EV Charging Network: Open Charge Point Protocol

Since its second birth in the early 2000s, the world of electric vehicle (EV) has progressed rapidly especially in the last five years. As the market grew and keeps growing, many companies manufacturing EV charging stations have developed user friendly and reliable products for EV drivers to use. 

As charging stations are slowly replacing gas stations, we are now experiencing the decentralization of energy. This means anyone having access to power can provide energy to its user through an EV charging infrastructure. This is mainly why the oil & gas industry is fighting the EV industry as much as they have been doing but that will be for another topic.  

There are many different types of EV charging solution on the market. In the level 2 and 3 market, stand-alone chargers (dumb) and smart chargers can be found. A stand-alone charger is a simple unit without any built-in computer or communication gateway. It acts as an extension cord and safety device for vehicles. Smart chargers, however can be defined in two categories: 

  • Proprietary Network 

    • Vendor Locked - Vertically integrated

    • Possible future stranded assets 

    • Possible annual and payment processing fee increase 

    • Only accessible to one network provider (same as EVSE manufacturer) 

    • Locked with the same software provider for the entire lifetime of the charging unit.

  • Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) 

    • Hardware and Software are separate 

    • No stranded assets in the future 

    • Freedom of network provider (same as a cellphone)

    • Switch providers if unsatisfied with current one

    • Creates a competitive market 

    • European market uses this model only

To differentiate the two, let’s look at the a whole EV charging system. First there is the hardware   (charging unit) and the software (mobile app). In order for the system to work, both the hardware and software need to be integrated. In a proprietary network, the hardware can only be integrated to the EV charger manufacturer’s mobile app. The mobile app will also be processing payments, provide energy usage data, plugged-in time and additional data. For each transaction, there is a payment processing fee ranging from 10% to 15% depending on the provider along with an annual monitoring fee per charging station. The mobile app owner will have full control over the EV charging station management, annual and payment processing fees, as well as customer service. Within a proprietary network solution, the host (person who buys the station) will be locked-in with the same app vendor for the lifetime of the station as no other mobile app can be integrated to that EV charging unit. The client is being subject to future fee increase, network issues, and/or unsatisfactory customer service without having access to other network provider. It’s like having a phone that can online connect to one cellphone provider.

This is where the Open Charge Point Protocol OCPP option comes save the day. Since nobody liked to have a locked phone a few years ago when it was impossible to switch to a different cellphone provider, the same concept applies in this case. When a client purchases an OCPP compliant hardware, the client now have the freedom to choose which mobile app provider they wish to monitor the charging station. In the event where the client isn’t satisfied with its software provider for any reason, they have the choice to move to a different one. It’s as simple as a cellphone, replace the EV charger SIM card and connect it to the new network. It is the exact same process as a cellphone. With an OCPP network, there is no more headaches of relying only on one company to provide a network services for the next 15 years. Many more EV software options are being and will be added in the future.

In conclusion, as an EV charging infrastructure host, you have the option to choose a proprietary network which provide great reliable network services but also tie the client to one software company for the EV chargers’ lifetime. The second option is the OCPP network which provides the exact same high hardware quality but rely on many network companies to develop better products and work in a competitive market providing better pricing. 

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