With around 300,000 pure-electric cars on UK roads, and more than 600,000 plug-in models, the electric car market is growing rapidly. It’s expected that this growth will continue in the future.
Therefore, smart, future-proof EV charging infrastructure will be needed that can adapt to the evolving needs of the EV community. To stay current for years to come, the infrastructure we build today must be able to grow and flex.
This is the driving force behind the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) – the standard for interoperability within the EV charging industry. As I will show you in this article, investing in charging stations that support OCPP is a smart move.
Charlatans, myths and misconceptions
Many critical factors should be taken into consideration when choosing EV charging stations today, to avoid buying a "pig in a poke." Sadly, there are a lot of ‘cowboys’ and fads out there that lead people to buy obsolete, non-standardised or less-than-ideal solutions for their charging stations. Higher costs are typically the result, as well as an unhappy user base.
What is OCPP?
OCPP offers a uniform solution for the method of communication between charge stations and any central system. With this protocol, it’s possible to connect any central system with any charge station, regardless of the vendor.
Over 20,000 installations and participants in 16 different countries make OCPP the de facto standard for open charger to network communications in both Europe and parts of the U.S.
Future-proof charging stations recommended for public procurement
A Sustainable Transport Forum expert group has drawn up a set of recommendations for public authorities procuring, awarding concessions, licenses and/or granting support for electric recharging infrastructure for passenger cars and vans.
As electric vehicles and the required charging infrastructure are relatively new technologies, there will likely be a lot of technological development in the decades to come.
Considering that charging points are made to last a decade or longer, publicly accessible recharging points should be future-proof. In addition to being state-of-the-art today, they must also be able to be easily configured to future standards, should they emerge. As a result, all public charging stations should use open communication protocols.
Both charging stations and management systems must be able to communicate in a standardised manner. With this interoperability, customers can choose any configuration that fits their needs best. Plus, it allows them to change their configuration at any time – no worries about vendor lock-in or stranded assets.
Furthermore, in order to ensure stability and the best possible customer experience, there must be as few error sources as possible between the charging point and the end user. Having fewer stakeholders in the supply chain makes it easier to track responsibilities and duties among them. Moreover, it will increase the likelihood of maintaining stable, user-friendly systems.
New buildings in the UK will be required to have smart EV charging stations
In the UK, there is new legislation underway that requires all new homes and office buildings to have smart EV charging points. In other words, having smart charging infrastructure both in residential and non-residential buildings is soon to become a legal requirement. Existing non-residential buildings will be required to install smart EV charge points.
With this move, the UK hopes to drastically accelerate the construction of EV charge points, so that it will meet its 2030 target of eliminating sales of new fossil-fuel cars.
Why are smart chargers important for private users?
Smart chargers benefit private users in a variety of ways. For instance, OCPP-compliant chargers are important if an employer pays for company car charging expenses. In most cases, employers and leasing companies work together with charging point operators to settle and cover expenses. You don't want to have to replace a new charger just because it isn't OCPP compliant.
Smart charging solutions provide new levels of flexibility. By choosing an OCPP-compliant charging point, you can choose charge point management systems that can handle multiple types of charging stations. Moreover, these systems can offer functionality that suits your needs in a way that charging station manufacturers' solutions cannot. Be aware of the limitations of the charging solutions you choose.
One thing is for sure: EV charging has lots of innovative solutions on the horizon, from hardware and software to management systems and apps. If you invest in a charging station that does not support OCPP, your customers may not be able to take advantage of new and better solutions in the future.
The pitfalls of vendor-proprietary software
Software vendors often restrict usage rights by protecting their ownership through copyrights. This is called vendor-proprietary software, and it's the polar opposite to open standards and OCPP. Additionally, there may be license limitations, such as prohibiting the sharing of the software. This is meant to bring in revenue for the manufacturer.
If you choose a manufacturer that uses vendor-proprietary software, the end user is at the mercy of the vendor’s platform / cloud solution. A malfunction here might cause sluggish charging, or even no charging at all if the service is offline. Furthermore, there are often major limitations in functionality and management and adaptation capabilities, since the vendor may have ulterior business interests, such as additional hardware.
Choosing the right charging infrastructure should give you the greatest level of control. Chargers should be managed directly through OCPP, simplifying operations and maintenance, and ensuring clear and easy division of responsibilities among installers, operators and manufacturers.
A vendor-independent service provider can help
With a service provider that is independent of the charging station vendor, you can be assured of quality and flexibility without being locked into an expensive and potentially ineffective solution. You would benefit from using a neutral party, since they have no ties to or revenue from the chargers they recommend.
Feel free to contact an independent body like The Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) or AVERE – The European Association for Electromobility.
Choose a manufacturer that is an OCA member or has OCPP-certified hardware
Open communication standards and independent EV charging services should be the common goal of the EV charging industry. It allows customers to make their own choices regardless of the vendor. So I recommend to anyone planning to invest in a charging station: Look for a manufacturer that is a member of the Open Charge Alliance (OCA) or that offers OCPP-certified chargers.
OCA works to foster global development, adoption and compliance of communication protocols in the EV charging infrastructure and related standards through collaboration, education, testing and certification.
Here is a list of OCPP-compliant chargers that are supported by CURRENT:
Connect with certified chargers of your choice