How Plug&Charge Might Make EV Charging a Lifesaver

Electric vehicle (EV) ownership has grown steadily over the past decade and has begun exponential growth in the past two years, with 2.1 million vehicles sold globally in 2019. By the end of 2019, there were an estimated 7.2 million EVs on the road.

In this blog, we refer to EV as vehicles that need charging, such as battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Regular hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) are not included in the discussion because they do not need charging. To know more about the different types of EVs, see the following infographic: The Different Types of Electric Vehicles.

Speaking of EVs, the number one concern for most consumers is charging time and range. Presently, battery capacity for sedans range between 40 kWh (Nissan Leaf 2018) to 75 kWh (Tesla Model S 2019). As chargers continue to improve, a typical 43~50 kW rapid charger can add up to 160 km of range in 35 minutes and fill a Model S from empty to full in less than two hours. With 150 kW super rapid chargers rolling out in the market, charging would only take minutes.

However, for many EV owners, gaining access to the charging stations as well as paying for charging become a hassle as they need to sign up for memberships of different charging providers and always carry multiple charging cards. This is where Plug&Charge (PnC) technology comes in. PnC allows for the vehicle and the charger to communicate in real-time, so that the driver can simply plug, charge, and go.

What is Plug&Charge?

Plug&Charge (PnC) is a technological concept outlined in ISO 15118 – the international standard for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) communication interface. Currently applied at many EV charging stations across the globe, it is essentially a secure communication protocol that allows the vehicle to communicate seamlessly with the charging station and the electrical grid.

Generally, two pieces of information are exchanged in these communications – charging-related information and payment-related information. Charging-related information enables the charging station to self-determine how much electricity to fill (or take away), while payment-related information allows for automated financial transactions between the charging station and the driver’s car. This removes the hassle of having to sign up for memberships at different charging providers and having to carry multiple cards at all time. In fact, the driver does not even need to carry a payment card. All they need to do is to register a preferred payment method to their car ahead of time.

Another technical aspect of PnC technology is that it allows for bidirectional charging, so that electricity does not only flow from the charging station to the car, but also from the car back to the charging station and to the electrical grid. This allows for the perfect match between the supply capacity of the electrical grid and the demand from the EVs. We will discuss how later.

Nevertheless, manual charging and conventional identification and payment methods are still supported by charging stations adopting ISO 15118. These methods are referred to as “external identification means (EIM)”.

What Are the Benefits of Bidirectional Charging?

Automated charging and payment help make the EV charging process easier for the driver. But what does bidirectional charging do? With unidirectional chargers, electricity flows from the electrical grid to the vehicle. Bidirectional chargers enable electricity to flow both ways, allowing the vehicle to give electricity back to the grid. The bidirectional charging process between the vehicle and the electrical grid is called vehicle-to-grid (V2G).

Many might ask, why having electricity flow from the cars back to the grids? Indeed, at an individual level, this may seem useless. However, at a regional and national level, this can help balance the supply and demand of energy. The electricity stored in parked EVs is great enough to power a house for several hours. Since an average car is parked (i.e., not in use) for 90% of its lifespan, why not make use of that time to distribute electricity to those in need?

The idea is to have EVs charge during off-peak hours and give back to the grid during peak hours when the demand is high. In simple words, EV can be used like power banks to smartphones, so that parked vehicles can provide the necessary electricity to fill in the demands of peak regions. This would significantly stabilize the electrical grids. Take vehicle-to-home (V2H) for example, the vehicle would charge at night when electricity demand is low, and have the car charge the home during day times when electricity demand is at peak. Many countries are implementing incentives to do so by offering electricity at lower costs during off-peak hours, so that EV owners can save on their energy costs in the long run. In other circumstances, energy credits are offered for the EV owners who give back to the grid, so that EV owners can make some extra money when they are not using their cars.

How Does Plug&Charge Help Save Our World?

PnC will become a crucial component of the energy supply chain when the world transitions to 100% renewable energy. It is not that renewable energies are less reliable, but some types of renewable energies – such as wind and solar power – do not offer constant and steady supply. Natural disasters could also affect the supply of renewable energy. Thus, instead of using non-renewable energy to fill the shortage, these EVs can serve as emergency power banks to the electrical grid during occasional power shortages. As long as the system and infrastructure are managed properly, PnC can help many parts of the world get rid of fossil fuels entirely.

The Role of Cybersecurity in Plug&Charge

The electrical grid is a highly sensitive infrastructure that is critical to daily economic and social activities. This makes them one of the most attractive targets for cybercriminals. Hostile states could attack the grid to trigger power outages. Financially motivated threat actors could attack the grid to steal customers’ personal, financial, and billing data, as well as charging-related information. Therefore, every device that connects to the gird, including EVs and charging stations, must be authenticated in the first place, and authorized before each attempt to connect.

AutoCrypt PnC (formerly known as AutoCrypt V2G) is a mobility security solution that utilizes authentication, authorization, and encryption technologies to establish secured communications between every player involved in the grid, protecting the personal and financial information of the EV owners from leakage, ensuring the proper functioning of the charging and transaction processes by guaranteeing data integrity, and protecting all energy users by safeguarding the power grids from intrusions.

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