EV Smart Charging Trial

Case Studies Community Innovation

As the prices of electric vehicles (EV) continue to drop and their driving range capabilities increase, it’s expected that EV ownership will rise considerably over the next 30 years and we can expect to see the disruption of new car sales within the next 10 years. Currently there are just under 15,000 EV registrations in Auckland for a total car fleet of more than one million, so the electrification of cars will cause a considerable shift from what we know today. Electricity will replace petrol as the dominant fuel which will, in turn, create new charging demands on the electricity network. 

In order to prepare for this change, Vector has recognised the need to gain a greater understanding of customer EV charging behaviour and the network requirements for at-home charging, as well as look into how smart charging solutions* could help manage peak network demands. This is why over the past two years we have been carrying out an EV Smart Charging Trial, here in Auckland. 

*Smart chargers communicate with the electricity network as well as the vehicles being charged and other smart chargers. Through the transfer and analysis of data, the best charging times can be chosen, times that put less pressure on the network and are most cost-effective for the owner. 

Main objectives
  • Understand more about customers’ EV charging behaviour and preferences
  • Understand more about customers’ perceptions of managed smart charging and show that while using smart charging we can still meet customer expectations and satisfaction levels and
  • Demonstrate how smart charging solutions can provide flexibility for integrating EVs into the network, while ensuring an affordable transition for electrification of transport (by avoiding network peaks).
Details of the trial
  • Participants: 200 EV users across Auckland (including Waiheke) 
  • Duration of trial: 24 months
  • EV charger install: Vector installed an EV smart charger at each participant’s home
Trial output
  • Vector worked together with participants to collect data on their EV charging preferences and get a clearer understanding of how EV smart charging can satisfy their expectations.
  • The trial also studied whether optimising EV charging schedules could help alleviate peak demands on the network. Participants were split into three groups and, over the trial period, were served different smart charging scenarios at different times.

Key findings
Overall the EV Smart Charging Trial demonstrated that smart charging can successfully integrate EVs into the network while delivering customer satisfaction. The trial has also filled a critical gap in international research about how customers feel about managed smart charging.

Customer satisfaction

Customers were consistently happy for us to manage their EV charging within reason. They showed increasing recognition of the better outcomes for society as a whole from smart charging, such as more affordable electrification and decarbonisation. 

Customer behaviour
Customers who aren’t engaged in their power bills are more likely to charge during peak time, while those who are engaged are more likely to charge off-peak. (By engaged customers, we mean those who know about off-peak pricing even if they’re not necessarily signed up to cheaper rates overnight or an ‘hour of free power’)

Managing demand peaks
The EV Smart Charging Trial has shown that clever charging algorithms can reduce electricity demand during peak hours without affecting customer satisfaction. The use of smart chargers will enable an affordable transition for electrification of transport by avoiding network peaks. (This reduces the need for more electricity infrastructure, and the ensuing costs passed on to the consumer.)

Impact of EV charging
Under the EV charging behaviours observed during the trial, the impact of EV charging on the low voltage network* will be 2-7 times more than the impact on the shared high voltage network (including transmission and generation). This is because, within a smaller group of customers, it is more likely they’ll be coming home at the same time and therefore plugging in to charge. For a more detailed graph explaining this, see page 18 in the full presentation (linked below).
*the low voltage network connects residential homes to the network.

Want to know more?
See the full presentation here.

Watch Steve Heinen, Future Network and Planning Manager, and Duncan Head, GM Insights, present at an international webinar sharing our research with an audience all around the world. 

The EV Smart Charging Trial and our Symphony strategy
Vector’s long-term vision is to create a new energy future. This means moving towards a clean energy system while delivering reliability, affordability and choice for customers. This EV Smart Charging Trial is an example of how we’re taking action now to understand what customers will need in the future so we can start delivering solutions that are right for them, for us and for our stakeholders.