Recently, you’ve probably noticed electric vehicles taking up more column inches and making up more and more of the total number of cars out there on the roads, right?
As we transition to more sustainable power solutions, news articles and headlines are awash with stories about the change to greener driving – while drivers are increasingly choosing electric as their fuel of choice when it comes to buying new cars. But with that rapidly growing EV market comes a raft of new tech terminology to match – and an ever-increasing chance that you might feel just a little bit lost amongst a sea of eMobility jargon.
Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Drivers and businesses alike are finding themselves having to learn a raft of new words and phrases, which is why we’ve decided to help iron things out. In this article, we’ll be running through some of the terms and phrases you’re likely to hear as we move toward an EV-only future, starting with a big one…
What exactly is a charging platform, and how do they work?
Platforms and charging management software
An EV charging platform is a cloud-based service that enables businesses to provide charging to their customers. More specifically, charging platforms enable business customers and partners to develop and manage their EV charging networks and solutions.
The idea behind selling a ‘platform as a service’ (PaaS) is, at its simplest, selling a computing model. That is, selling the systems or solutions that invisibly connect hardware and software. In the case of eMobility, that means connecting charging stations to customers, which is what enables the charging services you’ll encounter whenever you’re driving around and need to charge.
Though some might call EV charging platforms “charging management software” this can be a bit misleading, since platforms are, by nature, more all-encompassing than the software tools they enable. In Spirii’s case, there can be a bunch of interlinking software services under one platform, depending on the needs of the partner. More specifically, our platform covers everything from our Spirii Go charging app for EV drivers, to supplying and certifying hardware – and the operational nuts and bolts of helping to run charging networks. We also offer systems and tools to partners for selling and scaling and optimising their solutions.
In other words, a charging platform offers much more than software solutions it enables.
EV charging systems
Many EV drivers speak of three different EV charging systems, and here your first question would probably be: “Ok, so what are the three types of EV charging systems?” But answering that question requires a little bit of explanation.
You could, understandably, think that the question refers to the systems that enable businesses to build, operate, and scale a charging business – three aspects of a full-service EV Platform such as Spirii’s. But when people talk about “three charging systems”, they’re usually referring to the three common ways drivers charge their EVs:
- Trickle charging
- AC charging
- DC charging
But here’s where it gets complicated: only the second two describe actual charging systems. The reason people refer to “three systems”, then, is that the three types of charging enable different charging speeds.
‘Trickle’ is the term used for home charging via a normal plug, which is slow, and not recommended due to safety concerns. Of AC and DC, meanwhile, it’s the latter that enables the fastest charging speed.
A car’s charging system is defining when it comes to finding a charging station on the go – at least if you wish to charge in the fastest way possible. Because of this, the next obvious question for many EV drivers wanting to charge fast is: “What is the EV charging station called for DC charging?”
The good news here is that most public charging stations are usually named after the charging systems they support – meaning “AC charger” or “DC charger” – although DC chargers are sometimes called “Fast chargers”.
Why are protocols important to EV charging platforms?
While an EV charging platform provides software solutions for daily charge point management and charging services, the word protocols describes the processes happening behind the scenes to enable technical compliance. Although the average EV-driving customer won’t need to think about these protocols in their day-to-day lives, they play a massive part in shaping the entire electric vehicle charging market – and the services on offer.
OCPP and OCPI are two key protocols that charging providers and platforms deal with in order to bring charging solutions to their customers, so let’s explain what each one does…
What is the difference between OCPP and OCPI?
The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a global communication standard. It describes the charging hardware’s ability to communicate in a certain way with the backend software. OCPP-compliant hardware, then, can handle the exchange of charging data between this backend infrastructure and the connected car.
The advantage of this communication standard is that it’s agnostic, letting operators can integrate with OCPP-compliant hardware across different brands. This means they can easily expand their charging networks with new EV chargers, giving EV drivers more charging options.
Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) on the other hand, enables what many EV drivers know as ‘roaming’. OCPI is essentially a communication standard for connecting charge point operators and charging service providers (e.g. the provider of a charging app). The OCPI protocol ensures that information such as location, charger accessibility, and pricing is communicated back and forth accurately, enabling billing and mobile access to charging stations. In other words, OCPI facilitates service between different charging networks, allowing drivers to move freely between providers, wherever they are.
The core difference between the terms is that while OCCP deals with communication between charging hardware and the backend, OCPI connects the charging network operators and the charging service providers. And these interoperable, connective abilities make OCCP and OCPI really important to any business wanting to work with charging.