When Open Means Closed

OCPP Open Charge Point ProtocolOCPP is a communication standard for connecting electric vehicle chargers to a charge management system.  The “O” in the acronym actually stands for “Open,” but that message hasn’t gotten through to a number of charger manufacturers who have closed these open standards.  I’m not being repetitive; the title is a request to all charger manufacturers to open connections to their systems.

How does a company close an open protocol?  They do it by blocking access to their chargers by third-party EV charger management systems.  It is important to understand the impact of this move on the bottom line – yours and the manufacturer’s.

What does it mean to say a manufacturer has closed an open protocol?  Put simply, it means the charger manufacturer does not let you connect that charger to a third-party charging control platform.  You have to use their charging control solution, and this can cost you money three ways.

First, charger manufacturers exist to make chargers.  It’s what they do best.  What they don’t do best is develop charging control software.  By closing the OCPP standards on their chargers, manufacturers force you to use what may be a sub-optimal charge control system, one of their own creation.  And that means you’ll be spending more on charging.

Second, manufacturers are selling charge control systems as a subscription.  They are locking you into a contract with a provider of charge control software whose primary focus is not charge control software or software of any kind.  They are blocking you from seeking more efficient and more effective charge control management solutions and depositing your subscription checks every month.

Third, as your EV fleet grows, you will need more chargers.  If you happen to buy new chargers from a different manufacturer, you will not be able to link them to your existing chargers’ charge control system.  You will have to spend the money to invest in a separate, second charge control platform that will not be able to link and coordinate charging activities with your existing platform, making it more difficult to reduce charging costs.

A “closed” open protocol locks into a single provider.  That’s great for their revenue stream, but not so great for your ability to optimize charging costs.  It also robs you of the flexibility to add the chargers which best fit your needs in the future.

The short-term solution is to ask your charger manufacturer – before you submit a purchase order – if you can change the host IP address of the OCPP central management system in their chargers.  If the answer is no, you may want to think twice before signing on the dotted line.

The long-term solution is to support and advocate for truly open chargers.  They will give you the flexibility you need as your EV fleet grows and the ability to optimize the costs of charging that fleet.

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