3 tricks to implement Smart Charging with OCPP 1.6

Updated: Feb 17


Smart Charging with OCPP 1.6

A few days ago an engineer approached us and asked the question:


“Can we use ampcontrol.io with our OCPP 1.6 server to optimize the charging of electric cars?”


Good question.


In fact, we ended up in a lively discussion on how to integrate smart charging with OCPP 1.6 or whether it’s necessary to wait for OCPP 2.0 (find a quick overview of both below).


Unfortunately, there seem to be many misconceptions around this topic.


That’s why we’ve decided to share 3 major tricks you can use to implement smart charging for electric vehicle charging networks with OCPP 1.6.


Once you’ve read this article, make sure you send it to your product managers and developers too!


A short background on OCPP


The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a protocol for communication between an EV Charging Station and a central Back Office system.


As the numbers imply, version OCPP 2.0 was released after OCPP 1.6, and is the latest version of the open protocol for EV charging.


Although OCPP 2.0 has made major improvements to implement managed charging (i.e. coordinated charging) compared to OCCP 1.6, hardly any hardware providers support it today.

This opens the question: How well can someone implement smart charging with the older, but more frequently used version - OCPP 1.6?


At ampcontrol.io we have built a strategy to help with this.


Today, we’re going to share 3 major tricks for charging point operators and developers:


Trick 1: Send charging commands with OCPP 1.6


The major function of Smart Charging is to send commands to the charging stations. In order to send charging profiles, the central charging system needs to receive some input data.


However, one key restriction of OCPP 1.6 is that it doesn't allow you to send details of the requested energy amount (kWh) from the charging station to the back office.


Instead, OCPP 1.6 only allows the sending of a State of Charge (also called SoC) that represents the current state of the vehicle's battery in percentage (State of Charge = 80% means that 20% of the battery needs to be charged with electric energy). The State of Charge is a vital data field but limits the information on the OCPP backend or a possible energy management system for smart charging functionalities.


The good news is, you can build various workarounds to optimize without having the required information.

One approach, for instance, is to calculate commands based on the utilization of the charging station (e.g., reduce the power when 4 of 5 chargers are being used). That’s very simple but can be a good start.


More importantly, however, is that the back office can send a charging profile or kW limit to the charging station via OCPP 1.6. More precisely, OCPP 1.6 gives you the possibility to send either a single limit or a time series of data (=charging profile).


The graph below shows the relevant section of OCPP 1.6. The Back Office System (from the CPO) sends a charging profile or command in the setChargingProfile.req



OCPP 1.6 specification: SetChargingProfile

So, here is a summary of our first tip:

If most of your hardware runs with OCPP 1.6, and you don’t plan to update it soon, you can use your current version for smart charging. OCPP 1.6 enables the most important features of sending commands.


Trick 2: Use the site’s meter reading data


The main reason for using smart charging is to reduce energy costs and reduce installation costs. In fact, many new installations are delayed because of long approval times by utilities because of grid extensions.


To reduce costs, you can reduce the peak demand behind the meter (if you have demand-based pricing at this site). Fortunately, you can already get the most relevant information through your electric meter of the entire site (not necessarily of each charger).


And of course, your meter reading data is completely independent of your OCPP version. You can use the smart meter data directly or install a separate data log as shown below (one example of many)



Example for data logger

Keep in mind: getting the metering data of a building can be as important as data from your charging station.


Now you know your real-time meter reading data, as well as your total maximum desired capacity of the charging site, you have a great foundation to optimize EV charging events.

Our second tip:

Get all relevant metering data (also of buildings) that are relevant for your cost-saving strategy. This also allows you to install more charging stations at the same site.


Trick 3: Use a smart charging software


Implementing OCPP 2.0 does not solve all problems. It’s only half of the solution.

The most complex part is to actually manage the charging events.


Having a strong system that calculates charging demands is usually the most challenging part. For very simple scenarios you might be able to bring a good concept to paper. But even then you’ll need to build a reliable system that can work with various types of data and know how to react in unforeseen situations.


Consequently, in most cases, it is often recommended to find a partner who can provide this part of the solutions. Similar to a doctor. They provide the service to a patient, but they’re probably not the right person to develop medicine.


Smart charging systems need years of development and a good portion of the testing.


Companies like ampcontrol.io specialize in helping charging point operators or owners of charging networks by providing a toolbox that analyses data and generates the charging commands for your OCPP 1.6 server.


Our third tip:

Consider working with a partner that offers smart charging software. You’ll be able to concentrate on the network, the communication, and the installation, while you have a strong partner for smart charging.



Conclusion


Smart charging can be complex but is often possible with OCPP 1.6.


We’ve shown 3 important ways to prepare your charging network for future challenges. One is the hurdle of grid interconnections when installing a new EV charging site.


You can think of various use cases to apply smart charging. For instance, here you can find the top 3 uses cases for smart charging in 2020.


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