Electric vehicles (EVs) have made major inroads as the world continues its sharp pivot away from internal combustion engine vehicles and the carbon emissions they create. As part of this shift, EV charging infrastructure is also evolving to serve the fast-growing number of electric vehicles on the road. The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) has emerged as the EV charging standard governing the interoperability of charging stations for a diverse global network of EV Charge Point Operators and central management systems (CMSs).
OCPP isn’t proprietary to any single owner or rights holder. Rather, this key feature supports the protocol’s broad adoption and availability. It’s an open protocol that serves as a catalyst for competition-driven innovation in the EV industry.
EV charging management software plays a crucial role in delivering an efficient, seamless charging experience to EV users and to the EV Charge Point Operators who run them. This technical guide explains how OCPP impacts both charging management software and the broader EV landscape. Specifically, it focuses on the latest available standard, OCPP 2.0.1, and how it marks an improvement over earlier iterations of the protocol.
What Is the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP)?
The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a standardized protocol for EV charger management. In short, it facilitates communications between physical charging equipment and the CMSs that manage it. For EV end users, OCPP allows for charging stations made by different manufacturers to work together. It also ensures the broad compatibility of the various CMSs used in EV infrastructure.
OCPP was developed by the Open Charge Alliance, an EV technology and communications development consortium based in the Netherlands. The Open Charge Alliance established OCPP in 2009. Six years later, after the first few iterations, the Open Charge Alliance released OCPP 1.6, marking a significant advancement.
Core Features of OCPP 1.6
Version 1.6 became widely used following its October 2015 release. It addressed some of the protocol’s most pressing capability requirements as EVs were entering the consumer mainstream. Key features of OCPP 1.6 include:
- Built-in support for load management and balancing
- Enhanced security
- Time- and status-based messaging capabilities
But like all software, version 1.6 eventually required updating amid the ongoing advancement of adjacent technologies. The Open Charge Alliance addressed this by releasing OCPP 2.0 in April 2018. However, version 1.6 was also improved to maintain its functionality with respect to prevailing industry standards.
In April 2020, the Open Charge Alliance upgraded version 2.0 with a sweeping update, released as OCPP 2.0.1. Acting on feedback drawn from field experiences, OCPP 2.0.1 addressed several bugs in version 2.0 specific to:
- Security features and functionality
- ISO 15118 standards
- Smart charging capabilities
OCPP 1.6 vs. OCPP 2.0.1
As of 2023, version 1.6 remains in use in many EV charging stations, but many operators are looking ahead to adopting OCPP 2.0.1 in order to meet future charging demands. So, let’s compare the two versions to help operators better understand the similarities and differences between the protocols.
Key Features of Each Protocol
The following features and functionalities define OCPP 1.6:
- Support for SOAP and JSON data formats
- Smart charging features for balancing loads and integrating charge profiles
- List management support for organizing data lists at the local-environment level
- Support for supplementary and additional status information
- Message-sending features for requesting charging point times or statuses
Version 2.0.1 features the following general operational profile:
- i Device management features
- Improved ability to handle charging transactions
- Additional security and enhanced smart charging functionalities
- ISO 15118 support
- Advanced messaging and display supports
- Additional technical improvements based on user research and UI/UX design feedback
The Open Charge Alliance offers additional insights into OCPP 2.0.1 and how it compares to version 1.6. According to the alliance, version 2.0.1 offers tangible improvements across six main areas:
1. Device Management
In developing version 2.0.1, the Open Charge Alliance prioritized features to support the smoother acquisition and setting of configuration technicalities. It also includes an enhanced ability to monitor charging stations that use OCPP-compliant EV charge management software.
The new monitoring capabilities were developed in response to feedback from charging point operators. Many operators are faced with managing the complex networks of DC-fast stations. This characteristic of the current eMobility landscape demanded a more focused set of technical monitoring solutions to optimize station performance.
2. Transaction Handling Improvements
Version 2.0.1 can also handle higher transaction volumes at greater speed. As with device management capabilities, the Open Charge Alliance prioritized this improvement as a result of direct feedback from charging station operators.
3. Improved Security
Amid the ongoing electrification of vehicles and increased consumer adoption of EVs, security enhancements became a pressing area of focus for the Open Charge Alliance. OCPP 2.0.1 added the following security improvements:
- Secure updates to the firmware bridging charging station hardware and programmatic media
- Event notification and security logging features
- Advanced security authentication functions, which specifically include key management capabilities for security certificates generated on the client side of charging transactions
- Enhanced communication security using transport layer security (TLS) cryptography protocols
4. Additional Smart Charging Functionality
Smart charging improvements in OCPP 2.0.1 cover two key areas. First, in component and connection arrangements (topologies) that use energy management systems (EMSs), version 2.0.1 introduced local controllers. Second, it introduced smart charging across three integrated functionalities:
- Individual EVs
- Charging stations
- Charging station CMSs
This three-part integration enhanced seamless cross-station functionality and interoperability amid accelerated fleet electrification trends.
5. ISO 15118 Support
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) uses a proposed standard known as ISO 15118 to define vehicle-to-grid communications interfacing. OCPP 2.0.1 is compatible with ISO 15118 with respect to both smart charging requirements and plug-and-charge vehicle capabilities.
