EVs and smart buildings: how do we get them to work together?

Fri, 2016-03-18 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

It's a given that the number of electric vehicles on the road will grow. They're growing in popularity with commuters and many companies are integrating them into their fleets. But it does put building operators and energy managers in a position they haven't had to deal with before: charging station operators. And that new chore raises several questions.

"From a building management's perspective there are a lot of questions," explained Pierre Sacré, Director of Electric Vehicle Solutions for Schneider Electric North America. For example "What do these charging networks look like? How much load will I add? Do we have to have a (separate) charging station network?"

As a way to begin answering those questions, Council Lead Partners AT&T and Schneider Electric introduced a proof of concept at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. What they envision is a way to integrating charging stations into the day-to-day operations of commercial and other garage-equipped buildings and its electrical system.

How? It depends on data… LOTS of data
The companies say the way to accomplish those goals is to build an infrastructure that can collect and process massive amounts of data. That's where the Internet of Things, big data analytics and the cloud come in.

Executive Director of Product Marketing Management in IoT Solutions at AT&T Mobeen Khan was quoted in Energy Manager Today as visualizing the ecosystem of IoT, cloud and big data analytics as horizontal. Charging stations, sensors that dim lights in a room no one is using and other devices are connected. For example, turning off the lights in a specific office would alert the network that a specific car will be used soon.

That connectivity, what Khan says he would call "horizontal platforms," may be able to look at an employee's office calendar, determine when the employee has a meeting, where it is located and charge his or her car as much or as little as necessary. The platform would be able to manage charging for all EVs in the building's parking garage during the day, as well as charging levels.

There is no timetable now for when the solution -- powered by technologies from both companies -- will reach the marketplace. And both Schneider  Electric and AT&T personnel working on the project realize more questions will arise as it evolves from concept to solution.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.