Electric vehicles (EVs) have been a hot topic at NECA 2023 in Philadelphia. Attendees walking the show floor had the opportunity to check out the latest EV technology on display or attend informative seminars. They also had the opportunity to sit in on the “Simplifying EV Charging Deployment Through Integrated EV Charging” session by Joseph Cappeta of Eaton. His presentation offered contractors advice on what to consider when designing an electrical system to support electric vehicle charging.
Consider the client’s needs
As part of his presentation, Cappeta stressed how important it is to understand the client's needs before the beginning of a project. Before installing EV charging equipment, it’s important to gather information. Key considerations are:
- What is the customer use case? Is it for commercial, multi-family, workplace, etc.?
- What features are important?
- How many chargers?
- What type of charger?
Consider dwell time and power management
Another point Cappeta wanted to make his audience aware of was that, before implanting EV chargers for clients, the “dwell time” should be considered.
Dwell time is the amount of time the electric vehicle will remain in place. Cappeta explained that a Level 2 charger is typically enough power for most needs. For example, if an EV will be parked for a substantial amount of time while at work or at home overnight, a faster charger is not necessary. “A lot of times people want to compare to a DC fast charger because bigger is better,” Cappeta said. “However, many times the larger power they put out is not necessary.”
To maximize the capacity available rather than upgrade infrastructure, contractors should steer their clients to power management to better distribute power for charging needs. There are technologies available that can, according to Cappeta, offer their clients up to $400k in savings compared to the costs of infrastructure upgrades.
By utilizing power management, active load balancing adjusts the output amperage based on the number of vehicles charging and the amount of power they’re consuming. Additionally, most power management software allows the owner to view power allocation and usage directly and offers flexibility while they scale.
Consider the 2023 NEC
Because a variety of factors can impact EV charging times, load management is key. This is why the 2023 NEC had several revisions related to EVs. First, Art. 625 covers the electrical conductors and equipment connecting an electric vehicle to premises wiring for the charging, power, export, or bidirectional current flow.
In addition to Art. 625 as a whole, Sec. 625.42 covers EV charging loads considered continuous loads for service and feeder calculations unless the overall rating can be limited by Sec. 625.42(A) or (B). In addition, Sec. 625.43 requires readily accessible disconnect for EVSE rated greater than 60A or 150V to ground. Sections 625.46, 48, 49, and 60 each address bi-directional power flow as well. Finally, Sec. 625.54 covers requirements for GFCI protection for receptacles installed for the connection of an EV charger.
Cappeta emphasized that it’s important for contractors to be aware of these Code rules as well as local regulations. Specifically, California has gone above the international and national codes to adopt additional policies such as the California Type Evaluation Program (CTEP) and the California Public Utilities Commission. Cappeta said that anyone working in the EV space will want to keep an eye on California as what they implement may be adopted by the rest of the country later on.
Consider Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP)
Cappeta also discussed OCPP noting several benefits such as:
- Provides common and open communication protocol
- Offers consistency with how charging stations work on multiple networks
- Reduces the risk of stranded assets and vendor lock-in
- OCPP version 1.6 is the most common in use, but OCPP 2.0 will be the future
As NECA 2023 rolls on, EV charging will continue to be a hot topic and something that electrical contractors should keep an eye on.