scorching.  Your cooling system needs the juice when the pavement is melting and uses it immediately.  In contrast, you can put electricity in your electric vehicles at a later time, and the utility will pay you to do so.  That is the essence of a DR program.

Most utility DR programs pay a customer for two things: 1) reducing usage over current or historical levels when called; and 2) committing to be available and successfully demonstrating the ability to respond.  The first payment is for actually responding when called.  The second payment offsets the cost of being ready to respond when a DR program kicks in.  Think Texas winter power grid failure or California summer rolling brownouts.  In many cases, the second payment (ability to respond) offers a greater payback than the first (actually responding) because of the infrequency of reduction requests.

So, there’s money to be saved by the savvy Feet Manager.  Sign me up.

But things are never as easy or simple as they seem.  Leveraging DR programs to optimize charging costs requires flexibility for several reasons.  First and foremost, a DR program could span all or part of your limited charging window.  You have a finite time to get your EVs charged and back on the road.  Your utility has a finite time period during which they want you to reduce usage.  Irresistible force meets immovable object.

Or does it?

The best smart charging control platforms give a Fleet Manager the ability to determine how your site responds during DR programs.  Your fleet charge management system should be able to configure each charger individually.  Some chargers may be needed whenever a vehicle is plugged in, while others can easily shed load.  The best smart charging control platforms automatically adjust charging after a DR event ends t

To ensure all vehicles are charged and ready when you need them.  EVauto’s OpenADR standard includes 3 levels of response so you can configure your individual chargers to different types of DR programs, minimizing the impact your fleet charging and maximizing the impact on your bottom line.

A smart EV charging control system allows you to tailor when you charge and how fast your charge.  You can adopt one of several charging approaches.  A Demand Limiting approach levels charging over the entire time your EVs are onsite to reduce load.  An Off-Peak approach emphasizes shifting charging to times when the kWh cost is lower.  While this approach saves money, in the real world it is not always possible or advisable, given your charging needs and infrastructure.  DR programs give customers that can’t avoid peak time charging another way to reduce utility costs.

But DR program rules change.  And when they do, your smart charging control system should be able to shift seamlessly to profit from the new rules while still executing your preferred charging approach.  In our experience, Fleet Managers sometimes need to shift between charging approaches as the day-to-day demands on their EV fleets change and as DR programs come and go.  The best fleet charging control platforms are flexible enough to make those changes quickly and seamlessly.

That flexibility gives you the ability to add capitalizing on DR programs to your arsenal of fleet charging approaches, and when you can do that, you can optimize the cost of charging your EV fleet.  And when that happens, you become both an operations star and a financial star.

It’s like getting your hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered.

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