The Future of the UK’s eMobility Infrastructure and what we can learn from the Austrian Approach to Interoperability

The UK government’s ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 has accelerated the rollout of charging infrastructure, heralding a new eMobility era for Brits. The UK currently has 24,000 publicly available charge points, but there’s a long way to go to ensure there’s enough infrastructure in place for the 36 million EVs set to hit the streets by 2040. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders estimates Britain will need 2.8m public charge points. With such rapid growth and little standardization in place other than the sheer force of vertical market’s cooperation, are we about to see the next spaghetti junction electrified with fragmented multi-supplier networks requiring multiple fobs and Apps to charge, price gouging and restricted access to some stations?

The Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce—a lobby group of more than 350 members, including car firms and energy companies, believes Britain could take steps now that would facilitate the eMobility revolution that is underway. The top of their agenda is the need for coordinated planning, and standards that enable future proofed investments, interoperability, and data sharing. They’re up against a ticking clock, technology in this area is moving at break-neck speed, and there’s a pandemic and post-Brexit negotiations to contend with. Can we wait for them? Or should we dive in now and find the key issues involved and why interoperability is pivotal?

There are two central roles of infrastructure operators that we need to understand. The Charge Point Operators (CPOs), who operate charging stations and are legally responsible for compliance with the statutory and technical requirements to ensure that charging sessions are accurately recorded and tamperproof. CPOs provide direct access to EV drivers, or outsource access to Mobility Service Providers (MSPs) to facilitate access to their stations.

MSPs have a direct relationship and licence agreement with a large body of EV drivers. The advantage for CPOs to outsource to MSPs is that they can handle administration, allowing the CPO to focus on their core business. EV drivers can access a much wider network of charging stations, making it possible to extend their range and receive only one bill. Sometimes it is the same organization with two separate approaches. A great example of this in the UK is Elmtronics, who has introduced the Hubsta network, that provides drivers with a fob that allows them to load at various stations. This is particularly advantageous for fleet management systems that cannot provide credit cards to every driver to use Tap & Go or employee corporate charging that requires dynamic pricing, e.g. free charging for employees, low cost for customers, and premium rates for peak times to make a profit.

Facilitating the relationship between the CPO and MSP requires an interconnected system, so that they can communicate with each other. They can directly connect via Open Charge Point Interface protocol (OCPI) or use systems with interconnected interfaces with a peer-to-peer system or connect to a hub via a third-party roaming platform like Hubject.

MSPs generally want to connect with as many CPOs as possible to attract EV customers, and offer competitive prices. MSPs then become subject to the terms of each roaming platform and individual CPO.

Confused? Think of it like a train system—one operates the tracks (CPO) and leases it to various companies to use (MSPs). The tracks cross multiple regions/networks with different tax rates and prices to complete a journey. Simple, right? With over 640 different charging station hardware types and 356.5 billion vehicle miles driven on British roads in 2019, things get complicated fast.

Fortunately, in Britain’s race to net-zero, this wheel is one of the things they don’t have to invent. Almost a decade ago, Martin Klässner, Director of has·to·be gmbh, found a way to outwit a similar situation in the German-speaking market with Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  They were pioneers in envisioning the future of mobility as a service and now, using their software, be.ENERGISED, it’s effortless and affordable for EV drivers to travel long distances in Central Europe, connect to a multitude of networks, and pay just one bill. Any charging station that is online capable (OCCP 1.5+), regardless of their API interfaces, can connect to their cloud-based backend and make their station available to EV drivers.

One of their greatest contributions to the future of eMobility is their work as an aggregator using one of their products, the be.Energised COMMUNITY. Rather than every CPO and MSP having individual contracts with each other and every roaming platform, they can simply connect to the COMMUNITY, which bundles them and pushes them to Hubject, creating a vast, interconnected network. Drivers can charge at any station with one affordable and easy-to-use payment method. SMEs now have their stations and services  appearing on every charge map across Europe, and have all administrative tasks involved with being a CPO or MSP fully automated with has·to·be gmbh’s white label services that take care of marketing, billing, taxation, legal regulations, dynamic pricing, hotline services, confidentiality data laws, fleet management, etc. For retailers, municipalities, and companies offering charging as a secondary business, this allows for generating passive income while focusing on their primary business mandates. Operators that want to be more involved can scale back on those options and receive raw data from the charge logs and administer directly to their customers.

The Austrian team took a hardware agnostic approach from the start because they foresaw OEMs flooding the market with station model types. Staying hardware neutral, they easily support every type of charging infrastructure and keep up with the latest technological developments, the next big one being ISO 15118 and the next generation of Plug & Charge vehicles. Numerous UK companies, county councils, police forces, hospitals, universities, supermarkets, and retailers are already benefiting from the be.Energised platform via the Hubsta network.

emobility infrastructureCurrent coverage of charging stations connected to be.ENERGISED

How does it work? Charging stations transmit a real-time request triggered by the CPO’s driver that connects to be.Energised, and the driver remains anonymous via a tag ID that is uniquely assigned. The software verifies the ID using a database comparison of the CPO’s customer ID and authorizes them to start to charge. The information about the charging process is recorded in the software cloud. Once charging is complete, the charge point transmits a charge detail record (CDR) with the charging process data in be.Energised, allowing the options of automated white label services and tariff management, remote monitoring, and support.

Why do we need Roaming when we have Tap & Go?

Roaming is one more option that has many benefits for drivers, CPOs, and MSPs. The UK eMobility market is just getting going but it is already competitive. For SMEs, interoperable software like be.Energised allows them to step into the market with instant access to EV drivers. As more eDrivers sign up with MSPs that offer more competitive rates and customer loyalty incentives, we will see more roaming options in the UK like Hubsta, Digital Charging Solutions GmbH, and The New Motion BV, who are already using be.Energised.

Anthony Piggot, Founder & Technical Director of Elmtronics & Hubsta said:

It’s already possible for EV drivers to increase range, make no upfront payment, and receive one monthly bill by signing up with Hubsta, which is a huge benefit for our customers, especially our fleet managers. Our customers also enjoy 24/7 hotline and station monitoring, so if a charger is faulty, it can be reset remotely or notify a technician immediately. That makes the end-user experience painless. We can provide this level of service because of the be.Energised platform. What I really like about be.Energised is that when we want to partner with other MSPs and CPOs, we can directly connect via OCPI or using the be.Energised Community. That level of flexibility and scalability make it easy for us to operate and expand.

We asked Martin Klässner, Director of has·to·be gmbh, his advice for British eMobility providers:

This is a very exciting time for eMobility in England and many are eager to get started. It can be tempting to go with the next-best hardware and software. But all too often, these “out of the box” solutions are very rigid systems that cannot be adjusted when your company expands or as the landscape shifts as it is sure to do in this market. My advice would be to opt for infrastructure that is open, easily scalable, and flexible enough to add features as they are developed. This way, you can be sure you are future-proofing a sustainable solution for your company and community. There are lots of start-ups that will be vying for your business now, but infrastructure decisions last for 40+ years. It is worth the time to talk to industry experts on what they advise. Our team would be happy to field your questions and think through these ideas with you without any obligations.    

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