Electric Vehicle Charging: Outlining the Groundwork
January 30, 2023
As electric vehicle (EV) growth in Australia continues to rise, EV charging is quickly becoming a topical issue in the strata environment. The National Construction Code was recently changed to mandate that all new apartment developments be built with access to EV charging in the car park. It’s important that existing apartment buildings also start preparing for the arrival of EVs en-masse and the aim of this series of articles is to assist in understanding the steps involved in making your building EV ready.
Our first article looking into EV charging discussed 3 main questions that commonly get asked by strata committees and managers. We introduced three key technologies to facilitate EV charging in apartment settings:
- Load management systems
- Billing software
- Smart EV chargers
There are many ways these three technologies can be used to provide EV charging solutions in apartments. Before we can dive into common solutions, we need to establish the foundation of apartment charging – the initial investigation and work required to confirm the feasibility of the installation and operation of an EV charging station. This comprises of some building power basics, spare power analysis, power monitoring and how this may influence budget costs.
As we mentioned in our first article, EV chargers draw a significant amount of power. We discussed how load management systems ensure EV chargers can operate safely within the electrical limits of the building, but how do you know if you need a load management system from day one?
Building Power Basics
Your building will have a power supply agreement with the relevant power authority in your area. This power supply agreement details the amount of power your building is allocated from the grid, which cannot be exceeded. Your building will also have a historical maximum power demand – this is the maximum power that has been drawn from the grid at any one moment in time.
The spare power available for EV charging can be calculated via a simple formula:
Spare power available = power supply agreement – maximum power demand
Calculating the spare power available at your building is the first step to understanding your EV charging options and developing a plan for your building. If you know the spare power available you might be able to install chargers without the need for a load management system at all. You might also find that you have very little spare power, and that the installation of any EV chargers will push you above your power supply agreement, at which point it becomes important to be very careful and strict with the connection of EV chargers at your building.
Spare Power Analysis
To calculate the spare power alluded to above, we need to identify the two following items:
- The power supply agreement – this can be found out from your power authority but often there is a fee associated with obtaining this information.
- The maximum power demand – this can be determined in a number of ways, but the most common and simplest methods are:
- An analysis of available meter data – this is typically only possible for buildings with an embedded network where there is a meter that records the entire site energy consumption
- Installation of a power monitoring device
As the most common approach, we will detail the installation of power monitoring devices.
The lowest cost approach to power monitoring is to install a power monitoring device for a period of a week. Power monitoring devices can record power at very short intervals (1-second) which provides a very accurate depiction of the power used across the period of measurement. These power monitoring devices are expensive and are typically only installed for a period of 1-week before being removed. This leaves you with a very accurate power profile of your building, but only over a short time period.
As power monitoring runs for a 1-to-2-week period, it may be influenced by the season in which it is performed. In summer months it will be most accurate, but it is possible to add a bit of buffer to account for this variation if it is measured in other months.
As a result of power monitoring, conclusions can be drawn about the maximum power demand at the building, which enables more insight into the viable EV charging solutions that can be considered.
A more sophisticated approach to power monitoring is available in the form of load management systems. Given a load management system will be required at some point in your building’s EV charging journey, you can save on costs in the long run and install a load management system from day one to perform power monitoring. This has the benefit of providing ongoing reporting of the power available on site, meaning you have more reliable information from which to make decisions around EV charging. This ongoing power reporting may also be useful for other energy projects you’re considering.
Power monitoring and load management system costs are dependent on a few factors. For instance, if the installation of equipment requires the power to be isolated, the cost will be higher than if it does not need to be isolated. Your electrician or EV charging supplier will be able to work with you to determine if this is required and provide a firm quote for either option. Another example, is If your building has an embedded network, then there will likely be little-to-no cost for a power analysis if you’re able to obtain the gate meter interval data.
What Comes Next?
Once the Spare Power Analysis has been performed, you’ll have the information required to start considering suitable EV charging options in more detail. We’ll perform a deeper dive into the three most common EV charging solutions in our next article and discuss the pros and cons of each option, as well as providing budget costs that Strata Committees and owners can expect to pay.
This article was contributed Tait Bonito, JET Charge.
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