EV Charging Basics: What You Need to Know about EV Charging NetworksMay 15, 2023 | 7 MIN READ
In the early days of cell phones, reliability was a major issue. Cell phone users were frustrated with a lack of signal as well as dropped calls and understandably so. When it comes to EV charging infrastructure, we’re at the same point. Landlines didn’t start disappearing until cell networks improved. And, when it comes to EV adoption, drivers will need to see a marked improvement in the EV charging networks that connect stations and improve reliability.
Whether you’re looking at improving your station reliability (check out our Rapid Replace promotion!) or looking to install EV charging stations while ensuring they’re providing the power your customers, citizens, and employees need, then understanding the role the network plays is crucial.
- What is an EV Charging Network?
- Why are EV Charging Networks Needed?
- How Does an EV Charging Network Work?
- Important Features in an EV Charging Networks
What is an EV Charging Network?
EV charging infrastructure requires a few key components including the EV hardware at a public charging station itself, the most visible aspect, and the charging network. The charging network plays a pivotal role.
EV charging networks connect the charging stations to the host/owner who can manage and monitor the stations from wherever they are (provided there’s a web-based portal). The network also connects the stations to one another which is hugely important when it comes to managing power usage. EV charging networks also enable drivers to find EV charging station locations as well as pay charging fees.
Despite the fact that the network is, essentially, what connects all parts of EV charging infrastructure, streamlining both administration and utility, it’s often an overlooked aspect of the EV charging puzzle.
Why are EV Charging Networks Needed?
As we mentioned, EV charging networks are true networks in that they keep all the components communicating.
EV charging station hardware management- While there are non-networked chargers, those stand alone units are unpredictable and, arguably, contribute to the reputation charging stations have for being unreliable. Networked charging stations allow station owners and hosts to communicate with their charging stations, ensuring that they are online and available for driver use.
EV charging station installations- While it is common to see a single EV charging station on its own, particularly in crowded downtown areas where stations are spread out, more often than not those stations are all connected via a network. That network allows station owners and hosts to manage power usage and demands, control charging fees based on demand across multiple stations, and allows drivers to find a station nearby should one be occupied or out of service.
EV Charging Apps- On the driver side, drivers need to be able to find nearby charging stations, determine what type of station is available (level 2 or DC fast), understand how much they’ll be charged, and pay for the charging service. Without a network, none of that is transparent to the driver. Charging apps can also help a driver manage and monitor their battery health, so they know when and where they need to charge. Finally, charging apps provide a way for station owners and hosts to communicate with EV drivers offering incentives, advertising, and more. In that way, apps can be a powerful tool for EV charging station management and administration as well.
EV Charging business models- As a station owner/host, you want flexibility, transparency, and control. Your EV charging network will help determine how much of those desirable features you have. Imagine being able to drill down to the driver level to determine pricing, to change pricing based on demand, availability, and to control power consumption based on usage. How much flexibility you have and how much you can drill down into each charging station and user is connected to your network. Choosing how you use power isn’t just about the hardware, it’s also about your network.
Because your EV charging network is doing some heavy lifting, it deserves as much attention as the charging station hardware.
How Does an EV Charging Network Work?
When drivers pull up to an EV charging station, they likely don’t put too much thought into who’s behind it and, truthfully, they shouldn’t have to. As station owners and hosts, however, understanding how EV charging networks work may help you realize how much that decision really matters.
As mentioned above, there are non-networked charging stations, but in order to maintain reliability, functionality, and accessibility, networked stations are the best option. Networked charging stations are connected to a larger network as well as part of a network of connected chargers creating an EV charging infrastructure. That connection allows a remarkable amount of services from availability and driver payments to usage and maintenance issues.
EV charging stations are owned, whether that be by a municipality, a retail business, or a property or business owner. The owner, or an appointed host, is then responsible for the administration of the charging stations. That’s why choosing your charging network partner is so important. How much information, access, and control you have over your charging stations, and what you can do remotely, is tied directly to the charging station partner you choose.
Additionally, EV charging station companies bring, or should bring, more to the table than just the hardware and a network. When you’re seeing an EV charging partner, choosing someone who can offer a turnkey solution, who can guide you through site selection, installation, and unparalleled ongoing support, should be at the forefront of your decision making process.
Important Features in an EV Charging Networks
When it comes to charging station hardware, early research into any EV charging solution will reveal the need for multiple charging cords and other aspects of the physical setup, but often the network is overlooked.
Allow us to stress that it doesn’t make it any less important. In fact, even if you have top of the line hardware, it won’t matter much if you can’t manage your station and drivers can’t power up. So what should your charging station solution provider offer when it comes to the charging network?
Your stations are only good if they’re available. There are countless stories in the news about driver frustration upon realizing that the EV charging station they pulled up to isn’t working. This isn’t just about network uptime, but about being able to ensure that the station is working. This is one reason why networked charging stations are superior. Ideally, the network will provide a station owner or host visibility so problems can be identified and addressed without impacting the consumer experience.
Pricing models? Power usage? Reporting? Administration? A truly robust network will provide flexibility in all of these areas. If you think you might want to change how drivers interact with or use your station, you should, as a station owner or host, be able to adjust it. In an ideal situation, you should be able to determine how your stations get used, what you’re charging and when, who can adjust those prices or respond to issues, and how you collect and report usage data.
Further, with NovaCHARGE’s ChargeUP network, you can create rules and algorithms so pricing and power usage adjust on their own based on demand– that’s flexibility. In short, you want the ability to set your own charging policies and keep control over your charging stations.
While having a networked charging station means you can see when a station is online or offline, you’re going to want more than that. For example, your average EV charging station network isn’t checking on station availability in real-time. Some may be checking availability every few days. In contrast, the ChargeUP network allows you to set the intervals. If you know there’s a big event coming up or you’re expecting high traffic and volume, you can ping your stations more frequently to ensure the station is up and running and generating revenue.4. Accessibility
We live in an age, unfortunately, where obsolescence is often built into a product. For some EV charging stations that means that their stations may lose the ability to talk with the network or, worse, if the station is sold, new networks may be unable to communicate with the network. Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) , is an open source communication protocol that means charging stations are prepared for network changes and technological growth. The advantage to OCPP is that it’s open source, improves security and provides interoperability across operating systems and platforms.
EV charging networks, as one can see, are doing far more than they get credit for. They remain the unseen heroes of EV charging solutions. When they’re working well, we don’t know they’re working at all, but when there are problems, it’s the first thing station owners will notice.
You want a network, and an EV charging solution partner, on your side and that means providing the state of the art, best in breed, technology solutions to improve the EV charging experience for your citizens, your customers, your employees, and your station hosts.
If you’re ready to talk to the team behind the most powerful and reliable EV charging network in the industry, reach out to the NovaCHARGE team today. We’re ready to provide you with a turnkey EV charging solution that provides the power you want and EV drivers need.