6. Display and Messaging Features
OCPP 2.0.1 also offers an improved ability to display personalized messages. For instance, it can relay key pieces of information to EV users as they charge their vehicles, such as rate-based charging costs and electricity tariffs.
Implementing OCPP Protocols
As the EV ecosystem continues to evolve, OCPP 2.0.1 will gradually replace version 1.6. So, charge point operators (CPOs) and other businesses and stakeholders in the vehicle electrification industry should consider key factors to facilitate the seamless transition to the updated protocol and smooth, compliant integrations.
Key considerations include:
Evaluating OCPP 2.0.1 Use Cases
From a software development perspective, OCPP 2.0.1 has two primary use cases:
- Improving the experience for electric vehicle drivers, especially in terms of easy charging and clear message displays
- Improving station efficiency and performance for CPOs, particularly regarding diagnostics that help reduce downtime and the availability of secure updates to protocol firmware
The benefits of these use cases extend across six main areas:
1. Data and Connection Security
OCPP 2.0.1 features a robust set of state-of-the-art cybersecurity features that protect both data and network connections. These protections enhance data privacy and transaction security by using advanced authentication and encryption features.
2. Charger Maintenance
EV chargers often lapse into out-of-service status as manufacturers continue to grapple with reliability challenges. For instance, a 2023 report by The Canadian Press found that only one in five federally funded charging stations were operable.
OCPP 2.0.1 provides a granular view of charger maintenance requirements. It allows CPOs to service individual stations before they break, improving the financial efficiency of charging stations and delivering better service to end users.
3. Transaction Management
Version 2.0.1 features simpler, more efficient transaction management capabilities. It makes payments both faster and more secure by standardizing the payment initiation, authorization, and verification functions.
In addition to making the charging experience smoother and easier for drivers, OCPP 2.0.1’s transaction management features promote a fairer, more transparent competitive landscape among businesses engaged with payment processing and terminal services.
4. Remote Station Management Capabilities
CPOs can use OCPP 2.0.1’s remote-control capabilities to facilitate efficiency improvements, cost reductions, and a smoother user experience.
What’s more, with version 2.0.1, charging station operators can perform the following actions remotely:
- Initiate and terminate charging sessions
- Adjust the power levels of a charging session
- Monitor session status in real time
These features hold the potential to significantly improve charging station profitability.
5. Streamlined Firmware Updates
OCPP 2.0.1 uses standardized features to implement and manage updates to the firmware that links the protocol’s high-level software to system hardware. It also supports a more efficient and integrated firmware updating process that uses digital signatures and certificates to govern verification and cybersecurity.
6. Charger Logging
Newly introduced charger logging features facilitate advanced charger log data collection and reporting capabilities. This data provides CPOs with important performance and charger status insights so they can minimize downtime.
Setting and Displaying Costs and Tariffs
OCPP 2.0.1 enables charging station operators to display information related to charging costs and electricity tariffs in the driver’s choice of languages. This feature improves transparency and delivers a superior user experience, particularly in locations that tend to draw high levels of international traffic.
When it comes to cost and tariff displays and payments, version 2.0.1 facilitates:
- Customized message displays to drivers charging their vehicles
- The delivery of comprehensive cost and tariff information at the initiation stage of a charging session
- Built-in card payment processing capabilities at the charging point, eliminating the need for external credit card terminals
Implementation of the Updated Protocol
Despite the long list of improvements and benefits it offers, charging station operators have been relatively slow to adopt OCPP 2.0.1. In fact, many stations continue to use version 1.6. But EV experts believe the widespread implementation of version 2.0.1 will deliver strong benefits that will help propel the industry’s continued growth.
As CPOs prepare to adopt OCPP 2.0.1, they should carefully consider the inherent advantages of using open-source software to support their migration to the new protocol. Choosing between open-source and proprietary software depends on case-specific business needs and considerations. However, open-source solutions tend to deliver superior flexibility, cost savings, and the convenience of a robust, community-driven support network.
Open-source solutions are also more easily customizable, transparent, and secure. For instance, users can self-inspect their coding, which enables them to more readily identify and correct vulnerabilities and performance shortcomings.
What’s more, open-source software also promotes higher levels of interoperability while offering a longer life cycle. This overcomes the challenges and costs that accompany the inevitable obsolescence of proprietary platforms.
Discover the Value of OCPP 2.0.1-Compliant Open Source Software
OCPP 2.0.1 holds powerful potential to dramatically improve EV charging experiences for drivers. It also stands to improve the security and efficiency of charging transactions and optimize charging network performance for station operators. While the EV charging industry has been relatively slow to adopt OCPP 2.0.1, experts widely expect implementation rates to accelerate in the near future.
Against this backdrop, S44 recently released CitrineOS EV charge management open source software. Compliant with OCPP 2.0.1 standards, CitrineOS features a comprehensive design that makes it easy for both hardware manufacturers and charging station operators to update their systems by making the switch to 2.0.1 functionality. The CitrineOS software is the end result of S44’s commitment of nearly a decade of research and development of custom software solutions in support of eMobility and vehicle electrification.
Core benefits and features of CitrineOS include:
- Complete compliance support
- Functionality consolidation
- Access and control facilitated through a single user-friendly app
In addition, S44 works with clients to build bespoke software and can leverage CitrineOS as the foundational tech stack. And for those companies implementing CitrineOS on their own, S44 provides consulting and software development services.
To learn more, get in touch with an S44 technical expert today.