One of the Alliance's top priorities has long been to champion open technology standards.

Unlike countries and regions that are further along with EVs, North America is a tangle of competing protocols for charging, payment, batteries, plugs, apps and more. Open standards can standardize all of these, reducing costs and making EV ownership easier. An EV owner should not need to carry around multiple RFID cards, or to install multiple phone apps that don't talk to each other.

For example, the present system forces EV service providers to manage secure links between the cloud, the charging station and the vehicle. In the best case, this entails connecting at least two different protocols: the back-end Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) and the front-end Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI), which allows e-roaming by EV owners. However, car makers and others have still more protocols to add to this mix, and integrating the first two with these others can add exponential complexity. Meanwhile, the EV owner pays for this in inconvenience and frustration.

We envision open networks that connect charging stations, utilities, customers, manufacturers and vehicle telematics; an almost frictionless open system available to all market participants, where EV owners tell friends how convenient EV ownership is, further speeding adoption.

The Benefits Ahead

Consider the way open standards enabled the rapid spread of other key technologies that we now take for granted. The banking industry standardized protocols to develop a system of ATM machines for cash withdrawals, deposits, and transactions that enables consumers to use ATM machines of any bank in any geographic region. The wireless telephone industry developed a streamlined system of managing calls and data traffic through a series of roaming agreements among the carriers which govern both standards and rates for exchanging traffic (and through regulations, such as requiring portability of telephone numbers from one carrier to another). For that matter, the EV industry has already seen similar success in rallying around the standard the J-1772 plug for AC charging and the CCS Combo plug for DC fast charging.

So what are some of the key benefits of an open system with common standards?

  • First, the consumer benefits greatly from lower costs, access to more charging stations, and the ability to roam across networks. In its early days, the EV industry earned an unfortunate reputation for inconvenience due to fragmented structures that required drivers to carry multiple RFID cards, frustratingly problematic phone apps and so on. This friction between the consumer, the charging station and the network must be substantially reduced.
  • Second, open standards and protocols will provide a baseline of engineering and software for the industry upon which new start-ups can innovate over time. While there is always some tension between standard-setting and innovation, the growth of an industry to mass market adoption and greater scale requires a basic level of standards. Otherwise, proprietary systems may proliferate to the detriment of the entire system.
  • Third, from the standpoint of host sites and utilities, an open system avoids vendor-lock in, allowing the utility to switch hardware and software vendors at low cost. Utilities in particular are always looking for lower-cost solutions in any new technology's adoption curve, so they should be able to test various vendors and approaches. Utilities and host sites must have freedom to experiment.

Standards We Love

From the beginning we have advocated for OCPP, which provides a common communications path between the cloud and the charger. Version 1.6 of this protocol has become widely accepted as a baseline standard in the industry. Version 2.0 is being introduced, and other versions will undoubtedly come. Independent testing of the OCPP protocol is important as well, and our international affiliate, the Open Charge Alliance (OCA), has been instrumental in this effort.

On the consumer-facing front side, we welcome any initiative that promotes greater e-roaming among the charging stations and networks. Recently, many EVSPs are implementing contract-based, peer-to-peer agreements that allow roaming between their networks.

However, open standards can also become obstacles if there are too many of them. While some auto makers promote various open systems for linking telematics and EV service providers, the Alliance believes transparency and customer choice would be better served by a single, standardized e-roaming protocol such as OCPI.

The Alliance follows still other evolving, updating protocols such as ISO 15118, working closely with members and affiliated organizations such as EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute)  and SAE International (Society for Automotive Engineering). For instance, we are enthusiastic about the ISO 15118 plug-and-charge functionality included in some new EVs, allowing drivers to charge without an app or RFID card.

As we track new developments and make recommendations to Alliance members, we will continue to push for technology that revolves around a minimal number of basic, open technical standards, in order to make EV ownership as easy and convenient as possible.