ChargeNode: Large Scale Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions

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As electric vehicles (EVs) become mainstream, more and more are being bought by people living in apartments and other dwellings that are not designed for personal charging stations, as well as by people who need to charge not just at home, but also while at work, when out shopping, or otherwise away from a charging point. But while single outlet charging stations continue to be installed, they are no longer enough to meet the demand and requirements of EV drivers, which means the way we charge our cars is evolving. ChargeNode is at the forefront of this development, building large scale EV charging systems that serve hundreds or even thousands of EV customers and installing them in places like office parks, airports, shopping malls, municipal parking garages, and anywhere else where there is a mix of cars coming and going at different times.

The idea for ChargeNode came to CEO & Founder Kristian Sandahl after he bought his first rechargeable car in 2013. While individual charging outlets were the norm at the time, he could already see that EVs were going to eventually take over fossil fuel car sales, which would mean more and more charging stations would be needed. But with individual charging stations, it’s pretty much a first come, first serve situation – and the person who comes late might not be able to charge at all. This is where having large scale installations with energy optimization would be a game changer.

“I realized that my first EV had a really small battery, and it took just 2-3 hours to charge it,” explains Kristian Sandahl. “At that time, though, there were very few charging stations around, so I saw that in a perfect world you could be charging any number of cars at the same time, such as while people were at work or at the mall. It is a more effective use of resources because we can see when people are at work and how long they will be there and optimize charging based on that so that everyone gets the charge they need.”

In order to do this and connect each car, ChargeNode needs information, such as how much the customer wants to charge and how long the car will be parked. This allows them to allocate energy across the charging system in order to meet the customers’ needs.

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We work with really large facilities, where hundreds of EVs may need charging in the same location – and large scale charging requires a totally different approach. So, we ask our customers two very basic questions: how much would you like to charge and when are you going to use the car? Having this information means that instead of charging hundreds of outlets at a minimum power rate all at the same time, we charge an optimal number of cars in sequence of how they will be used. If the person changes their leaving time or something else happens, we can accommodate that by making adjustments within the system.

Kristian Sandahl CEO & Founder ChargeNode

It’s IoT and connectivity that allows ChargeNode to make those adjustments and optimize energy and charging for their customers. By being connected 24/7 the Chargenode solution allows them to see who is, for example, coming to work at what time and who needs to leave at what time. They get this information through their connected app, which asks customers how much they want to charge and how long the car will be parked, allowing ChargeNode to optimally allocate the energy as needed.

“In terms of IoT, it’s very simple: we need to be online all the time to be able to have a dialogue with the car owner, not just the car,” says Kristian Sandahl. “The car is an asset to put energy into, but in order to do that I need to rely on the owner so he or she can be informed if something occurs, such as a fourth car comes in and needs energy. If that happens we can contact the owners who have cars already charging and say, for example ‘You asked for 20kWh, would you be fine with 15kWh? Or they changed their time of departure and that would need to be fed into the system. If they’re leaving earlier or later than they initially planned, we need that information in order to make sure they are served and that that change works across the system. That means we need to be connected in order to stay informed all the time.

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You could say that other charging stations need to be online every hour or so to send data, while we need to be online 24/7 in order to operate efficiently and effectively. That’s why having reliable connectivity is so important. We chose Tele2 IoT after evaluating a number of vendors. Tele2 IoT was competitively priced and flexible in those discussions, and there was also the considering of the managed logistics with the SIM cards – basically it was a very smooth process for us.

Reliable connectivity not only keeps ChargeNode in touch with their customers, it also allows them to gather data in order to see patterns and how much they change.

“Even if the data is not useful today, it will be useful in the future, because we can see patterns over time, such as how much of an impact energy prices will have if you have a half-full battery or an almost empty battery, along with what’s your comfort level in terms of how much of a charge you want before you worry about the price,” says Kristian Sandahl. “All that data tells us a lot about customer behavior, such as if you have ten percent charging left, you are more reliant on paying more so that you feel comfortable with the charging level.”

In terms of the future, Kristian Sandahl says that charging is all about convenience and people not worrying about how much charging ‘juice’ they’ve got in the tank. And as more and more people buy EVs who don’t live in individual homes where they can charge off their home energy supply, large charging station installations are going to become increasingly important.

“Right now, some apartment complexes are a bit reluctant and slow to implement charging stations,” says Kristian Sandahl. “But they are starting to realize that this is like having fiber internet in their buildings. Even if you don’t worry about charging your car, the residents of your building probably want the possibility to do so, and the person they eventually sell their apartment to will likely also want that possibility, so this is an area where a lot of things can happen.

“EV sales are overtaking fossil fuel car sales, which means more and more charging stations will be needed going forward. People need to think beyond next week or next year and think more long-term in order to be prepared. Installing large scale charging solutions now means not having to retrofit or spend more money later on – and it also means using our limited resources more wisely.”

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