Creating a virtual solar PV plug for EV charging – Part 1

A while ago the Fully Charged show featured a great device called the Zappi, which can charge an EV using surplus solar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EtegQfZQRw

This is pretty amazing for EV owners who also have solar PV.

It means that instead of exporting surplus energy at a reduced rate ($0.12/kWh) it is possible to avoid importing energy at a higher rate ($0.25/kWh). This can effectively double the benefit of having solar PV by boosting self consumption.

However as of writing, the Zappi V2 is $1,395 (for example, from EVolution here).

Challenge

Is it possible to create a software virtual plug to charge an EV using only self-generated solar PV?

The idea

Charging the EV using only rooftop solar costs $0.12/kWh. This is the opportunity cost of the feed-in tariff which would would otherwise be earned for feeding energy into the grid.

Charging the EV using grid power alone costs around $0.25/kWh.

Depending on the proportion of PV generation at a given time, the effective cost per kWh may be somewhere in between.

What if we can turn on the charger only at times when the solar is generating 100% or more of what the EV will use?

A custom software program could query net solar export and control a smart plug to generate savings.

Equipment

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Envoy S Metered Solar house monitor
TP Link HS110 Smart Plug

Potential benefits

  • Cheaper EV charging (approximately 50% savings)
  • No need to manually enable / disable charging when:
    • Weather is variable
    • Household consumption is high (e.g. boiling a kettle or running the dishwasher)

Things to consider

These are also some risks to consider when designing a DIY software control:

  • The PHEV plug safety instructions say not to plug anything in between the wall socket and charger plug – i.e. where the SmartPlug should go.
  • The PHEV charger expects to be plugged in and left alone – will it be happy with power being enabled / disabled?

Another thing to consider… is it worth buying a Smartplug to do this?

Assuming the plug can be purchased for a reasonable price (for example $40 including shipping from here) and weekly EV charging from nearly empty, the plug pays itself off in <1 year:

Plug cost:40.00
Opportunity cost / lost export ($/kWh):0.12
Saved expense ($/kWh):0.25
Net saving ($/kWh):0.13
kWh savings to pay off:307.69
Average charging session (kWh):8.00
Number of charges:38.46
Back of the envelope calculations

Continued…

See Part 2 for an approach to implement this solution in Python…

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