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Smart Switchgear Solutions for Electric Vehicle Charging

The rapid growth in electric vehicle (EV) usage is changing private transport. Electric vehicle car sales have risen from 4% of total sales in 2020 to 18% in 2023 and will likely rise to 25% in 2024. This means that from a low starting point there has been a phenomenal increase in EVs on the road, from 26 million in 2022 to 40 million in June 2024.


With this huge increase in EVs on the road comes a correlated need for vehicle charging to keep those cars moving. The current fossil fuel gas station network was built, formed, and optimized over a century but the EV charging network has to reach a very high capacity in the space of half a decade. There is naturally a need for efficiency, capacity, and reliability but also an opportunity to incorporate modern technologies that can create the forward-thinking basis for a refueling system that will drive us for the next century and beyond.


In this blog, we’ll examine one of the critical, yet often overlooked, components of EV charging infrastructure: switchgear. Smart switchgear solutions can significantly impact the efficiency, control, and monitoring of EV charging systems, allowing us to build, improve, and adapt them as they’re built.


Electric vehicle charging

Smart Switchgear: What is It?


In general, switchgear is a component used in electrical distribution systems to control current flows. It enables operators to isolate faulty equipment using circuit breakers, fuses, and switches and protects users and other equipment from current overflow. Recently, the incorporation of smart technologies has created automated systems driven by sensors that can react instantaneously to the system’s needs and provide significant feedback data to operators. This gives greater information, and utilizing remote or automated controls improves safety and efficiency while decreasing labor needs.


Benefits of Smart Switchgear for EV Charging


Power Quality Monitoring


Smart switchgear measures incoming power and its status, including current, voltage, power factor, apparent power, active power, and reactive power. This creates a steady stream of real-time, actionable data that allows charging station operators to minimize downtime, optimize charger performance and capacity, and deploy predictive rather than reactive maintenance.


Connected Systems


The EV charging network is already highly connected. Often, accounts are logged into and charges are paid without the user needing to do much more than plug in and open an app. A large system of connected switchgear also feeds into this, providing data on power quality, charging times, and any issues in the immediate charging system or those nearby (or on a user’s route). All this data feeds through to controllers, users, and their vehicles to create a more informed system.


electric vehicle charging station

Improved Safety


Several issues can affect EV charging and potentially harm users or their vehicles. Switchgear plays an essential role in building a trusted charging network and convincing users of the system's safety. Smart switchgear solutions in EV charging stations provide surge protection against sudden surges or fluctuations in power (through faulty equipment or even lightning strikes). Modern switchgear also can monitor for flammable vapors, flooding, and rodents using IoT sensors. 


Increasing Charger Uptime


With the great increase in EVs on the road, charging stations (and the greater charging system) need to have enough capacity to meet the needs of drivers and sudden bottlenecks. This can be greatly impacted by charger downtime due to malfunctions, faulty components, or software misfires. Smart switchgear gives operators a greater range of tools and data for minimizing charger downtime, such as better fault detection and remote problem-solving, meaning capacity at charging stations is kept to a maximum.


Load Management


EV charging stations require significant amounts of power at peak usage times, straining local grids and infrastructure. A primary function of switchgear is load management, and smart switchgear can go further by automatically and dynamically balancing load across various charging points, minimizing fluctuations and ensuring stable supply. Carefully managing load can reduce operational costs and decrease the risk of current overload or short circuits.


Power Cycling


One of the most common causes of charger malfunction or outages is a software or communication failure, and a frequent solution for this is a hard power cycle or reset of the system. While performing a hard reboot would usually require a technician on site, smart switchgear in EV charging stations allows operators to remotely cycle the circuit breakers and reset the system, both reducing downtime and avoiding the need for a maintenance call-out.


Conclusion


Incorporating smart switchgear solutions into EV charging systems is highly beneficial for operators and users. The load management capabilities, real-time data collection and monitoring, ability to solve issues remotely, and minimization of charger downtime all contribute to an efficient and reliable charging system that new car buyers can trust.

At Enercon, we have been creating custom and standard switchgear solutions for clients across the globe and in all spheres of industry for decades. To find out about how we can build and deliver the switchgear you need for your next project, talk to our team here.

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