Park – charge – get started

The future of AC charging for electric vehicles has already begun on the A6 motorway near Heilbronn in Germany: The "smopi" charging system features an intelligent, central charging cabinet solution instead of multiple distributed individual systems.

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The project

A simple and secure charging cabinet solution

With the new "smopi" charging park, smopi® - Multi Chargepoint Solution GmbH shows how it's done: The same-named system provides an efficient and future-proof charging infrastructure for e-mobility in parking garages, hotels, and company and fleet parking lots – "wherever vehicles are parked for a few hours a day in public or semi-public areas," says Lukas Schlipf, founder and CEO of the smopi® - Multi Chargepoint Solution GmbH start-up.

An intelligent charging system charges up to 10 vehicles at the same time – including load, charging and energy management

Prospective customers have recently been able to see how convenient smopi is for themselves: namely in a public charging park with ten AC charging points that smopi® - Multi Chargepoint Solution GmbH opened right next to the company headquarters in Bretzfeld, Baden-Wuerttemberg on the A6 motorway. "Out of conviction, we want to make electromobility available to many as quickly as possible. This is why our charging park is, of course, open to the public, which means that everyone can charge their e-vehicle there quickly and easily," Lukas Schlipf explains. The special feature: The system can supply and monitor up to 10 charging points with power from just one central panel. In doing so, smopi determines the optimal charging speed, thus making best use of the available energy output. Another highlight: The system ensures charging in compliance with calibration regulations. The customer can therefore be sure that he or she is only paying for the amount of electricity actually drawn.

The idea is simple: We take the charging infrastructure and put it in a control cabinet.
Lukas Schlipf, founder and CEO of the start-up smopi® - Multi Chargepoint Solution GmbH
The solution

Intelligence replaces copper

As a spin-off from the control cabinet manufacturer Gebauer Elektrotechnik, entering the market for AC charging solutions entailed a certain degree of risk for the smopi® - Multi Chargepoint Solution GmbH. On the other hand, the start-up could rely on a wealth of experience and good partners. The result: A finely tuned solution that not only saves performance paths, but also operating and maintenance costs – "Intelligence instead of copper," says Lukas Schlipf.

An integrated solution of hardware and software distributes the power to up to 10 AC charging points

Up until just over two years ago, Gebauer mainly installed "classic" charging solutions such as individual, distributed wall boxes – "but we were often requested to implement more than one charging station. As a result, the projects became increasingly complex – more cable routes were needed, a separate power distribution system. So we came up with the idea of plugging the charging infrastructure into a single control cabinet and developing our own solution for multi-point AC charging," Lukas Schlipf explains. "This saves cable runs, and makes the system more robust, since only the actual charging point is public, and also makes maintenance and operation much easier." But what sounds simple also involved several hurdles that the company from Bretzfeld had to overcome. "One sticking point was the connection to the backend, that is the systems of the mobility service providers for billing. A second, even more important point, concerned the implementation of the legal calibration requirements."

The multi-point AC charging solution that complies with calibration law was developed and implemented together with Siemens

"It would have been very difficult for us alone," Schlipf openly admits – but he and his team could count on support from Siemens. "One special highlight was definitely the moment when we and Siemens established the first stable connection to the backend," he says. One of the central requirements was thus met: The transparent and data-secure backend gives a clear overview of charging times and duration, as well as tariffs and their limits. The companies also jointly developed an intelligent solution for the second core task: a system that meets all the requirements of measurement and calibration law for charging stations and can nevertheless be flexibly expanded. This is made possible by two SIMATIC ET 200SP Open Controllers – one sealed controller for data collection in compliance with calibration law, and a second one for controlling the charging processes. The second controller can therefore be supplied with updates and expanded, even after installation, without any legal effects on calibration – "as far as I know, a unique solution," says Schlipf and further: "Our customers receive an integrated system that is based on proven industrial technology."

The advantages

An all-round worthwhile investment for operators

Thanks to the intelligent charging solution, "smopi" customers have few worries – they can be sure that their charging park will operate reliably, transparently as well as efficiently, for many years to come.

With smopi, operators focus on quality – and that pays off

"smopi does not initially appear to be the cheapest solution on the market in terms of cost – but the price is only higher than that of conventional charging poles with two charging points at first glance," says Schlipf. "Since we can supply multiple charging points with a single charging cabinet, we are typically cheaper in absolute terms when the number of charging points is six or more – although we use very high-quality industrial components." But even when starting out with fewer charging points, smopi is a good investment: It's easy to maintain, expand, and update. "In this way, we can also implement a load management solution at a later date, or expand it from static to dynamic and phase-specific load management. Operators can integrate a photovoltaic system and/or battery storage system and ensure that critical consumers are always supplied with energy, absorb expensive load peaks and thus ultimately optimize the entire energy mix. Additional benefits: These changes have no effect on the calibration approval. With the control cabinet, we have simple, central access to the automation and power electronics, so we can maintain the system efficiently. For example, the annual test of the residual current circuit breaker is carried out exclusively at a central location, and not at each individual charging point. Last but not least, the operator can be sure that they will receive spare parts for all components for at least 10 years, should something fail."

We can easily carry out all maintenance work, such as updates or loop measurements on the control cabinet. This saves 20% of the usual maintenance costs.
Lukas Schlipf, founder and CEO of the start-up smopi® - Multi Chargepoint Solution GmbH
Charging system and components

Scalable solution for charging poles and stations

Coordinated components from the SIMATIC, SENTRON and SIRIUS portfolio enable easy and efficient implementation of modern AC and DC charging stations – from single charging poles to entire parks with distributed charging points.

Charge controller and components

  • Charging of different vehicle types and classes in conformance with standards
  • Easy-to-configure, space-saving and scalable solutions
  • High-performance components for reliable and safe charging operations
  • Efficient engineering thanks to free application examples
Charging technology and components in e-mobility
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