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Hooray for eMobility standardization!

Hooray for eMobility standardization Source: iStock/g-stockstudio

Without functioning standards, there can be no electromobility! Standardization and electromobility – isn’t that an old story? The charge plug question was thoroughly debated in Europe until a decision was finally made. So why should standardization continue to be important for electromobility?

The reason is simple: there are still very many interfaces left between the various market players that need to be described and defined so that further development can be accelerated. And the plug connection between charging station and car was a relatively simple interface. Now things start to get really interesting!

First things first: in everyday life, electromobility is supposed to be easy.

This means you charge up your vehicle at home, and when you’re on the road, you take a charging app of your choice, search for an available charging station, drive to it, and charge up your vehicle. You know the price for the charging process in advance and are then billed exactly that. As easy as all this is meant to be for end users wherever they go, implementation can actually be very complicated, as there are only a handful of generally accepted standards.

Many companies and institutions have advanced electromobility over the past few years through intensive research, development, and implementation. The market players and sponsors of the technology were faced with the question of whether to wait until a generally applicable standard was developed or to get going and define standards themselves. As a result, we are in a situation today where there are various solutions to electromobility questions, each of which has their own authorization and distribution. In order to facilitate interoperability – and therefore user-friendly charging – across Europe, all market players have to invest a lot of money, time, and effort into connecting the various systems with each other.

Let’s get specific:

It all begins with drivers who want to charge their cars. How should they go about it? Should they plug in the cable first and then identify themselves at the charge spot? Or should they log in first and then plug in the cable? Because these questions were answered in different ways, there are also differences in the information sent from one charging station to the operator and from there to the roaming platforms. However, this variance is more pronounced for certain aspects. For instance, although there is a widely used standardized protocol that governs how charging stations connect with management software (OCPP), the protocol contains some freedoms that are used. They make it necessary to certify every new charging station manufacturer to be connected to an existing management system.

So that drivers can charge their cars at the charging stations of the various operators throughout Europe, the charging stations also have to be connected to a roaming platform. Here too we see that several roaming platforms have emerged in Europe. Alongside the widely known Hubject in Berlin, we also have e-clearing.net, Mobi.E, Gireve, and a few others. In turn, each roaming platform has developed its own communication protocol, which helps exchange information between the various charge point operators. As a result, any business that wants to work together with several roaming platforms in order to facilitate genuinely uninterrupted Europe-wide electromobility has to support the various protocols.

Infographic giving an overview of charging stations throughout Europe.
Drivers can charge their cars at the charging stations of the various operators throughout Europe, the charging stations also have to be connected to a roaming platform. Each roaming platform has developed its own communication protocol, which helps exchange information between the various charge point operators.

We can see, therefore, that easy-to-use electromobility is very much possible in Europe, but that achieving it will be very awkward and laborious. This complexity is an impediment to further development, as it drives up costs. The various market players may see no incentive in further integrating when extra complexity leads only to more costs and hardly any additional revenue.

So how can we cut this Gordian knot?

In 2015, the Green eMotion project gave birth to eMI³. This industry initiative set itself the goal of creating the conditions for standardized, harmonized, and interoperable electromobility services through measures such as describing generally applicable use cases and defining role models, from which clear protocols can then be derived. In addition, eMI3 wants to improve cooperation between the various sectors such as the automotive and energy industries and the operators of public infrastructure.

eMI3 sees itself as playing a supporting role to existing initiatives and standardization committees. However, the composition of eMI3 is different from other bodies: eMI3 brings together a variety of relevant companies and institutions, which have formally pledged themselves to implement the recommendations made by eMI³. The list of companies and institutions that have signed up to eMI3 is highly impressive: L’Afirev, Allego, Austrian Mobile Power, BMW, Bosch, CEIIA, Charge Point Inc., E.ON, EDF, Renault, Schneider Electric, TNO, TomTom International B.V., AEDIVE, Alfazero, Cenex (UK EVSE), CNR, eViolin, Gireve SA, Hubject GmbH, IBIL SA, Phoenix Contact, Smartlab Innovationsgesellschaft GmbH, Bridging IT GmbH, ChargeMap, Circontrol SA, CISC Semiconductor GmbH, and Fullcharger International. This list will continue to grow.

Further reading

This article is part of the eMobility blog carnival. You can find more articles on electromobility here (German only):

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I am confident that the work of eMI3 will make it considerably easier for all players in the electromobility market to do business in the medium term, which will help increase general acceptance for electromobility. To address the abovementioned complexity in connection with the charging of electric vehicles, eMI3 published a comprehensive catalog of use cases in 2015, which are now being progressively implemented and are already improving the situation.

Future issues to be tackled include the further integration of electromobility and energy grids in the direction of the smart grid. This will also pose some exciting challenges for eMI3.

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