Why price transparency in electric mobility matters

August 24, 2020

In a rapidly growing electric vehicle (EV) market, all EV drivers need to be supplied with the correct information for charging sessions. At a petrol station, drivers of ICE vehicles immediately know what the cost to “fill up” will be—however, it’s not always clear what the cost will be when using an EV charging station.

In most cases, EV drivers find out the cost of charging session(s) when they (or their employer) receive an invoice at the end of the month. This system hasn’t been a big issue for business drivers, but with the growing number of private EV drivers, this will become more of a challenge when considering that consumer legislation, such as that in the Netherlands, requires EV charging entities to inform EV drivers on tariffs upfront.

Price transparency is extremely important for us and other electric mobility stakeholders as it will help boost potential EV drivers’ confidence in going electric.

Why is this important for businesses?

Although the majority of the EV market is currently comprised of business drivers, the number of private EV drivers will continue to increase in the coming years—and they’ll need EV charging that is both accessible and easy to understand when it comes to pricing.

The more confidence that EV drivers have in accessing and paying for EV charging, the increased likelihood EV drivers will want and need to charge at a variety of locations. For businesses looking to provide EV charging at their locations, this increase in confidence represents an opportunity to generate extra revenue through EV charging, while simultaneously facilitating the adoption of electric mobility.

Generally speaking, this sort of charging provided by businesses can be described as semi-public or commercial charging, as these charging stations provide charging that is publicly accessible, but via stations located on a business’ private grounds.

Price information for charging stations

To achieve price transparency worldwide, it’s necessary to share the real-time tariffs for a charging station—this is now possible because the EV charging industry has developed an Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI).

This interface enables real-time data (such as tariffs and energy usage) to be transferred between different EV charging parties (which will be explained below) that eventually reaches the EV driver. By implementing industry-standard protocols like this, our industry can make sure that the price EV drivers pay for using a semi-public station is communicated to them in real-time so that they can have the best experience possible with no unwanted surprises.

So, now we know that our industry can ensure price transparency, why isn’t it already a reality across the world?

Well, the complexity of price transparency lies in the fact that there are multiple parties with various acronyms (CPOs, MSPs, CSOs) involved when calculating the final price of a charging session. Here’s a quick overview to help you understand all the jargon...

CSO stands for Charging Station Owner: this is the owner of both the charging stations and the location that they are installed at. Often, though not exclusively, this is a business that has decided to provide EV charging at their private location. Depending on the location and type of owner (semi-public, public, private) the energy is purchased by either the charging station owner or the charging port operator. CSOs are also responsible for setting the initial pricing tariff.

CPO stands for Charging Port Operator: this is an entity, like us, that's responsible for the management, maintenance, and operation of the charging stations (both technical and administrative).

MSP stands for Mobility Service Provider: this is an entity that the EV driver has a subscription with for all services related to the EV operations. We also act as an MSP and provides EV drivers with access to charging stations—as you’ll learn about later on.

CDR stands for Charging Detail Record: this is the charging transaction information (including the tariff set by the CSO) that is sent from the CPO to the MSP after every charging session.

As mentioned, the final price is determined by multiple parties and can vary per charging station. As a CPO, we've made sure to implement the most advanced communication protocols from OCPI so that every MSP can communicate the price of a semi-public EVBox charging station in real-time.

After a charging session, EVBox (CPO) sends the transaction details (CDR) to the MSP that subsequently invoices the final price of the charging session to the EV driver. The additional fee added by the MSP to establish the final price of the charging session depends on the MSP’s subscription model. The EV driver must be aware of the model of the MSP they have a subscription with.

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How is EVBox’s MSP charging fee determined?

When an EV driver subscribes to our MSP service and uses an EVBox Charge Card at a non-EVBox charging station, we charge the driver the CPO pricing (station tariff) plus a fee for handling the transaction. This fee is 15 percent on top of the total charging cost. So, if the operator charges a €10 starting fee, the driver will pay €11.50 for the charging session to us.

How can EV drivers charge on EVBox charging stations?

We constantly look to improve commercial and public charging infrastructure for EV drivers. As a CPO, we have agreements with most MSPs in Europe and constantly sign new contracts directly or via roaming hubs such as e-clearing and Gireve.

In addition to subscription-based (MSP) charging via RFID cards, we'll also enable EV drivers to charge with credit cards via our new EVBox Charge app from September. This is something that will attract EV drivers who may not want to sign up for a subscription service, and consequently benefit businesses looking to attract a wider range of drivers and generate additional revenue.

These “ad hoc” payments enable EV drivers to always charge on any of our commercial and public charging stations with real-time pricing and no hidden costs—ideal for leisure locations that often attract tourists who don’t have a valid charge card or subscription.

How can price transparency be achieved in the future?

As a CPO, we make sure that every CSO can publish their station as a publicly accessible charging station. To make sure that more MSPs can share this information, we challenge our MSP roaming partners to implement and follow industry standards such as OCPI. Associations such as eViolin, where we're a sitting board member, advocate for these open industry standards that are innovative and universally beneficial.

These initiatives, protocols, and associations all look to benefit current and future EV drivers across the world. The quicker that standards are understood and implemented, the easier it will be for electric mobility to flourish, and issues like price transparency to be alleviated—resulting in a situation that is profitable for businesses and EV drivers.