Plug in your electric car and let it handle the rest of the process from there, thanks to smart charging. Renault has developed technologies that can regulate charging to reduce costs, favour low-carbon energy sources and support the overall stability of the electricity grid.
In the realm of combustion engines, refuelling is a one-way street: you top up by purchasing your petrol at the price posted. It’s a simple, basic operation, but one with no real optimisation options beyond comparing the prices between different filling stations.
The situation changes when you switch to electric, since every time you park your vehicle becomes a potential chance to recharge. The challenge becomes figuring out how to leverage those moments to optimise energy consumption, reduce costs and accelerate energy transition. Such is the goal of smart charging.
Renault electric vehicles’ connectivity allows charging to be triggered or stopped depending on the rate charged by the electricity supplier or the availability of electricity on the grid. Thus the driver need not worry about studying the potential changes in the rate over time to start charging: he simply plugs in his car and sets the desired time to stop charging in the Renault Z.E. application. Everything then happens out of sight and mind.
While felt at the individual level, the benefits of smart charging also extend to the public at large. The car will, for example, activate charging when the grid operators report an output surplus to it. Conversely, it will interrupt the process in the case of demand exceeding supply, so as to avoid worsening the deficit. By doing so, it participates in balancing the grid.
It also helps to absorb electricity from intermittent and renewable energy sources such as solar or wind, by storing it as soon as it is produced.
Saving money is good, but making money is better! An application like Z.E. Smart Charge, developed by Renault, knows how to trigger or interrupt charging to maintain a balance, in real time, between the production and consumption of energy over the grid.
The driver plugs in his vehicle when he gets home, and programs his departure time in the Z.E. Smart Charge app, easily and one time only. From there, the application takes over, recharging the vehicle based on the availability of electricity on the grid, while ensuring the desired level of operating range is reached.
In the Netherlands, where the Renault Z.E. Smart Charge application has been available since the end of 2017, drivers of Renault ZOE cars are paid for their contribution to the electrical grid’s balance. In other words, the flexibility they allow for when charging is rewarded. In some cases, the amount earned can reach the equivalent of a full recharge per month, and that’s just the beginning.
The next step? That would be bi-directional charging, which will allow an electric car to return part of the electricity stored in its battery to the grid. Whereas smart charging helps to absorb production peaks, reversibility helps to not only relieve the grid during consumption peaks, but also to store renewable electricity produced locally to promote self-consumption.
Thus the electric car truly becomes a link in the electric grid network. It acts as a temporary energy reserve.
As a pioneer and the European leader in the field of electric cars, Renault has brought the main players of the energy world together to create conditions favourable to the democratisation of these technologies. Electricity suppliers, distribution or transportation networks, local communities, public authorities: all the stakeholders must be involved to meet the challenges of green mobility.
Several pilot programmes have demonstrated this strong commitment throughout Europe. Need an example? Twenty cars will be made available to the inhabitants of Porto Santo, in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira. They will test smart charging on a daily basis as part of an experiment conducted in partnership with the company that produces, transports and distributes electricity on the island. In Utrecht, in the Netherlands, a network of solar panels installed on the roofs of buildings supplies the energy for and recharges a fleet of approximately 150 ZOEs made available to residents.
These full-scale tests are being conducted to measure the uses and refine the operation of the algorithms that will draw or inject energy into the grid as needed, so that these technological advances will have the greatest benefit possible in the future.