A Charge Point Operator (CPO) is an eMobility industry player that builds EV charging sites, installs hardware from a variety of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) vendors, and ensures optimal ongoing EV charging operations. CPOs also provide and manage the charging network infrastructure, the backend EV charging and energy management software, and the communications between the backend system and the chargers.
CPOs are responsible for delivering reliable and consistent EV charging to their customers, who are eMobility Service Providers (EMSPs). EMSPs own and manage the business relationships with electric vehicle drivers, who may be charging at home, at work, at fleet depots serviced by the EMSP, at charge points within the EMSP’s branded networks, or at other charging networks via eRoaming.
A third industry player, the Electric Vehicle Service Provider (EVSP), has the same concerns as CPOs and EMSPs combined. An EVSP is an end-to-end EV charging services provider responsible for the charging station equipment, charging operations — including the communications network and the EV charging and energy management system — and the driver experience, including EV billing operations and eRoaming. EVSPs typically operate branded networks that offer EV charging services for on-the-road public charging, residential charging, workplace and destination charging, and fleet depots.
What should Charge Point Operators (CPOs) care about?
Charge Point Operators optimize operations of the EV charging infrastructure for the eMobility ecosystem. They need to ensure maximum charger uptime today and be futureproof for tomorrow, with the capacity and scalability to manage the exponential growth of EV charging.
A CPO may start with a smaller-scope network but quickly install new charge points in an expanding geographical footprint, which can cause performance issues and high maintenance costs — particularly if hampered by aging chargers. In some cases, CPOs grow their networks through mergers and acquisitions, requiring support for different backend systems, networks, charging hardware, and business needs.
In addition, CPOs also find themselves supporting an increasing variety of charger types made by different suppliers to address varying charging use cases, including Level 2 AC chargers for home, MDUs, workplaces, fleets, and destination charging, and Level 3 DC ultrafast chargers for public charging on the road. Managing this variety of charging hardware across sites demands a hardware-agnostic solution based on open industry protocols such as OCPP and OCPI.
CPOs need to guarantee that EV chargers are always available and stable, operating 24/7 without fail. Systems need to be in place to notify them whenever a problem arises with the chargers — or automatically fix software-related problems when possible, reducing operating costs and minimizing impact on EV drivers. Chargers’ availability, charging simplicity, real-time information, and safety are key parameters to achieve EV drivers’ satisfaction.
All CPO software platforms need to deliver real-time information necessary to optimize operations, analyzing business and technical data for efficient decision-making. Automation is key to reducing TCO. Process automation tools need to seamlessly handle transactional and technical issues without requiring employee intervention. Furthermore, smart energy management helps reduce capital and operating costs by better managing energy demand during peak hours and integrating renewables and local battery storage.
How can CPOs optimize their businesses?
CPOs can optimize their businesses with a focus on operational excellence, monitoring and control, smart energy management, business flexibility, customer centricity, scalability, and interoperability. The CPO must have a reliable EV charging management system in place to meet these requirements and minimize the CAPEX and OPEX required to establish and operate the CPO infrastructure.
EMSPs depend on CPOs to maintain availability of the entire operational infrastructure, so all hardware needs to be monitored in real-time to discover and fix issues before the customer — or even the CPO — is aware of them. Clear visibility and logging of chargers’ issues is critical, along with simple but powerful dashboards for operators. Once an issue is found, operators need tools to investigate, track, and resolve issues quickly. Self-healing reduces costs by circumventing the need to send technicians to the field. Furthermore, automated provisioning ensures that new chargers are instantly “online” without any intervention.
A CPO platform that optimizes monetization is a key for rapid ROI. A platform that gives CPOs the flexibility to integrate with multiple EMSPs using established EV roaming platforms, like Hubject, GIREVE, and e-clearing.net and supporting roaming protocols like OCPI, will allow them to serve EMSPs across different regions and increase charge point utilization. The platform should support multiple tariffs and currencies, multiple charging and billing plans, choice of payment gateways, and driver incentives like coupons or “first-hour free” charging.
Charger availability and stability are critical to EV driver satisfaction. Beyond that, all customer-facing self-service tools need to be intuitive and simple, providing a seamless charging experience. This includes allowing customers to pay using their preferred methods, including plug-and-charge capabilities as the market matures around this technology. The system should support optimizing your business by providing data and insights into customer behaviors and preferences. And it should support different business users in the ecosystem, such as EV fleet managers and facility managers in commercial buildings and MDUs.
Intelligent management and optimization of energy is critical to reducing both CAPEX and OPEX. Smart energy management use specialized algorithms to balance demand across the ecosystem of chargers, local storage systems and solar panels, building energy systems, neighborhood microgrids, and the power grid. The energy management system needs to handle power load balancing, energy optimization, EV fleet prioritization, demand response, and integration with the flexibility market, local distribution, and renewables.
Ultimately, smart energy management ensures energy is delivered to the right resource at the right time, at the lowest cost. The business value is ultimately transforming the EV charging energy challenge into a solution by using EV batteries and vehicle-to-grid technology to balance the grid and reduce demand.
Scalability is critical to keep up with the rapidly expanding growth of the EV market. The United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and France are only four nations among many that have increased their focus on eliminating emissions within the next few decades. Scalability is not just about adding EV chargers; it’s ensuring that the entire operational infrastructure can scale in terms of types of chargers, transactions, and drivers on the network.
Interoperability is critical for futureproofing the network’s long-term operations, when every few months, another technology innovation is launched. A CPO platform delivering the widest charger support allows for easy integration of any charger to speed and smooth adoption. Compatibility with industry standards and protocols like OCPP, OCPI, OCSP, and ISO 15118 ensures that backend operations, communications, and financial clearing operate smoothly.
CPOs are key players in eMobility
As the backbone of the eMobility industry, CPOs are critical. Streamlining and optimizing EV charging operations ensures they can maximize their business opportunities while reducing TCO and providing an excellent EV charging experience.