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EV Charging Infrastructure: Understanding the Iceberg

Just like an iceberg floating in the vast ocean, there is more beneath the surface than you might realize when it comes to installing and operating electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Knowing the underlying components is important to achieving your organization’s desired outcomes. Choosing the right partners to help navigate these waters is also critical to make your job easier today and in the future.

EV Charging: Iceberg shown to represent what's below the surface

As the world accelerates towards more sustainable transportation solutions, EVs have emerged as a key player in reducing carbon emissions and helping organizations operate more efficiently and effectively. The continued growth and widespread adoption of EVs relies heavily on the development of reliable and accessible charging infrastructure. 

In this blog, we delve into the core components below the surface - focusing on compliance, reliability, scalability, energy management, hardware, software, and maintenance. We’ll start from the bottom and work our way up to the visible tip of the iceberg.

For a deeper dive, you can view the full one-hour webinar recording of Ryan Kennedy, Atom Power Co-founder, discussing this in more detail. (You’ll need to register for this free Fleet Owner webinar to view the recording.) We've included some brief clips from it below.

[We promise this blog contains no puns related to the Titanic or any further marine/maritime references. Feel free to come up with some on your own though if you like.] 

1. Compliance with Codes, Standards, & AHJs

Ensuring compliance with both national and local regulations, codes, standards, and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) is paramount in the implementation of EV charging infrastructure. Adhering to safety standards not only protects users but also fosters trust in the technology. Collaboration with regulatory bodies and thorough understanding of requirements are essential for seamless deployment.

This is important for installations of any size, but especially for large-scale, energy managed systems.

What's at stake?

No Permit &/or No Inspection = No Project

(or at least long delays and unnecessary headaches)

From the very first step, engaging the right partners with relevant expertise and experience to guide you through this will make all the difference.

2. Reliable & Fail-Safe On-Premise Controls

Reliability is non-negotiable when it comes to EV charging infrastructure. Having both on-premise control and cloud connectivity is needed to ensure high reliability. A majority of products are only connected via the cloud. On-premise, hard-wired control systems are required for safety-critical energy management.

On-premise controls:

  1. Provide a fail-safe mechanism in case the cloud goes down

  2. Ensure everything is still functioning independently of connectivity

Which is essential to mitigate potential downtime, enhance user experience, and provide backup data storage for:

  • ESG reporting

  • Facility profiles

  • Dynamic energy management

Watch this brief clip to learn more about on-premise controls.

3. Scalable, Highly Secure Cloud Infrastructure

The scalability of EV charging infrastructure is imperative to accommodate the growing demand for electric mobility. Leveraging highly secure cloud infrastructure enables remote management, access control, revenue collection, monitoring & reporting, energy management, and more. Robust cybersecurity measures safeguard against potential threats, ensuring data integrity and user privacy. Some questions to consider include:

How scalable is the cloud infrastructure by:

  • Cost effectiveness?

  • API integration (BMS, metering systems)?

  • Secured 3rd party assessments of software and company operations?

Does it speak to your: 

  • Building Management Systems (BMS)? 

  • Fleet telematics provider? 

  • Utility?

  • Maintenance personnel?

It’s important to know the cybersecurity criteria and standards that charging providers are following - such as FedRAMP, UL, or others. Avoid companies who claim to “have it all solved” because cybersecurity is an ongoing, perpetual evolution and adaptation. 

4. Energy Management - SAFETY CRITICAL

Safety is of the utmost importance in energy management systems for EV charging. Implementing safety-critical protocols and technologies prevents overloading, overheating, and other hazards.

What if I don’t have the electrical capacity to add all of the ports I want? 

You can install more ports than you have capacity for, but that then becomes a safety critical application because what happens if it fails…the electrical system could be overloaded causing a potential of fire and business disruption.

Intelligence and controls that optimize charging output based on the facility and utility capacity are minimum requirements for safety critical energy management. These include:

  • Fail-safe on-premise controls

  • Feedback from the metering system within the building(s) 

From a facilities management perspective, think of this as Day 1 CapEx cost savings because you will be able to avoid, or at least minimize, the need to upgrade your facility or utility infrastructure.

