This article appeared first on August 18, 2020 at www.linkedin.com.
Sometimes you get so used to everyday problems and limitations that you just accept them as a given, without looking for a solution. The current EV Charging architecture is a good example of this. It is flawed by design and almost everybody seems to be in acceptance mode. It is still exactly the same proof-of-concept architecture we saw in pilots more than a decade ago. An architecture that was meant to prove the technology works, instead of being designed to last over a longer period of time, embracing changes in functionality, priority and partners.
Every organisation in e-mobility today started from scratch at some point: not understanding the market, the EV drivers and their needs & habits, the solutions and definitely not thinking too much on how this all would evolve (beyond excel sheets showing amazing growth numbers). But they jumped in and went for it, making it up along the way: stumbling, learning, and getting back up again. And as they evolved, so did the e-mobility market, but strangely enough it never evolved out of the proof-of-concept architecture.
A lot of organizations were focused on the charger-part of the infrastructure. If you want to sell chargers or have them installed, you’ll find you need a charge point management system (CPMS) as well. And as everybody was focused on the chargers, hardly anyone gave much thought as to how the initial choice for CPMS could come back to haunt you in years to come. Proof-of-concept thinking: “if we can just get it working, everything will be fine”. Being dependent on an external CPMS however locks you into their roadmap. And over time that roadmap might evolve very differently from your ambitions, even with the best intentions.
Once committed to a CPMS it gets harder and harder to take a step back and make a different choice, even if you decided to build it yourself. By now you’re completely locked in with your ordering, installation, data history, roaming and billing processes, and there seems to be only a big-bang approach to switching to a different CPMS (where you would have the same lock-in issues). It is seen as potentially very disruptive for your obligations towards your customers and therefore only seen as a last resort, which makes for a poor bargaining position.
If you had the chance to do it all over and choose a different CPMS you would probably still have the same (or similar) problems today. The problem isn’t that particular CPMS or “that” other one, it’s just that the original architecture was flawed.
Being involved in OCPP development from the start, organizing international workshops etc. I got to know a lot of different companies and solutions. And even though it is not always simple “to make it work” technically, those issues got solved. The real problem that kept popping up was the backoffice lock in. OCPP means being able to hook up any charger to any CPMS, and that works just fine. But the CPMS integrates (usually in non-standard ways) into other systems causing a de-facto lock-in. The more features it contains, the more complex it becomes and that slows any new development. If you build it yourself it’s hard to keep up with market trends, if you get an external CPMS it’s hard to be or become market leader. You don’t own the roadmap and whatever new feature you get, the competition gets as well. The longer you let continue the worse it gets.
In between chargers and the CPMS you need a system like ChargeBroker to allow multiple CPMS-like systems to co-exist. That way you can still leave everything with one CPMS for as long as it fits your needs. But it gives you the freedom to always separate out services like roaming, billing, maintenance, etc. Or even connect new services that your current CPMS doesn’t provide, without having to big-bang leave your current supplier to get it. It makes you more flexible, more scalable and more competitive. And it stimulates CPMS providers to be more competitive as well.
I’m happy to see more and more companies are starting to realize their EV charging infrastructure needs to take a step forward. We’re starting to see the first results now from ChargeBroker and it looks very promising. The era of EV Charging Infrastructure 2.0 has begun.
Author: Patrick Rademakers, Owner | eveyo
Images: Pixabay | www.pixabay.com