Innovation at Work: Portable Tester Ensures Accuracy for Power Your Drive Program

This industry first portable EV charging station tester is known as the Electric Vehicle Meter Tester (EVMT).

We deal with a lot of moving targets in the energy industry. Sustainability goals change. Customer needs change. Technology changes. Anticipating and getting ahead of trends, and ultimately becoming the trendsetter is how SDG&E stays competitive.

The Power Your Drive program, the first of its kind in the nation, is a great example. Through this program we are preparing our customers and our company for a future with more electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads that place greater demands on the power grid. Integrated into the program is a benefit for EV drivers when they charge their vehicle during off-peak which in turn helps SDG&E customers who will reap the benefits of grid optimization.

To ensure customers are charged accurately for the power they consume when using a SDG&E owned Power Your Drive electric charging station, the Smart Meter Engineering team developed a portable EV charging station tester.

“A pilot project of this significance showcases SDG&E as an industry leader,” said Mark Howell, principal engineer in Smart Meter Operations. “We needed the right technology to provide the kind of accurate information to make this a success right out of the gate.”

Another industry first

This industry first portable EV charging station tester is known as the Electric Vehicle Meter Tester (EVMT). The team worked with a contractor to design a tester with industry standard measurement technology and customized software to determine whether an EV charger is supplying the accurate amount of electricity to the car being charged.

Two new EVMTs at the SDG&E Miramar meter shop will be used to verify accuracy of all 3,500 Power Your Drive EV chargers prior to being installed. The EV chargers’ accuracy must test within +/-1 percent to be put into service. Because the tester is portable, additional field tests will be performed as needed or at random to ensure customers are receiving accurate information.

“Testing the chargers before they are installed will reduce customer concerns, enhance trust in our service and save staff time by reducing field calls,” said Howell.

The news of SDG&E’s EVMT is already spreading. Officials at the state level are interested in confirming EV charger accuracy throughout the state, and are considering leasing the EVMT for their field tests.

A legacy of technology advancements

For Howell, the success of the EV tester is a great way to end a 39-year career with the company fixed on accuracy. Howell has been a pioneer in a number of SDG&E technological advancements, playing a crucial role in the development and deployment of smart meter technology, and designing the first meter farm at Miramar to allow scale testing prior to deployment. He also was instrumental in the development of a pilot program that places smart metering energy recording capability in city street light photo controls to accurately control and measure LED output remotely. The device supports efficiency goals of both the municipalities and SDG&E. The program, another first of its kind, was recently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Click here to learn more about how SDG&E is driving San Diego's leadership in clean transporation.