5. Energy Management - DYNAMIC

Dynamic energy management optimizes charging sessions based on various factors, including grid load, energy prices, and user preferences. Smart charging can prioritize renewable energy sources, reduce operational costs, and minimize utility peak demand charges. 

Intelligence and controls are needed that optimize charging output based on available demand from the utility - lowering peak demand costs, which otherwise could potentially increase your utility bill by 25% - 50%. This requires multiple real-time metering feedback loops and communication protocols. 

 This allows you to adjust the charging rate to your vehicles in real-time. 

From a facilities management perspective, think of this as Day 2 OpEx cost savings due to a reduction or altogether avoidance of utility peak demand charges.

Watch this brief clip to learn more about energy management.

6. Charging Hardware

Look for highly reliable, scalable charging hardware that ideally installs the same way on every site. Again, engaging the right partners with relevant expertise and experience is critical. They will help to assess your specific needs, then design and install a system that’s right for you. The right solution may be all Level 2 chargers, all Level 3 (DC Fast Chargers), or a mix of the two. 

You may be surprised that Level 2 chargers could be the right hardware for a majority of your charging needs. This includes fleet charging, depending on your average daily routes, dwell times, and if overnight charging is an option. According to data from Atlas Public Policy, 56% of fleet vehicles in the U.S. travel fewer than 100 miles per trip - today’s EVs can cover far more range than that on a single charge.

Level 2 is ideal for workplace charging because of the relative lower hardware costs and the longer dwell time of your employees while at work. Level 2 is also best-suited for most multi-family unit dwelling (MUD) needs.

There are definitely factors that warrant DC Fast Charging, such as longer routes, shorter dwell times, and vehicle batteries with higher capacity and charging rates.

For government organizations (municipal, county, state, federal), have your needs assessed to see which solution is right for your operations and your community.

An overview of Level1, Level 2, and DC Fast Chargers. 

Differences in EV charging levels 1-3

7. Maintenance Availability & Costs

Uptime ultimately lands on how quickly hardware and/or software can be fixed if it breaks.  Minimizing downtime and optimizing resource utilization reduce maintenance costs and enhance the overall lifecycle of charging infrastructure.

Some questions to consider: 

  • First, what is a charging provider’s uptime metrics? If highly reliable, fewer maintenance concerns and costs are likely over the long-term. 

  • What is the pool of maintenance resources and how fast are they?

  • What is the provider’s standard SLA (service level agreement)? 

  • What are the most common failure points?

  • How expensive are those to repair? 

  • Could your own company’s maintenance team handle many of these on their own? Or are specialists needed? 

Some charging companies’ monitoring systems may actually identify and even be able to resolve certain downtime issues before you’re even aware of them. 

Watch this brief clip to learn more about differences in maintenance needs.

8. Plug-In

All of this brings us to the tip of the iceberg: plugging in your EVs. By collaborating with the right partners along this journey, this visible piece of the EV Charging Iceberg should be seamless. You’ll know what went into the process to get to this point, the end users may not be aware, but both they and you will trust it and enjoy the benefits. 

EV Charging Uptime

In the end, EV charging uptime is by far the most important metric in gauging the success and reliability of a charging system.

Uptime is a factor of components 2 through 7 above and utility uptime.

Watch this brief clip to learn more about uptime.

Wrapping It Up

The evolution of EV charging infrastructure represents a pivotal step towards a more sustainable future - helping individuals, organizations, and our planet. By prioritizing compliance, reliability, scalability, energy management, hardware quality, maintenance, and accessibility, stakeholders can accelerate the transition to electric mobility. Embracing innovation and collaboration will pave the way for a comprehensive charging infrastructure that meets the needs of today and tomorrow.

If you want to learn more, get started, or keep going on your electrification journey, contact us to collaborate on a solution that’s right for you today and tomorrow. 


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