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Charging Technology

3 Tricks To Increase Charge Point Uptime

By

October 19, 2023

As we head towards the electric vehicle revolution, there's a glaring pothole in the road that could slow down progress – charge point failure. The harsh reality is that research indicates an average charge point uptime of only around 70%. In other words – for every three attempts to charge up your EV, one may leave you high and dry. Charge point downtime can occur for various glitches, such as:

  • no charging possible, 
  • slower rates than usual, 
  • or sudden interruptions.

For instance, a study by the University of California found a mere 72.5% of 657 EVSEs in the US were operational. The landscape isn't any better in Europe, with European public charging networks grappling with similar challenges. While public charging struggles, the stakes are even higher for private fleet charging. Running a fleet of buses, trucks, or commercial vehicles and facing these problems can be disastrous. Fleet operators can ill-afford downtime, needing a near-perfect uptime of 99% to deliver seamless services to their customers. The common culprits for these problems range from faulty hardware, communication errors (internet), to non-compatibility between vehicles and chargers. Knowing how to resolve these common problems is half the battle. The question, however, remains how to identify and prevent these issues before they take a toll on your operations.

In this article, we explain three useful ways to counteract charge point downtime and pave the way to an uptime of 99% or more. This guide is particularly important for fleet operators whose vehicle operations are critical to their business, for instance medical transport services, public transportation companies, or logistics providers. Our focus will be on OCPP chargers. If the term 'OCPP' is new to you or you wish to find out more about the charging protocol, feel free to download our comprehensive free OCPP report here.

1. Error Identification

Charge point downtime is the time taken from the moment a charging issue surfaces to when it's finally resolved. During this time, the EV charger is either completely out of service or operates with compromised efficiency. On the face of it, the solution might seem to lie in accelerating the "repair time" of the EV charger. For instance, charge point operators could stock up on spare parts or deploy swifter field services.

However, the main issue is the sluggish error identification process. 

It often takes several days to pinpoint an issue or receive a complaint. Even if the charge point operator boasts a 24-hour repair turnaround, if it takes six days to detect the problem, the total downtime still stretches to a full week. Hence, the best way to tackle charge point downtime is swift error detection. 

Unfortunately, most charging networks and electric fleet operators lean on drivers to report problems via a hotline. But this system falls flat if the driver opts for an alternate charger, or if the hotline fails to log the issue accurately, leaving the error undetected. EV fleet operators in particular should leverage automated error detection for their charging stations. In this setup, intelligent software systems like charging management software, rather than humans, detect any errors. 

These dynamic software systems maintain a constant line of communication with the charge points. They help to:

  • pick up potential OCPP error messages, 
  • read meter measurements (voltage, power, frequency, temperature, etc.), 
  • and store historical charging session data. 

Some of the most advanced charging software for fleets can identify and track errors within  seconds, equipping fleet owners with the tools to significantly boost uptime. Consider a scenario where a charging plug is damaged. Let's say a driver uses a charge point at a fleet depot. After wrapping up the charging session, they neglect to return the charging cable and plug properly, inadvertently damaging the charger. In such cases, most chargers instantly transmit an error code to the charging management system. Instead of idly waiting for the next driver to discover the malfunction and (hopefully) report it, the software immediately detects the error, allowing the operator to send out a repair team. This approach not only elevates charger uptime, but also cuts the expenses tied to maintaining a hotline service.

2. Notification system

When people envision contemporary monitoring software, the image that often springs to mind is a bustling NASA-style operation center filled with oversized screens and teams of individuals scanning complex graphs. Let’s face it – this wouldn’t exactly be the most efficient or cost-effective way to ensure optimum EV charger uptime! Consider this scenario: you are responsible for operating 300 charge points. The prospect of keeping tabs on all charging data round the clock is daunting. You would need to recruit a dedicated team across various time zones, with each member well-versed in the nuances of every KPI and graph. Undoubtedly, this approach would translate into a very expensive charge point monitoring service.

This is where the power of a notification system comes into play. 

Just as you receive smartphone alerts about incoming emails or a dwindling battery, your charging management software should be designed to notify you when a charger encounters an issue. These alerts, conveniently delivered to your mobile device or email, eliminate the need to continually monitor all charging data. Your attention will only be required when a charger is potentially facing a critical problem. The performance of this system is further enhanced when alerts are integrated with analytical views that include comprehensible graphs and visuals. In this way, you maintain control and awareness without the overwhelming and impractical need for constant manual oversight.

3. Access to OCPP logs

Graphs showing total energy consumption per month, or similar metrics, won't always help with error comprehension and resolution. More often than not, operators or technicians will need access to detailed OCPP charger logs for efficient problem-solving. These OCPP logs should be accessible in real-time and unfiltered. Operators can utilize these logs to track the behavior of the charge point and pinpoint if the error originates at the charger level, communication level, or is linked to the backend software. The ability to access historical logs also often proves beneficial, especially when dealing with a recurring problem.

For instance, consider a firmware or software bug that interferes with the charging authentication process. When a driver uses an RFID or credit card to initiate a charging session, the charge point communicates this information with the OCPP backend. To identify the root cause, the operator needs to track this OCPP message exchange and generate an accurate error ticket for the engineering team.

Summary

Charging stations are complex systems that combine power electronics, software, and various sensors. Therefore, it's perfectly normal for charging stations to need inspections and occasional repairs. However, instances of high downtime aren't necessarily the fault of the hardware manufacturers, though that can sometimes be the case. More often than not, it results from the absence of charging management software, or selecting the wrong type for your needs.

Software that rapidly identifies errors, promptly notifies the operator, and provides access to pertinent charge point logs is crucial for achieving a 99% uptime. Without such support, many fleet operators may struggle when transitioning away from combustion vehicles. Ampcontrol offers smart charging solutions that are OCPP compliant and designed to maximize charger point uptime through rapid fault detection and notification. For further insights, feel free to download the latest version of our OCPP report or connect with our team directly by clicking here.

Read Our OCPP Report
Tags:
OCPP, Charger Uptime, Smart Charging, Electric Fleets
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