OCPP Compliance: The Future of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

By November 21, 2019 Blog

We are all familiar with the massive infrastructure of gas stations and accompanying logistics that have fueled our vehicles for the past 100 years. This enormous “network” of gas stations is supported by an army of trucks, boats, and trains, all on a daily “analog” route to deliver fuel.

Electric vehicles are supported by a similar, but far more elegant and efficient, “digital” network of charging stations. While this network of charging stations is a part of what makes EV transportation a more sustainable solution, it is not without its own challenges.

These very challenges are some of the largest obstacles manufacturers face when it comes to convincing potential investors that they have a flexible EV Charging Network.

A solution to many of these problems lies with Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) 1.6. That is why charging station manufacturers are increasingly using OCPP compliance as a means to assure potential investors that they will not be stuck with a single vendor.

How Does An EV Charging Network Work?

Every gas station must be independently managed so that it may continue to supply liquid fuel to its customers. This requires monitoring of station fuel levels, quality, consumption, prices, etc.

If a gas station runs out of fuel or is nearing an empty tank, its system can order fuel. This fuel will then be trucked in, pumped in, tested, etc.

Since EV charging stations are not bound by the transportation, scheduling, and mechanical challenges of liquid fuel distribution, all operations and management are relatively instantaneous. This requires a whole new level of digital automation, management, and communication performance.

In order to meet these communication performance requirements, charging station hardware must provide an adaptable platform to allow communication software to be continually developed and improved. It must also give charging station owners the most flexibility for deployment, operation, and management. And most important of all, it must provide EV drivers with a simple, streamlined, and standardized user experience during their refueling stops.

That is where standards such as OCPP 1.6 become important.

What is the Open Charge Point Protocol?

The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) standardizes the language, structure, and rules of data exchanges between charging stations and central control systems. OCPP provides hardware manufacturers and charging station owners with a communication protocol that allows charging stations and central stations to initiate commands and share data with one another to meet the instantaneous demands of charging station networks.

This is similar to how your internet modem/router communicates with your internet service provider by using standard internet protocols. Without these standardized communication protocols, every modem/router would run the risk of not being compatible with certain internet service providers. OCPP guarantees interoperability of existing and new electric vehicle charging stations, and it is this interoperability that provides long term flexibility to stations owners and users.

Interoperability is possible because, unlike protocols designed by manufacturers, OCPP 1.5 and OCPP 1.6 are open communication protocols.

What is an Open Communication Protocol?

An open communication protocol is license free and internationally available which helps protect the investment that charging station owners make. Because it is open, OCPP 1.6 is available on GitHub where you can find JSON examples of the actual protocol.

By producing OCPP compliant chargers, electric car charging station manufacturers are ensuring that current and new charging stations will be able to keep up with the digital demands of our growing charging station networks.

With an open communication protocol, charging stations do not run the risk of being locked into a proprietary network or operation model by guaranteeing vendor independence.

What is OCPP 1.5?

OCPP 1.5 is the first version of the Open Charge Point Protocol. OCPP 1.5 leverages the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), in combination with Extensible Markup Language (XML), to provide a transport variant (OCPP-S).

OCPP 1.5 can clearly define a “Charging Station” and a “Central System” within the network architecture using SOAP and XML. Once defined, these two networked systems can then communicate with one another.

OCPP 1.5 standardizes 10 operations that can be initiated by the Charging Station, and an additional 15 that can be requested by the Central System. Although OCPP 1.5 was limited by this set of instructions, it provided the framework and foundation for standard communication and was robust enough to work with existing hardware and networks.

As OCPP continued to develop thanks to collaboration between hardware manufacturers and certification bodies, the protocol was updated to version 1.6.

What is OCPP 1.6?

OCPP 1.6 maintains the standard communication scheme between charging stations and central systems while also providing additional features such as WebSocket/JSON support (OCPP-J), Smart Charging, and extra statuses/values for clearer messaging & configurations.  An OCPP 1.6 compliant system is so far ahead of OCPP 1.5 that its improvements and new features cannot be met by any OCPP 1.5 based system.

Perhaps the most powerful capability supported by the new OCPP update is the added versatility delivered by binding to JSON over WebSocket as a transport protocol. Through this transport protocol, developers can reduce data usage and enable OCPP communication through NAT routers.

A clear example of this reduction in data usage is the updated Heartbeat Request requirement.  A Heartbeat Request satisfies the central system by alerting it of a specific charge point connection status. In OCPP, the use of SOAP and XML created a mandatory Heartbeat Request at set intervals. While this is a recommended information exchange, it does not necessarily have to be persistent at frequent time intervals. Thanks to the use of WebSocket and JSON in OCPP 1.6, Heartbeat Requests are no longer mandatory and can reduce unnecessary data transfers. It is one of the essential factors in smart charging.

What is Smart Charging?

Smart Charging for EV charging stations provides control over the charging power and current of a specific vehicle that is plugged into a charging station group. The control further extends to the total energy consumption allocated to multiple groups of charging stations and their energy transfer limits. This control can automatically take into consideration energy costs and availability, and subsequently, combine them into a Charging Profile.

What is a Charging Profile?

A charging profile allows electric vehicle charging station owners to dynamically balance the output of their charging stations in response to different demand combinations throughout the day. It allows owners to instantaneously leverage other intermittent input sources (solar, wind, etc) and provide higher charging capacities to their EV drivers. This control can allow station owners to bias different charging stations to provide “fast” charging while still maintaining adequate charge capacities at their “slower” remaining charging stations.

How Can Charging Station Models Become OCCP Compliant for Free?

OCPP 1.6 implementation is possible through a standard compliance toolkit that can be incorporated into certification programs. 10 major manufacturers of EV charging stations have already certified 25 charging station models through EV Connect’s Electric Charge Station (EVCS) Certification.

EVCS compliance guarantees that the benefits of an open protocol will be effective and flexible throughout the years to come. Certification also ensures precise implementation of the features and benefits generated by the OCPP update.

EV Charging Station Certification is currently offered at no cost to EV Connect partners. By participating in the EVCSC Program, you will be provided with all the tools and guidance to complete OCPP 1.6 testing and procedures. Once successfully completed, you will be provided with a certificate that ensures your charging station’s compliance and will allow you to take advantage of all the new capabilities provided by open protocols. Don’t delay, become an EV Connect partner and certify for free today!

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