To help meet climate targets, the world is transitioning from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs). The move to EVs, particularly if they can be recharged with renewable resources, eliminates emissions at the tailpipe and those associated with extracting and refining the fuel for conventional engines. In short, EVs promise a greener future.
There are now over 450 EV models available on the market, and sales are rising. For example, sales of Ford’s EVs are up 102.6 percent year-over-year, while General Motors expects EV profits to be comparable to gas vehicles by 2025, years ahead of schedule.
Government mandates and regulatory incentives have been key drivers of this growth. For instance, the U.S. Government aims to make EVs half of all new vehicles sold by 2030. And the E.U.'s Green Trucking Directive calls for 50 percent toll discounts for EVs from 2023 and air pollution charges for gas-powered vehicles from 2026.
Despite this promising trend, EV fleet deployment schedules around the world remain checkered. According to the Global EV Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA), Europe’s Nordic nations—led by Norway (86 percent) and Iceland (72 percent)—were responsible for the highest EV market penetration globally in 2021, while the U.S. barely made the top 20 with five percent EV sales as a percentage of overall car sales.
One roadblock to faster EV adoption is that EVs are more expensive than conventional vehicles to manufacture, with the extra costs being passed on to the consumer. The good news is that a major part of the manufacturing expense, the large battery packs, is falling quickly, but that still leaves infrastructure and customer experience challenges to address.
The comparatively small network of operational EV charging stations in various countries prevents many people from switching to electric. In the U.K., for example, according to The Guardian newspaper, there were around 37,000 public charging stations in the county at the end of 2022. That sounds impressive, but the network growth is slower than the growth in the EV fleet and far short of the 300,000 chargers needed to keep up with demand by 2030.
And the charging stations that do exist must be kept reliably up and running by maintenance companies. Moreover, companies need to continue investing in smart charging technologies to generate faster charging options and reduce potential grid overload during peak charging times, says analyst ABI Research.
Across Europe, there are some promising signs that infrastructure enhancements are accelerating, with a recent study by Berg Insight forecasting 9.7 million charging points across the continent by 2024.
With these EV charging stations critical to support the steady adoption of EVs, industry observers expect EV charging companies to take advantage of the traction. According to global telco infrastructure leader Ericsson in its Connected EV Charging report, business opportunities abound for these companies and the related ecosystem.
Reliable, secure wireless connectivity to EV charging stations enhances their value proposition. Connectivity enables data to be gathered on how customers use the station and the availability and condition of charging sockets. Data can be relayed to a central platform for staff to respond to disruptions or problems remotely.
Avoiding potential technical issues can improve maintenance and uptime at the electrical outlet. It can also help charging companies plan when and where to scale their charging network based on demand. Data gathered from remote monitoring can even be used to provide real-time visibility of all stations to drivers directly, helping them map out their journey.
Cellular IoT will be a driving force for the fledgling EV charging market, according to the Ericsson report, which says LTE-M/NB-IoT connectivity can help EV charging companies manage the complex ecosystem, including drivers, connectivity providers, utility companies, automotive OEMs, and asset owners like parking operators, cities, and homeowners.
The Ericsson study examined a hypothetical, mid-sized EV charging company in Europe. The study concluded that the company could increase revenues by 40 percent through interoperable services by implementing connected EV charging stations. For example, connected backend systems would allow user profiles, payment methods, and authorization to make it easier for drivers to charge their cars at different stations from different service providers—like using a Tesla EV charger to charge a Volkswagen EV—without registering as a new user.
The same company could also decrease operational costs in annual monitoring by 15 percent thanks to IoT-enabled remote monitoring, measured as a share of total revenues. With, for example, 6,000 connected charging stations to operate, this would be expected to yield roughly €1.3 million ($1.4 million) of total savings.
Cellular IoT is not the only wireless tech with a role to play in the future of EV charging. By seamlessly integrating Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi and cellular devices—using software design tools such as Nordic’s nRF Connect SDK—developers can create innovative charging solutions that meet the evolving needs of the EV industry. The combination of complementary wireless technologies also enables a flexible approach for EV charging stations.
One solution, the Nordic nRF9160 SiP- and nRF52840 SoC-powered Enua Charge – a smart, portable EV charger employing LTE-M and Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity—allows EV owners to remotely charge their vehicles at multiple locations with a single charger while also enabling parking operators to monitor EV recharging stations remotely.
Another example, India-based Intellicar’s Nordic nRF52833 SoC-powered Flashµ gateway with a cellular modem, is a multiprotocol edge intelligence solution developed for the EV value chain. The solution enables customers to deploy edge analytics on their remote assets including batteries, swap stations, charging infrastructure and vehicles. The Nordic SoC provides seamless Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity for connecting assets and data to the cloud without cellular coverage.
The use of multiple wireless technologies will also prove beneficial beyond the highway for the times when EV owners are charging their cars at home.
Using Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi and Cellular IoT connectivity, EV charging companies will be much better equipped to manage the complex EV ecosystem, encouraging consumers to embrace emission-free transport.
This article was first published on Nordic's Get Connected Blog.