One of the regular bugbears for EV drivers is that on longer journeys there is a requirement to identify and sign up for multiple networks. As an Association, we have appreciated the benefits we see in Scotland with the one card covering the public network. This has been a key advantage for EV drivers here. Recently we have been involved in conversations about roaming. Ideally, the future should see your network account of choice support charging in all networks. This may sound like fantasy, but it is already developing with companies like Gireve providing the tools for interoperability between networks.
Once such services become prevalent, which must really be seen as inevitable, then the user just needs to sign up with one network, enabling transparent access to all other networks signed up to the interoperability hubs. EVA Scotland has a position of not supporting roaming charges, believing that the cost should be integrated into the charge session overheads. It isn’t free, but it should be transparent to the user, just as with most mobile phones while on holiday in Europe. So when you are low, every charge point you see should be accessible without needing to check if you have the right app or card. Simple, surer, smarter.
For the Charge Point Operators, (CPOs), the advantages are also clear. The requirement to attempt to build overlapping, excessively costly networks can be virtually eliminated. Investment can be focussed to provide the best possible service in selected areas. Their customers will see a vastly improved service, with all charging options readily accessible. The provision of smart value added services also grows in this model, allowing networks to differentiate themselves in more useful ways.
RFID, app, NFC, Contactless? Or?
Most users have particular preferences for starting charging. Roaming systems should be able to support them all, whether a regular user with an account or an occasional traveller who just wants to rock up and charge. The future is going to be even more interesting as Plug and Charge evolves, where cars themselves will negotiate directly with the charge point, with roaming being completely transparent to the user, for them, it will simply charge their car. There is a perception that this will spell the end of the RFID card, but as with significant numbers of legacy vehicles likely to be around for a long time, this is potentially decades away.
The business landscape.
The UK is unusual in the way our EV charging networks have evolved. Most of our Charge Point Operators (CPO) are also their own e Mobility Service Provider (eMSP) what we tend to call the back office. Here in Scotland we actually have a large number of CPOs, in the form of the post hosts on CPS. CPS itself is an eMSP, providing back office to those multiple operators. In Europe, most networks work in this manner. Most of the names we tend to see in the UK are vertically integrated, being both CPO and eMSP. To advance the growth and success of electromobility, all networks need to embrace interoperability, for the benefit of their customers, their reputation and ultimately their existence. Simply put, the capital investment for a single company to compete with an integrated, pan-European or global roaming platform is unlikely to be supported by their backers. The trick is to get on board now and help shape a better future for us all.