Transit agencies, school districts, and municipalities across the United States have been leading the charge on the transition to electric vehicle fleets. As these fleet operators scale their fleets, many are discovering the importance of having a reliable charging and energy management system in place to make their electric fleet project a success. Charging and energy management is critical to reducing daily operating costs, and can also reduce the need for expensive and time-consuming grid upgrades and ensure your vehicles are charged and ready for service.
When it comes time to evaluate which charge management solution is best for your fleet, it is important to know what are the right questions to ask, and which features and functions to compare.
To draft a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) for your new charging system, these are the key components of a reliable, future-proof charging and energy management system you need to consider:
1. OCPP Compliance + integration with third party systems
Using OCPP 1.6J full stack compliant charging stations is important because OCPP is an industry standard, manufacturer-neutral communication protocol. This contributes to an interoperable technology ecosystem and allows you to integrate a variety of manufacturers and third party systems into your charging and energy management system. OCPP compliance ensures you won’t be locked into using a single manufacturer and you can continue to manage all charging stations under the charge management system of your choice.
What is OCPP? Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a license-free communication protocol which has been established as a worldwide standard for electric vehicle charging. It provides reliable and efficient monitoring and management of the background processes that control EV charging. As soon as an electric vehicle starts its charging process, an extensive data transfer between the charging point and the back-end system is initiated. Among other things, this data transfer includes:
- User and billing data for the charging current;
- Start and end of the charging process and the amount of energy consumed; and
- Fault reports.
Additionally, these background processes securely transmit EV charging data to the contractual partner or the operator of the infrastructure. Fleet managers can use back-end systems to monitor the status and occupancy of all charging points in real time, keep an eye on the staggering of loads, perform regular analyses, and receive fault reports. Software updates or changes in the configuration of a charging point can also be conveniently uploaded to the charging station via data transfer.
Since OCPP is becoming the standard within the utility industry and it allows you to connect to a variety of charging station manufacturers and third-party systems, it’s an essential component of any future-proof EV charging system. Check out our in-depth explainer for more information.
2. Software plus hardware solution
EV charging equipment is part of the critical infrastructure that impacts the reliability of your EV fleet. You'll be relying on your charging and energy management system to keep operating expenses down, keep the fleet charged on time, and keep your on-
For maximum reliability, it’s important to choose a system that includes an on-site local controller to manage charging even when there’s a network outage. Your system should be able to continue managed charging operations even if it loses internet connection. For increased reliability, it’s also important to have physical connections between the on-site hardware and each charging station, via ethernet or Cat6 cabling.
Without these features, you are more likely to enter an error state where your fleet’s charging is affected. This could mean the system would have to throttle down charging power to a minimal level or even completely stop all charging until internet connectivity is restored. In a worst case scenario, if you have an entirely cloud-based system, you could accidentally exceed your site’s grid limit and thereby trip the circuit protection on site.
The on-site hardware components of a reliable system include:
- Local controller and connections installed in a weatherproof container to control EV charging processes;
- Ability to continue automated, managed EV charging (Automated Load Management, or ALM) if internet connectivity is disrupted;
- Connection to on-site charging stations via ethernet interface (physical cables); and
- Connection between the local controller and the backend should be connected by local internet or cellular.
3. Charging optimization around fleet schedules
Another key feature of a charging and energy management system is the ability to automatically optimize charging according to fleet schedules. It should be able to prioritize which vehicles to charge and how much power to provide based on each vehicle’s state of charge and intended time of departure.
At the same time, fleet managers should still have the ability to remotely override this optimization and prioritize charging of a specific vehicle when necessary, thereby ensuring that charger is provided with the maximum amount of power it can handle.
Finally, your system should be able to work with third party fleet scheduling and depot management software. This way, you’re streamlining fleet operations by not juggling various disconnected systems.
4. Proactive monitoring and support
EV charging is critical infrastructure for your electric fleet. One essential key to charger uptime and reliability is having access to 24/7 monitoring to resolve charger errors, update your system, and ensure fleet uptime. When evaluating a charging and energy management system, check for the following support services:
- Remote (over the air) system updates;
- 24/7 technical operation and active remote monitoring of all connected charge points, including the ability to remotely restart charging stations;
- Error notifications defined by OCPP 1.6 for the fleet manager; and
- A support helpline.
For more details and sample RFP language for your charging and energy management system, download our RFP guidebook below.
Or, click here to schedule a meeting to speak with a transit electrification expert.