Fragmented electric vehicle charging networks hit users

Fragmented electric vehicle charging networks hit users

Feature articles |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Electric vehicle charging networks with many different tariffs and ways to pay are slowing the rollout of the technology, says Bosch.

On top of that, the prices at charge spots can vary widely, and users are exasperated by opaque car-electricity prices and a slew of different payment methods says the company. Several other companies, including are looking at ways to simplify and combine these networks. This

The problem is particularly acute in Europe, with different electric vehicle charging network operators in different countries. The German energy association BDEW estimates there were 27,730 public and semi-public charge spots across Germany at 27,730 at the end of March 2020. While that seems a great number for electric car drivers, there are nearly 200 different recharging access cards from providers and operators that frequently only work at certain charge spots. There are also 288 different tariffs, making the payment a nightmare.

This is why Australian firm Tritium used its Amsterdam research centre to test out a cardless embedded encryption technology for the systems its suppliers to operators such as Pod Point

“We placed our innovation centre strategically in Amsterdam and at the epicentre of Europe’s automotive manufacturing sector,” said James Kennedy, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Tritium. “That investment has paid off, and directly led to the rapid development of the technology. It’s a major reason why we’re first to the market with a secure and advanced charger technology once again.”

Citroen owner PSA has also had to team up with multiple network operators across Europe for charging services, with providers including Pod Point, EVBox, Enel X, and Juice Technology as well as inno2grid in Germany and ZEBorune in France.

Yet Bosch is adding to this, with rolling out its own app-based charging network, although with a simpler payment structure, for private and business customers. Users of the Bosch app can use a smartphone to find more than 150,000 charge spots in 16 European countries.

“With our recharging services, we are developing a universal key to one of the biggest pan-European recharging networks. In doing so, we are making electromobility even more viable,” says Elmar Pritsch, the president of the Connected Mobility Solutions division of Robert Bosch.

However it has taken the experience of the mobile phone network, which was similarly fragmented in the early days, and has built the network through a series of contracts with operators and using roaming to connect the charge spots. These are accessed through the proprietary Bosch “Charge My EV” app or affiliated providers such as “Clever Laden” in Germany to find vacant charge spots. By the end of 2020, it is expected to include some 200,000 charge spots across Europe.

Charging cards are also an issue, similar to carrying multiple SIMs for different phone networks. Nearly half (45 percent) of all electric-car drivers use two to four different cards to access charge spots, and 15 percent of them use at least five cards, say market researchers NewMotion.

The Bosch app compares the tariffs in cloud and gives a driver a clear breakdown of what they will have to pay at individual charge spots, and what terms and conditions apply, as well as take payment.

“Recharging has to be simple and smooth for everyone. Bosch’s smart recharging services are crucial for the widespread acceptance of electromobility,” said Pritsch.

The app is the first step to other services though. “In the future, recharging will be more than just filling up with electricity. The key for us here is a new personalization of the entire recharging process,” said Pritsch, linking the charging and infotainment systems.

Convenience charging keeps drivers and electric vehicles constantly up to date on remaining range and where they can recharge their battery. If the originally planned charge spot is occupied, a new recharging stop is automatically rescheduled and the navigation system reprogrammed.

The different type of charging station available can be part of the routes chosen by the satnav, for example looking for charge spots close to restaurants that offer a coupon or voucher, or close to free wi-fi. With machine learning, the recommendations and personalized services will improve with each recharging stop, he says.

Just like the mobile phone scenario, standards are key to consolidating the fragmented networks: SMART EV CHARGING SPECIFICATION AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

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