Charging into the Electrified Future with Plug & Charge

What you’ll learn:

  • How Plug & Charge will revolutionize and streamline the EV charging ecosystem.
  • What traditional automobile manufacturers and charge-point providers must do to support this new standard.
  • What stakeholders in the EV industry should prioritize this year.

The electric-vehicle (EV) industry is on the precipice of a total renaissance. After years of existing as simply a “niche” alternative to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, recent investments from OEMs combined with historic funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill and increased support from cities and states has decidedly positioned EVs as the future of the automotive industry for decades to come.

For EVs to truly take off, though, we need to improve the charging experience itself. America’s charging infrastructure is still a new and emerging phenomenon that which EV drivers will have to adapt. Rather than your typical credit-card- or cash-taking gas station, the future of EV charging will be much more digital, based on apps or various RFID tags that drivers have on hand to plug their cars in.

As our lives become increasingly streamlined (take the Apple Watch, for example — we can communicate, purchase things, and track our fitness all from a small screen on our wrist), it’s time EV charging did as well. The future of the EV ecosystem — one that’s efficient and straightforward — is Plug & Charge.

How Does Plug & Charge Work?

Simply put, Plug & Charge is the most seamless way for drivers to charge their electric vehicles today. Instead of needing dozens of apps or relying on easy-to-lose RFID cards, with Plug & Charge, drivers need only plug their vehicle to a participating charge station and the rest is taken care of between the two systems.

Applicable to both wired (ac and dc charging) and wireless charging, the process is seamless: When a vehicle is plugged in, it automatically identifies itself through a secure communication link and is then authorized to receive energy to recharge, with the charging station seamlessly billing the driver throughout the process.

Setting a new standard for convenience and security, Plug & Charge is still only in its initial stages.

Plug & Charge requires ISO 15118 — the standard that allows EVs to dynamically and securely exchange information with a charger — to be supported on the vehicle and the charger. ISO 15118 enables secure digital communication between the EV and the charger in the following four use cases:

  1. Plug & Charge
  2. Vehicle-to-grid features
  3. Smart charging to enable load management
  4. Wireless charging

To support the capabilities of 15118, the following parties are involved:

  • PKI Certification Entity that issues the security certificates.
  • The EV automaker that loads the PKI certificates into the EV.
  • The Mobility Operator, such as Blink, with which EV drivers sign up for charging services.
  • The charging station, which includes a PKI certificate loaded onto it.

When an EV driver plugs in the charging cable, the charging station and the EV establish a secure connection using the PKI certificates. Once a secure EV-to-charger session is established, the driver’s identity is exchanged with the mobility operator. The mobility operator uses this driver information to authorize the payment once the charging session is delivered.

These Next Steps Need to be Taken

While ISO 15118 is readily available today, both OEMs and charging providers have been slow to invest in the technology required to support it. Tesla has offered seamless charging for years (only within its own network of chargers, though), but very few other manufacturers have followed suit. Without OEMs on board, charging providers have fallen behind as well. To realize the benefits of this innovative solution and overcome one of the largest barriers to entry for EVs, it’s time the entire industry got on board.

On the OEM side, in addition to implementing Plug & Charge functionality, manufacturers must equip their vehicles with individual digital contracts, which allow the car to prove its authorization seamlessly when plugged into a charger. OEMs must also make sure their EVs can support multiples of these contracts at once, as each charging provider in the US operates as its own entity.

Once OEMs are equipped with Plug & Charge functionality, charging companies will follow suit. To ensure their stations can support the technology, providers will first need to implement ISO 15118 across all of their chargers.

They also must upgrade these charging stations to support Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) 2.0.1. The standard enables charging stations to work with any type of charger-management software around the world, giving providers the ability to choose between multiple charging networks instead of just one.

Though not as flashy as a vehicle upgrade or building out a network of chargers, the implementation of Plug & Charge technology will pay off in dividends for manufacturers and providers in the future. A much-improved user experience will lead to more permanent EV customers, bring more consumers to the space, and, ultimately, take an increasing number of gasoline-powered vehicles off the road.

The development, creation, and deployment of Plug & Charge should be a top priority for everyone in the EV industry. With more cars, capital, and commitment than ever, the time is now to prioritize Plug & Charge.

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