The OCPP Challenge: Connecting Electric Vehicles to the Grid
More EVs means more demand on the grid. Learn how the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) could resolve issues for DNOs, operators and manufacturers.
Electric vehicles will soon become part of our everyday lives.
To June 2021, 14.5% of new car sales in the UK were plug-in vehicles (Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles or PHEVs).1 In 2030, the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the UK will be banned. The direction of travel in the UK and Europe more widely is towards an EV-dominant future.
However, the EV-olution begs several questions: how will the national grid cope with additional electricity demand? Can charging station management systems (CSMSes) suitably control the charge points on their networks? Can distribution network operators (DNOs) anticipate demand to ensure that the grid isn’t overwhelmed at any one point in time?
CSMSes, DNOs and charge point manufacturers face the same challenge yet with different end goals in mind, from ensuring convenient EV charging by users to managing demand through encouraging off-peak charging. The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), a universal standard ensuring efficient communication between charge points and CSMSes, offers some of the answers.
The manufacturer dividend of OCPP
More EVs means a larger network of charge points. This has the potential to be messy: multiple charge points all responding to different CSMSes, and all unable to talk to each other. In the event of a CSMS ceasing to operate, the most likely outcome will be a charge point that cannot communicate with others on the network, becoming a ‘stranded asset’ (i.e. a charge point that cannot connect to the network – a ‘dumb’ unit).
OCPP offers the benefits of open-source software to charge point manufacturers. By adopting OCPP standards, manufacturers need not worry about software development or whether the software will be compatible across different networks. If a CSMS ceases to exist, the charge point can still interact with others on the network as the software it uses will be standard across said network. This not only saves manufacturers money by reducing the risk of obsolescence, but also means that they do not necessarily have to recruit in-house developers to build and manage software used by the Charge Point.
Opening up Charge Point management
Charging station management systems face similar issues to Charge Point manufacturers when it comes to Charge Points that can’t talk to one another: this being the threat (and cost) of obsolescence, compatibility between networks, and control over their charge points.
OCPP makes communication between CSMSes and charge points easier. Charge points possess a shared, open-source language. They are also simpler to control than non-OCPP charge points; the shared software enables CSMSes to operate charge points using a single dashboard, creating an overview of charge point usage. OCPP can also help CSMSes in the long-term through enabling software compatibility with different brands of charge point, opening up business opportunities while also removing the cost of having to replace charge points for them to be compatible on a CSMS’s network.
Managing energy grid demand
DNOs are responsible for balancing the supply and demand placed upon the national grid by energy consumers. Naturally, as EVs become more popular, more charge points will be installed at home placing a greater strain on the grid.
OCPP can alleviate this issue. Using OCPP in combination with Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR), EVs can be turned into demand-response assets. By communicating with CMSMs using smartchaging messages, EV drivers can become more energy efficient by understanding when best to charge their vehicle, in turn reducing electricity demand at peak times.
Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) systems can also contribute towards balancing energy usage across the grid, enabling EVs to feed electricity back into the grid or reducing their charging rate at peak times when the grid is under more pressure.
Changing stack: The Critical OCPP solution
With more charge points being installed by the day, a solution that helps manage energy demand for DNOs, is interoperable and compatible with multiple networks, and reduces costs incurred by manufacturers is keenly needed. Critical Software has created an OCPP stack which facilitates the rapid communication of charge points with CSMSes. The stack also enables easy integration with any OCPP back office, establishing an interoperable set up in no time.