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10 Myths about Charging Electric Vehicles in Multi-Unit Dwellings

The subject of charging electric vehicles in multi unit dwellings keeps gaining traction as electric vehicles (EVs) grow in popularity. However, there are several misconceptions that a property manager or resident needs to be aware of so as to ensure the safe and efficient installation of charging infrastructure.

In this article, I will debunk some of the myths surrounding electric vehicle energy management systems (EVEMS) and present solutions on the market that allow controlling and managing charging from a charging station, while protecting the home’s electrical infrastructure. 

Myth: There is a comprehensive definition of EVEMS

Currently, in Canada, there is no comprehensive definition of electric vehicle energy management systems or EVEMS. In the Canadian Code, only three articles deal with the subject: 8-500, 8-106 (10), and 8-106 (11), and in Quebec, EVEMS is only largely discussed in a specification on electricity in the Building Code.

This is why the CSA group is working on a standard (CSA22.2 No.343), which is projected to be introduced by the end of 2024, and which would change the industry as it will define what an EVEMS is. 

RVE products already meet CSA certification and will continue to meet the CSA group standards, but the absence of a clear definition and standard for other electric vehicle energy management systems has allowed many companies to sell products under this label when they are not qualified to do so.

Myth: There are too many different types of EVEMS on the market to choose from

Another common myth is that there are many different types of electric vehicle energy management system products on the market, making them difficult to compare. In reality, the majority of products on the North American market fall into three groups: charge controllers, smart panels, and networked charging stations. And they are relatively easy to distinguish.

  1. Charge Controllers: Enable a direct, or private connection of the charging station to the home’s electrical infrastructure. A common example is the load miser or RVE’s charge controller, the DCC.
  2. Smart Panels: Incorporate advanced monitoring and control technologies into an electrical panel that serves the energy management of electric vehicles. A cutting-edge device in this category is the SMP by RVE, a smart panel for electric vehicles. This intelligent control system, certified by Measurement Canada to measure kilowatt hours (kWh), can be connected to an electrical panel to power 12, 15, 18, or 21 charging stations.
  3. Networked Charging Stations: Connected via an Internet or LTE connection for operation, an EVEMS feature will use cloud-based software to intelligently manage charging. This EVEMS solution requires a stable Wi-Fi connection and recurring costs for a management service.

Myth: Only electric vehicle charging stations or EVSE are energy management capable

Energy management is not limited to charging stations. According to Section 8-106 (11) of the Canadian Code, an EVEMS (Electric Vehicle Energy Management System) can monitor the electrical infrastructure upstream of the charging stations, including the metering center, transformer and the main entrance. This enables more comprehensive and efficient energy management and will give all energy providers and users a more accurate picture of the energy capacity of a building, as well as the energy load a set of charging stations will impose on the grid. This is precisely what RVE products enable, as they are energy management systems whose management is carried out at the infrastructure level, not at the charging station level.

Myth: No need to factor in the fail-safe state of an EVEMS

An EVEMS is not a networked charger or a charge controller alone. It’s a system, a set of components that communicate with each other and monitor and control energy.

It’s crucial to know what happens when that system fails and the consequences of that.

A charge controller like the DCC has a small impact in terms of its fail state and this is why it is a critical part of the system. Using relays to cut power completely, known as “line-side-switching”, 0 A (amperes) will flow when the relay is open because the current has no way to flow. This protects devices upstream of the DCC, like the electrical panel. 

Networked charging stations or EVSE have a fail safe state of 6 to 8 A of power. When a charging station fails, it might be unable to provide energy management and it will still impose a current meaning that an electrical panel (and everything upstream of that) will have to have enough capacity to handle the electrical load of however many chargers enter into the fail safe state. 

All of this information needs to be considered at the time of a load calculation, and using only one product can make a huge difference in terms of infrastructure used and costs.

Myth: Load shedding using line-side switching is unsafe

A common belief is that cutting the power supply to a charging station or EVSE could damage it, or is a dangerous practice. However, thousands of charging stations (EVSE) using current interruption technologies operate, and have operated for almost a decade now, without any problems. Products like RVE’s DCC and smart panels have successfully used current interruption as a solution for years, and the 40,000 electric vehicles driving across North America with the help of an RVE technology proves that. Other companies such as Eaton, Dandy and SimpleSwitch also sell products that provide load shedding through line-side switching.

RVE’s DCC uses load shedding by monitoring energy consumption at an electrical panel in real time and temporarily cutting power when consumption exceeds 80% of the panel’s capacity. The DCC then simply restores charging when panel consumption remains below 80% for more than 15 minutes. This helps charging take place when energy is available, often when electricity is cheaper or when the impact on the grid is reduced. Learn more about the DCC’s energy management  in this article on charging electric vehicles at night

Myth: An EVEMS has no optimal configuration

It’s important to remember that an EVEMS is a system – a set of components that interact with each other. The optimal configuration of an EVEMS refers to the configuration of the entire building infrastructure and charging stations, not just that of an individual component.

An EVEMS can be configured to do both single-tier (or direct power management) and multi-tier or level monitoring. Multi-tier monitoring includes the monitoring of transformers, metering centers, and the service entrance. By using control and monitoring at these multiple levels with products and components using a 0 A failsafe state, it is theoretically possible to supply an unlimited number of charging stations without adding electrical loads to the building capacity. 

In almost all cases, for reasons of cost and resources, the best configuration is one where additional capacity does not need to be added to accommodate EV charging. Multi-tier energy management accommodates the daily needs of users while efficiently functioning within the margin of energy capacity that is available. 

