OCPP is a protocol that outlines the requirements for standardized EV charger management software. - Photo: FF

OCPP is a protocol that outlines the requirements for standardized EV charger management software.

Photo: FF

Peek your head into a gated parking lot in San Francisco or Phoenix, and you may see a fleet of Waymo’s electric Jaguar I-PACEs plugged in to charge.

While these cars are unique in their ability to autonomously drive back to their station when they’re running low on power, they represent a growing trend in the fleet industry: electrification.

The U.S. expects to have more than 4.2 million electric light commercial vehicles, trucks and buses on the roads by 2030, up from just 28 thousand in 2021, according to Statista.

Today, there are nearly that many electric vehicles (EVs), including passenger cars, in the country.

So, what can these cars reveal about the issues fleets might face as they transition from internal combustion engines to EVs? The biggest lesson learned is that charging is a major problem.

Charging and Fleet Electrification

EV chargers require charger management software that communicates between the hardware and the back end.

This communication is essential for fleets that may have hundreds or thousands of chargers spread across physical locations.

EV charger management software lets operators provision and remotely control charging equipment, manage energy consumption and throughput, and monitor charger equipment uptime, power levels and degradation.

Fleet charging introduces new challenges that passenger vehicles generally don’t experience. Most passenger vehicles are charged at the driver’s house or at a public charging station that has five or fewer chargers.

And if a consumer can’t charge immediately, it’s a hassle and headache. But fleets are charged simultaneously with hundreds or thousands of other cars.

This requires a greater amount of concentrated energy and intelligent load balancing to prevent charging issues. And sidelined EV fleet vehicles are more than a hassle — they hit the business’s top and bottom line.

Why OCPP Needs to be Part of a Fleet Electrification Strategy

The majority of charger management software is built to a standard called Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), created by the Open Charge Alliance (OCA).

Public chargers for passenger vehicles are largely built to OCPP 1.6 — an old version that left a lot of room for interpretation.

A big issue with OCPP 1.6 is that it doesn’t require real-time monitoring, which may be a reason that 20% of public chargers in major U.S. cities don’t work.

In 2019, OCA released OCPP 2.0.1, which includes upgrades to boost the reliability of chargers and increase interoperability, security and scalability.

Building to OCPP 2.0.1

OCPP is a protocol that outlines the requirements for standardized EV charger management software, but it’s up to users to implement it.

EV fleet operators have two options for implementation — they can work with a vendor to build a bespoke solution, or they can adopt open source software that’s OCPP 2.0.1 compliant.

Open source software is freely available for use and modification by the public. The concept has been widely adopted in the tech industry with famous projects like Linux, the operating system used by Facebook and YouTube.

Now, open source is gaining traction in critical infrastructure as utility companies rapidly embrace it for digital transformation and grid modernization.

And in the EV industry, Tesla, S44 and PIONIX have launched open source projects to make standardized charging more accessible across the industry.

For fleets, open source software provides many benefits, including:

  • Customization: Adopting OCPP 2.0.1-compliant software gives fleets a solid foundation that can be used on its own or built on top of to address unique requirements.
  • Cost optimization: Open source software is free for anyone to use. Even if fleet operators augment it, it reduces the initial cost of building from scratch.
  • Maintenance: Open source software is maintained and improved by the community. Contributions from multiple stakeholders ensure the software is regularly updated and capable of addressing varying use cases.

De-Risk Going Electric With Open Standards and Software

The United States has set a goal to meet net-zero emissions by 2050. A big part of that initiative is the electrification of vehicles, of which fleets make up a large percentage.

To date, charging has been a major barrier to entry, but open standards and open source software are helping improve charging infrastructure. For fleets, adopting OCPP 2.0.1-compliant software ensures that chargers will be reliable, scalable, and secure.

About the Author: Julian Offermann is the founder and CEO of S44. S44 creates custom software solutions that translate real-world needs into digital experiences.This article was authored and edited according to FF editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of FF.