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OCPP: 4 letters to remember when investing in EV charging stations

January 7, 2020 | EVBox

EVBox has recently become one of the first EV charging station manufacturers to have their hardware officially OCPP-certified. While that may sound like a lot of industry jargon (because, frankly, it is), it’s also tremendously important.

But before we get into that, let’s go over exactly what OCPP is.

What is OCPP?

The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is an open-source communication standard for EV charging stations and network software companies, allowing them to integrate freely with one another.

Simply put, an OCPP-certified hardware company can host any OCPP-certified network software—and vice versa. As a free and readily available open standard used by some of the largest players in the EV space, OCPP has become the benchmark for interoperability amongst charging service providers.


Four reasons why OCPP is a bigger deal than you think

In terms of laying the groundwork for a long-term scalable EV charging station ecosystem, choosing OCPP-certified hardware might be the most important thing any potential site host could do. Here’s why:

1. No more stranded assets


Certain devices (smart EV charging stations, mobile phones, etc.) can only be operated by a unique software, language, or communication protocol. If the manufacturer of that software went out of business, no one outside of that insolvent organization could understand or operate this unique communication protocol, and, consequently, the devices would be of no use—aka stranded assets.

For example…

In 2017, corporate telecommunications company Avaya filed for bankruptcy. As a result, many companies (~22% of the Private Branch Exchange market) were saddled with business communications equipment that was no longer supported and would no longer work.

In 2016, SunEdison—once the fastest-growing company in the U.S. renewable energy industry, valued at $10 billion—went bankrupt, leaving those who purchased their hardware (solar panels and inverters) without any means to monitor their usage through the supporting SunEdison app. The amount of money and effort it took for these customers to regain any control over their solar panels was staggering.

In 2013, Ecotality, Inc.—a provider of electric transportation and storage technologies, and owner of the Blink charging network—declared bankruptcy, temporarily leaving business owners without charging ports for potential EV drivers to use.

Business owners cannot ignore the possibility that their charging network provider might go out of business. This is why it’s important that you're able to switch network providers if you need to. And the only way to ensure you’ll be able to do that is with hardware and software that are both OCPP compatible and certified.

2. No more vendor lock-In


On the surface, this might sound a lot like the same point raised above. It certainly stems from the same functionality of being able to switch between numerous service providers. The difference here is that having “no stranded assets” is how OCPP protects you from a potential drop in service. Being free from vendor lock-in is how OCPP protects you from being stuck with a service you're unhappy with—regardless of whether it’s operational or not.

Let’s say you invest thousands of dollars (or euros, or pounds) in an EV charging solution for your location. You do all the research, you select a manufacturer with a track record of success, you place the order, and have it installed. Then, one year later, the company you’ve chosen to work with decides they’re doing so well now that they can afford to increase their network service fees by 25%. Since they’re not an OCPP-certified manufacturer, their hardware only works with their software, meaning you’re stuck paying those increased prices unless you want to rip those costly stations out of the ground.

If the station you installed initially had been OCPP-certified, instead of being handcuffed to increasingly expensive network fees, you could easily reconfigure your charging stations to run on software that's more affordable.

There are a lot of different network providers out there, offering lots of different features and coming in at a wide range of prices. With OCPP-certified hardware, you can be sure you’ll find your glass slipper, and be able to change your network to grow alongside you.

3. Increased innovation and reduced costs


OCPP keeps EV charging manufacturers from sitting on their laurels. With the knowledge that site hosts have the power to switch out their network provider at a moment’s notice, there's a powerful incentive for them to continue innovating at a rapid pace. We've all seen how tumultuous the technology sector can be. A company that's on top of the food chain today could be usurped by a disruptive startup tomorrow. With OCPP, you ensure that you’ll never be tied to some EV relic.

OCPP also keeps service prices competitive. When the site host retains the ability to swap out their network whenever they want, networks end up finding ways to reduce service fees. With OCPP, you never have to worry about being a captive audience or forced into paying inflated fees for your EV charging station network—because, if that happens, you can just swap it for a cheaper one!

4. An improved EV driving experience


OCPP stations and networks increase driver choice through wider access to compatible EV charging stations. Drivers subscribed to a particular open charging network worry less about where they roam because there are an increasing amount of charging stations that work with their charging service provider. 

OCPP stations and networks also ensure that drivers get a fair price. If a driver was forced to only charge at stations which were part of a closed network service provider (like a locked cell phone), the business owner and the network could add any cost they wish to the bottom-line utilization price. This could mean that a driver ends up paying more for a service purely because both the charging station owner and network provider know that there are no compatible stations nearby to compete with.

Several networks and hardware manufacturers claim their products are based on open standards. Until now, customers had no way of being sure of this and had to rely on the word of the vendor. However, customers can now be assured that they’re investing in the real deal. 

How to know your hardware is truly OCPP-certified?


For over ten years, OCPP has been promoted by the Open Charge Alliance (OCA)—a global consortium of over 150 public and private electric vehicle infrastructure leaders. The OCA have now created the OCPP certification, which will allow members of the OCA to have any of their systems certified for compliance with the OCPP specifications. For the independent testing of conformance, OCA has selected three test laboratories with five testing facilities located in Europe, North America and Asia.

In the past, certain proprietary networks claimed that they were OCPP compliant; however, the OCA certification ensures that customers can be assured that they are buying only truly OCPP compliant chargers and software. 

With this new certification program, both prospective and current members of the OCA can see which eMobility companies provide products and services that can work on open systems. As we mentioned, EVBox has become the first eMobility company in the world to receive this certification for the OCPP 1.6 standard. The EVBox Elvi range has been fully certified, meaning that both U.S. and EU shipments are fully OCPP compliant. 

So, no matter what network drivers are using, EVBox charging stations will be able to accommodate them. If you’re a business owner looking to electrify your fleet, upgrade your parking lot, or just prepare for more EVs in the future, take a look at how EVBox can help your business become even more cost-efficient and sustainable.

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