Myth: A building can be considered EV Ready even without the necessary power or an EVEMS

Fully EV-Ready buildings need energy capacity or an energy management system that can deliver a method to reserve capacity.

Being EV-Ready means being ready for as few or as many electric vehicles (EVs) as are determined needed and that buildings cannot be considered EV-Ready if they don’t have energy to supply power to EVSE, or without the installation of basic EVEMS components, such as RVE’s DCC-BOX, which prepares infrastructure to be ready for scalable capacity before committing to charging stations. 

A unique distribution device, the DCC-BOX is a great middle-of-the-road solution because it enables an immediate connection of the main power supply to the charging station power supply without having to install the charging station itself right away. It is specially designed to prepare a multi-unit residential building for the arrival of electric vehicles at a lower cost.

It’s essential to install the basic components of an EVEMS in order to provide the necessary power for all the charging stations. This simplifies future installations and ensures efficient energy management. Of the major components: terminal, wiring and power, having enough power (or what the EVEMS controls and monitors) is clearly most expensive and complex to achieve, hence the importance of installing management devices as early as possible to simplify future installations.

However, when new local EV Ready codes, usually municipal, are published, they only include the preparation of wiring and charging stations, without ever mentioning energy management or the power required, which doesn’t allow real Ev Readiness.

Myth: A plug-in networked charging station can safely manage energy

Charging stations that plug-in pose safety risks if they are unplugged, simple as that. Plugging in a different charging station or other appliance is an obvious problem, but a charging station that is marketed to do load or energy management as a feature will cease its management operation when unplugged.

You can have a set of charging stations communicating with one another using a cloud network and all it takes is for someone to unplug the installed station and replace it with another. The difference of even one charging station when a cloud service is responsible for management, could mean that important capacity data is not being communicated to the algorithm that would manage the total energy of the chargers as a whole. 

All components in the electrical infrastructure need to be suited to what is plugged or wired in at the end-point or terminal. This is why it is essential to use a device apart from the charging station for energy management, so that there is no risk of compromising the security of the energy management system and no risk of jeopardizing the safety of electrical infrastructure. 

Myth: Installing copper cabling at the construction stage accelerates transportation electrification

It’s not always necessary to completely wire a parking lot for electric vehicle charging stations or EVSE in order to be considered EV-Ready, during the period of a building’s construction. What’s needed however is thorough and intelligent planning. 

With good planning, installing empty conduit can be enough for the present (and it’s certainly a more economical and ecological solution!) Installing all the necessary wiring at the time of construction will not make a building EV-ready if it does not have the necessary power or an EVEMS to supply the charging stations. 

Another good fit for preparing infrastructure without overdoing it uses the DCC-BOX for distribution, and only what is necessary in terms of piping and wiring. This privatizes charging infrastructure and makes the subsequent installation of charging stations much more easy to implement and plan in advance (all leading to reduced costs compared with other options).

If in doubt, electrical contractors (and EV specialists at RVE) are able to determine needs in a concrete way, and are able to propose solutions that appropriately fit those needs. 

DCC-BOX installed in the underground garage of a multi-unit residential building.

Empty ducts are installed at the same time as the DCC-BOX.

And if you are a part of a condo board or HOA encountering questions about EV planning, Murbly offers guidance and free consultations to help determine the best strategy for making buildings EV-ready.

Myth: Measurement Canada allows for kilowatt hour (kWh) billing in multi-unit dwellings

Charging by the kilowatt hour (kWh) in multi-unit dwellings gets complex. In 2022, Measurement Canada introduced a dispensation program temporarily exempting commercial charging equipment from having a Measurement Canada certification, effectively changing how billing can be handled. However, this exemption does not apply to residential contexts, but only to fast, public, commercial, shared and pay-per-use charging.

Devices that measure electricity need to be tested and sealed in order to certifiably bill according to the kilowatt hour (a similar process for standardizing gas pumps for accuracy). In Canada, Measurement Canada governs this process. Currently, no residential charging stations have the required Measurement Canada certification to be measuring and billing electricity by the kilowatt hour. 

In order to benefit from the best rates (and to avoid expensive time-based charging or a monthly flat-fee that does not reflect actual use), there are only 2 options. 

The first is to privatize the charging experience by using a charge controller to make a direct connection between an electrical panel and a charging station, using a device like the DCC.

The second option is to use a smart metering panel, such as the SMP smart panel by RVE, which is the only electricity measuring product on the market conceived specifically for electric vehicles that has Measurement Canada certification. Using the SMP overcomes billing concerns by simplifying the connection process, and simultaneously making electricity measurement data more transparent and accurate for homeowners. Thanks to this certification and with registration as an authorized supplier, the SMP enables accurate kWh billing of each connected electric vehicle’s electricity consumption. SMP reports will detail exactly what charge and energy usage Vehicle #1 consumes compared to Vehicle #2 and #3 and so on. All you need to do is register with Measurement Canada as an authorized supplier. 

It’s also important to remember that energy resale is managed not only by Measurement Canada, a federal entity, but also by a provincial entity specific to each province. This means making sure you comply with all applicable requirements.

Overcoming home charging challenges with RVE

Energy management for electric vehicles in multi-dwelling buildings (and even sometimes single-family homes) is complex, but with a clear understanding of market realities and best practices, it’s possible to implement a safe and efficient system.

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Wanna challenge the information above?

If you know of any other myths, or if you’d like to chat with our energy management systems expert, get in touch RVE and I would be delighted to hear from you! We aim to demystify and communicate real solutions for the transportation electrification industry to the public.

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