Developing the e-mobility ecosystem: why interoperability platforms are key

The European Union and European governments support the adoption of EVs in Europe through recommendations and tax incentives. Being propelled by this, electric vehicles are spreading throughout Europe and with them comes along a variety of networks of different sizes and market coverage forming up the charging infrastructure landscape as we know it today. International events such as the EVS32 demonstrate the interest from both businesses and the public for e-mobility and put a spotlight on the urgency to tackle the cross-border issues for charging infrastructures, as EVS32 puts it: “The future of sustainable mobility also depends on major changes to infrastructures, such as electrification, connectivity and driverless vehicles.”

It is widely acknowledged that charging remains a challenge for most drivers who are subsequently reluctant to go full electric. Operators need to enhance their services and provide a seamless charging experience for EV drivers. Over the coming years, they will also have to deal with the increasing amount of data. Interoperability platforms help them manage these complex operations which range from roaming exchanges to smart charging.

Going “beyond ad-hoc”: Why is interoperability key to a seamless charging experience?

Before investing in a new electric car, consumers need to make sure that they can charge it easily and seamlessly. Direct payment used for gas-powered cars seems a convenient way to access charge points but would only hinder the further development of premium services which are essential to fulfil drivers’ needs for EV charging.

The EU Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) which should be implemented by all member states, mandates that all charge point operators offer customers ‘ad hoc’ access to their chargers. This means that all existing and future public charge points must be accessible with or without a pre-existing contract. However, such an “ad hoc access” should only be seen as a “minimum viable requirement” or a stepping stone necessary to promote the e-Mobility market. It should in no way be interpreted as a goal since it is not structured to satisfy customer needs in the long term due to the following:

  • « Direct payment » services are rarely used because they don’t offer any added-value services (booking, real-time & remote follow-up, etc.), and apply only to a specific customer journey per network.
  • On the contrary, “contract-based” services, marketed by global e-Mobility Service Providers provide user-friendly digital services accessible through a dedicated App, ensuring a seamless access to a pan European network with only one invoice.

As e-mobility develops in Europe, EV drivers are increasingly opting for contract-based charging solutions to access premium services to improve their overall charging experience.  In its 2019 Position Paper, the British association Renewable Energy Association (REA) timely explains that limitation of direct payment makes it impossible to provide any premium service that customers would require. 

Whilst ensuring ad hoc access is an important move towards improving the customer experience, it is only a first step towards an interoperable system and does not result in a seamless experience of charging between networks partly due to the diversity of possible implementations. It also does not address the potential value-added services that shared communications and information between CPOs can bring, or set up the charging network for full engagement with future energy sector products and services. Energy security, cyber security, mass EV uptake and smart charging are also issues that may be enhanced by ‘going beyond ad hoc’ that were raised in the interview process.” REA Position Paper, Feb. 2019

To ensure the accessibility of charging services on all networks, operators need to be interoperable. “Interoperability” refers to the compatibility between two or several operators, providing consumers with access to this service in a roaming situation. It has become an ordinary phenomenon in many industries like in the telecom sector: all travelers could make calls when they “roam” from one country to another, switching between different operators without even noticing it. Networks are interoperable and operators have agreements amongst them so the end-user will only get a single invoice at the end, even when having used many different networks.

How can interoperability platforms contribute to the e-mobility market uptake?

To make interoperability a reality and deliver reliable services to their customers, market players coming from either the infrastructure or the mobility sector need to be connected by carrying out costly operations between their diverse systems, which entails contractual settings, negotiations and daily incident management. Operators can either develop a peer-to-peer connection or use a central platform that sits in between.

Bilateral connections can be very costly and create a barrier of entry for some operators with limited financial capacity, further infringing the openness of the market. On the other hand, a roaming platform like GIREVE is committed to delivering the aforementioned centralised services to the operators with the view to simplify, secure and reduce their operations costs. Once connected to GIREVE, an operator can easily sign and manage roaming agreements with its partners, and automatically share real-time data. In this growing e-mobility market, a roaming platform is key to create an open market, increase transparency and boost innovation.

Smart charging, data management, security: how can platforms rise to the future challenges of the e-mobility sector?

Over the coming years, as e-mobility grows and electric vehicles get more numerous, it would be a real challenge for the grid to balance energy supply and demand. Managing charging behaviours on open charging points can be a solution for this challenge. First, it would help reducing energy loss by synchronising vehicle charging sessions with high renewable energy production period. This can be achieved through incentives for drivers to postpone or move forward their charging session. Operators will thus need to be able to offer flexible prices updated real time. Moreover, electric vehicles can help balancing energy supply and demand in that when being charged for a certain amount of time, the battery itself becomes a source of power storing energy and delivers as needed.

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Such smart charging services require a close collaboration between car manufacturers, energy suppliers, transmission system operators, aggregators etc. Interoperability platforms play a fundamental role for this to happen.  They are designed to connect heterogeneous operators and help them transfer data on a large scale, making smart charging operations on public charging networks possible.

Acting as a trustworthy third-party, a platform can ensure the security of data flow through dedicated processes. Further improving EV drivers’ charging experience, the ISO-15118 protocol is another security procedure that platforms can help implement. ISO-15118 is a technical communication protocol between electric vehicles and charging points. It enables “Plug and Charge”: plug a car and the charging session begins without any app or pass. The user is identified through the connection between the vehicle and the charging point.

Mass market uptake of ISO-15118 is planned in the coming two years. ISO-15118 is the first international norm that covers cyber-security issues of EV charging: it secures data flow between EV and charging poles, boosting EV drivers’ confidence on charging services. It is also an obvious evolution for a roaming platform like GIREVE to help implement ISO-15118 by connecting Charge Point Operators, eMobility Providers and Car manufacturers through IT certificate delivery.

“This protocol is a first step towards e-mobility cyber security: it is thus a big step towards EV development on a larger scale. Indeed, mass-marketing this type of mobility cannot take place without perfectly secured data exchanges between electric vehicles and EVSE.” Jean-Marc Rives, CTO of GIREVE

Autonomous vehicles, smart charging, connectivity, car sharing, fleet management… E-mobility development brings along new actors, making the ecosystem more complex as those actors need to interact on charging and connectivity issues. A roaming platform like GIREVE makes these interactions easier and establish connections between heterogeneous systems in a much more cost-effective way. Its flexibility allows for the implementation of new services and new systems, placing itself in a pivotal position to shape the future of E-Mobility and its ecosystem.

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