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The Difference Between Smart Charging and Managed Charging


October 19, 2021


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Demand charging. Automated load management. Systems integration. Adaptive charging. Remote management.  With the electrification movement well underway, fleets are being introduced to a whole new glossary of terms and an ever-evolving list of key considerations for selecting vehicle technology, charging infrastructure, and route optimization tools. Relative to charging their fleets, organizations are tasked with optimizing fleet charging costs – designed as a choice between smart or managed charging technology. What’s the difference you ask? Keep reading below to find out.

Level-setting: Smart Charging Defined

When people hear the term ‘smart charging’, often what they envision are the abilities that managed charging offers, though, that’s not the case. Simply put, smart charging refers to the actual charger hardware for electric vehicles (EVs)  – the physical interface. While the intent is not to be deceptive, ‘smart’ simply means the charging technology has a Wi-Fi connection, enabling passive visibility to the data. This can provide high-level information such as the cost a fleet is paying for electricity, the amount of energy being pulled, or vehicles’ current state of charge. However, what it does not allow for, is for fleets to act on that data.

As a result, customers are unable to manage their energy costs and usage without constant monitoring, manually updating schedules, and resorting to continual hands-on action. Subsequently, fleets are often left to charge during peak energy intervals – paying significantly more for their power. On top of that, as organizations expand their EV initiatives, utilities often need to step in. Each charging station has a pre-allocated power load; however, as fleets grow, utilities may require the station to undergo a service upgrade, so it doesn’t overburden the grid. While it may seem simple in nature, this process can take between 12-24 months and cost upwards of millions of dollars to complete.

After learning about the costs that can quickly compound and the complexities of fleet management, many fleets opt-out of electrification – deciding it’s not a fit for their operations. However, that doesn’t need to be the case. With managed charging, scaling your fleet for continued growth doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and neither does your electricity spend.

Managed Charging: The Cost Saving Difference

While managed charging certainly incorporates the simple functionality of smart charging, it goes beyond those limitations to provide real value to fleets. Intelligent charge management systems (CMS), such as our partner AMPLY Power’s OMEGA software, feature cloud-based technology and onsite hardware that connects to the EV chargers, auxiliary meter, vehicle telematics/management tools, and the respective local utility. This allows charging operations to be automated and optimized – as the software can navigate electricity costs that fluctuate on an hourly basis and orchestrate charging sessions to ensure vehicles are charged and ready when needed.

Managed charging gives organizations access to price optimization, without the customer ever needing to monitor the price volatility of electricity or perform hands-on operations. Compared to unmanaged charging or smart chargers, managed charging can save fleets up to 40% on electricity for their EV fleet – particularly when using AMPLY Power’s proprietary software.

But, with most fleets interested in the scalability of their operations, the question remains: can managed charging help avoid those cost- and time-prohibitive utility service site upgrades? The answer: it depends on the provider.

Automated Load Management Technology: The Missing Link

As noted above, as utilities learn your EV fleet is expanding in size, they may require service upgrades to increase your power load allotment. However, there’s a second option if your charge management provider offers automated load management technology.

AMPLY Power’s fleet customers can avoid lengthy service upgrades. Through their OMEGA CMS, organizations can increase their charger capacity two-fold without needing service upgrades. Utilities recognize that AMPLY’s OMEGA system includes automated load management (ALM), also referred to as dynamic load management (DLM), technology. Simply put, this means OMEGA monitors site and charger load profiles, managing a fleet’s chargers and charge sessions to avoid service upgrades. This is all done by ensuring the maximum power threshold is never surpassed by automatically dimming and turning of chargers at strategic intervals – while still making sure your fleet is charged for when you need it.

Further Considerations in EV Partner Selection

In your journey to select an EV infrastructure provider, you now know the importance of three key components that fully managed charging offers:

  1. Gain visibility to your charging metrics as well as the ability to have dynamic systems act on the data – leveraging cloud-based technology to perform remote system optimizations
  2. Avoid demand charges and experience a cost-optimized charging experience, decreasing your total cost of ownership and enabling extra funds to go towards scaling your operations
  3. Deploy systems with automated load management – avoiding costly service upgrades and ensuring you never surpass your allotted power threshold

But – there’s more than just that. Customers using AMPLY Power’s managed charging platform gain access to two additional key features. As more fleets look to build resilience measures into their operations, they can rest easy knowing any distributed energy resource can be seamlessly integrated into their OMEGA software and benefit from the same functionality. And, as all roads lead back to financials, the OMEGA software actively tracks and exports data necessary for environmental commodity and compliance reporting programs, such as California’s LCFS and Oregon’s CFP – preventing fleet operators from having to manually collect and compile data and allowing them to benefit from ease of fuel credit monetization.

“Managed charging technology, such as OMEGA, derives significant value for fleets – and, improves their overall total cost of ownership. When you’re able to pair software that monitors and actively responds to the charger, grid, and vehicle at strategic intervals with additive revenue from credit generation, you can grow your fleet at scale cost-effectively.”

– John Felts, U.S. Gain

While use of the terminology ‘smart charging’ may vary on a case-to-case basis, the additive value managed charging offers remains constant. If your organization is looking to transition to EV charging for some or all of your fleet vehicles, but still has questions on how managed charging can streamline your experience, reach out!

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