Smart Charging Residential: Starting the Energy Transition in Your Own Home

Smart Charging Residential: Starting the Energy Transition in Your Own Home

Reading time:
Copy link
Copy Icon
Smart Charging Residential: Starting the Energy Transition in Your Own Home

The key to the energy transition is the shift to renewable energies from decentralized sources.

In Europe, private households account for 25% of total energy consumption. Experts advocate for using renewable energy from decentralized sources to achieve this future. A critical element in this vision is better energy management of private solar installations, home storage systems, household appliances, and electric vehicles. BOSCH, a leading technology and service provider, is involved in developing innovative energy and building solutions, including smart homes, connected appliances, energy management, and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. In the "Smart Charging" research project, various business units collaborated to tackle technological challenges for integrated energy management at home. The focus was on delivering clear benefits to end-users and simplifying the system's use.

One's own home becomes a complex energy ecosystem.

Modern homes often include photovoltaic systems, heat pumps, electricity storage, connected household appliances, and a wall box for charging electric vehicles (EVs). Solar energy generated during a sunny day can often not be consumed simultaneously. Even with a home storage system, there is overproduction, which is fed into the grid. Notably, the EV wall box requires a lot of energy, usually drawn from the grid. However, consuming the solar energy produced is the best economically and ecologically option. Optimizing the uneven distribution of production and consumption in the building is crucial to minimize grid dependency.

The idea: To use electric cars for what they are - huge batteries

The concept of "Smart Charging" allows homeowners with photovoltaic systems to increase the self-consumption of their solar energy and minimize the operating costs of their electric vehicles. Excess energy can be stored in the electric vehicle during the day. The house can draw power from the car instead of the grid if needed. The vehicle is charged with solar energy as much as possible, minimizing grid consumption and increasing self-consumption, as less solar energy is fed into the grid, reducing the costs of charging the electric vehicle.

Innovation is the successful implementation of an idea into practice, with clear benefits for as many users as possible

Two challenges were identified from the beginning: In Germany, relatively few households meet such complex energy management criteria. However, this is expected to change over time. Interoperability with other manufacturers is seen as essential for significant impact. BOSCH is pursuing solutions for industrial use or as a component for commercial providers of charging infrastructure.

User-friendliness is known to be a barrier: When plugging in a battery-powered device, the expectation is that it charges as quickly as possible to 100%. With Smart Charging, the vehicle does not charge as fast as possible, and the battery will likely not be fully charged upon departure. Therefore, the range is limited even if the car has been connected to the wall box overnight.

Changing human habits is one of the biggest challenges in digital solution design. To find promising approaches to change, user expectations and motivations must be correctly understood.

Our thesis:

The hypothesis is that if the mobility needs (in terms of range) are met, EV drivers can be convinced of the unconventional solution, as using solar energy from the roof can result in significant financial savings.

To validate this hypothesis with real customers, the following three phases were conducted multiple times:

  1. Prototyping: A prototype of an app that interacts with the wall box was developed to make the complex charging process understandable at the start. This prototyping allowed for real customer observations during critical charging events.
  2. User Research: The prototype was presented at exhibitions and fairs to create realistic feedback loops. Visitors could try the solution independently and were then precisely surveyed. Their reactions provided valuable insights into user needs.
  3. Adaption: Based on insights from "Guerilla-Testing," the app concept underwent several iterations until the solution achieved high user acceptance and came close to the goal of creating a simple and understandable user interface that makes complex energy management processes accessible and highlights the economic benefit.

User-centered design meets technological possibilities - a step toward a greener future

The developed solution works automatically without users needing to worry too much. At the same time, the system actively explains what is happening and allows changes at any time. This control option is also a fundamental demand of users.

The user experience in detail:

Upon arriving home, one plugs the electric car into the wall box. If you have forgotten, the app reminds you. A charging event is triggered based on mobility patterns and the energy demand and supply in the house. The car is charged with as much solar energy as possible. The system informs about the assumptions it has made. Each charging event shows how much solar energy is used, visually represented as greener the more solar energy is used. The practical costs (and savings) are also presented. Over time, the system learns the behavior and mobility needs of the users.

Benefits of the solution:

  • Energy autonomy: Intelligent use of solar power for charging EVs can significantly increase homeowners' energy self-consumption.
  • Cost reduction: The application minimizes EVs' operating costs by primarily using solar energy for charging, leading to direct financial savings for owners.
  • Personalization: Users can customize their charging processes based on personal preferences and mobility requirements, increasing acceptance and satisfaction.
  • Improved grid utilization: The solution relieves the electricity grid by reducing peak loads and using renewable energies more efficiently.
  • Learning capability: Over time, the system learns to understand user behavior and mobility needs and adjusts its forecasts and recommendations accordingly.
  • Environmental friendliness: Optimizing the use of solar energy reduces environmental impact, contributing to sustainability.
  • Positive user experience: The solution's simple and intuitive user interface offers complete control while minimizing user effort.
"We are working on a framework for establishing a charging management system [...], which can create optimal charging plans for a location. Optimal means considering not only the requirements of individual vehicles but also factors such as current and future electricity prices, the availability of renewable energies such as from photovoltaic systems, and the overall load of the location. In this way, peak loads and high electricity prices can be avoided - while contributing to the sustainability of the location." Moritz Bräuchle, Activity Manager for Smart Charging at the Renningen Research Campus

Technological feasibility, economic benefit, and human needs in harmony

Digital solutions like this are created in complex technological environments with numerous possibilities. R&D with a technological focus is fundamental for innovation and often also an initial impetus, but it must be contrasted early with aspects of economic viability and user needs. The key to this product's success lies in creating a simple and advantageous customer experience that combines technological feasibility with economic sensibility.

More than an app - a milestone in energy management

We were commissioned to develop an app and design a customer experience. Integrating real software algorithms into the physical prototype led to very realistic test scenarios and, thus, very valuable insights from user research. The solution is continuously being developed further and integrated into other business areas. Our contribution was to critically question the economic viability, understand the technical possibilities and their implications, and align them with the identified customer needs.

We can help you turn an idea into an innovation

A global transition to renewable energies from decentralized resources will be indispensable. As with many of today's challenges, highly complex technological aspects must be solved. The difference between an idea and an innovation lies in the implementation, which must provide sustainable value to both the company and the customers. We can help you find this balance, especially in creating simple solutions with clear benefits for your customers.