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Charging Technology

How to Implement Vehicle Telematics in OCPP Backends

By

Elisa Bustos

February 3, 2022

In basic terms, vehicle telematics refers to the use of connected technology systems that gathers information and data and communicates with remote devices.

Vehicle telematics is most commonly used in fleet management. According to research, the majority of fleets now use vehicle telematics, up from 48% of fleets in 2017 to 86% in 2019.

In this article, we’ll define vehicle telematics and explore how to implement them in OCPP backends to improve fleet management.

What is vehicle telematics?

Telematics is a method of monitoring cars, trucks, and equipment. It combines GPS systems, onboard vehicle diagnostics (OBD), wireless telematics devices, and black box technologies to record and transmit vehicle data, such as speed, location, maintenance requirements, and servicing. It also cross-references this data with the vehicle’s internal behavior.

A variety of telematics systems are available these days. You may have heard about black box telematics devices, smartphone-based telematics devices, bluetooth-powered telematics devices, and OBD-II Port telematics devices.

If the vehicle manufacturer doesn’t provide their own telematics software or any telematics services (e.g. if they don’t have any API), companies can use third-party hardware devices such as Geotab or Samsara.

In these cases, telematics is possible via a small device that connects to the vehicle, extracting all of the vehicle’s data. In addition to the hardware, the algorithm used for GPS logging is another critical factor because it impacts the quality and accuracy of the data.

What are the most recent telematic trends?

In recent years, we’ve seen vehicle manufacturers create their own telematics devices directly built into the vehicle, called OEM telematics devices. This eliminates the need for external hardware and creates a more reliable telematics data stream.  

Technologies around telematics are always evolving. Today, telematics is a key piece in the recollection of data. It allows vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators to make more informed decisions regarding driver behavior, charging schedules, battery health, and more.

Often, telematics is used in Over-the-Air (OTA) connected vehicle systems for vehicle OEMs. This means vehicle manufacturers can connect with the vehicle through a cloud-based system, which allows them to reliably know their vehicle’s state and location.

These systems reduce costly software recalls and leverage real-time vehicle data for new additional on-top services.

Why is vehicle telematics important for electric vehicles?

As mentioned earlier, telematics allows us not only to track the vehicle’s location, but also to understand the driver's behavior, the state of charge (SoC) of the vehicle, the energy needed for each trip, and more.

Telematics comes into the picture when fleet operators need to make more informed decisions regarding the charging of electric vehicles. Telematics can also be combined with fleet information such as departure or arrival times of buses, trucks, or cars.

Vehicle telematics has been playing an important role for IC vehicles already. With the transition to electric vehicles, we are seeing another acceleration of telematics adoption.

The main contributors are:

  • Drivers rely on the range of their electric vehicles more than ever before. Having the most recent insights that provide details on “what is happening inside the car” helps them to make better decisions on when and how to charge their vehicles.
  • Fleet operators often need to manage several objectives simultaneously: on-time departure, long battery and vehicle life, and low energy consumption costs. Doing this blind is close to impossible. Vehicle telematics helps in this respect.
  • Charging stations and vehicles are connected during the charging process. However, not many hardware manufacturers have implemented communication standards such as ISO 15118. Hence, the charging stations are often unable to read any vehicle data such as the SoC. Even if they communicate with each other, vehicle data is often missing before and after the charging sessions.


What is OCPP?

OCPP is a protocol that handles the communication between charging stations and the Charging Station Management System (CSMS).

OCPP is used to connect EV chargers and software backend systems using bilateral communication. The OCPP client (EV charger) and OCPP server exchange general information such as meter values (Wh, W, V, etc.) and start/stop charging events. OCPP also allows you to send charging commands from the OCPP server to the EV charger through OCPP’s smart charging functionality.

One key restriction of OCPP is that it often doesn't allow you to send details of the requested energy amount (kWh) from the charging station to the back office.
Instead, OCPP only allows the sending of a State of Charge (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) from certain DC chargers (fast chargers). 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.

This is why it is often helpful to combine OCPP with third-party vehicle telematics in order to receive all of the necessary data to make the best charging and operational decisions.

How to implement telematics in a smart charging system

As mentioned before, having the right data is key for efficient operation of electric vehicles.
Telematics allows us to use the information to optimize the charge of electric vehicles, especially in more complex situations such as electric fleet operations.


To do so, we need a combination of systems.

Let’s look at an example:

A fleet operator is eager to electrify their vehicles. However, their largest concerns are:

  • Poor reliability and lack of on-time departure: the operator is afraid that the vehicles might not be fully charged when needed. Especially because vehicles often come back later than expected or have to leave earlier.
  • Higher power demand: Utilities might restrict the power supply in the next years or charge high demand chargers per Kilowatt of power.
  • High and volatile energy prices: energy rates can change all the time. Especially right now many utilities are implementing new EV rates. These are often TOU rates or spot pricing rates, that easily make charging 30-60% more expensive than expected.

One thing is clear: the fleet operator wants to optimize the electric fleet operation.

In order to do so, it is necessary to have the vehicle OEM, the telematics system, the CPO partner, and the EV charger hardware.

Ampcontrol architecture CMS

Smart charging software, such as Ampcontrol, takes all of the data available to produce new charging profiles optimized for the three problems described above.

The telematics can be sent to the Ampcontrol system. Ampcontrol’s algorithms use these data points to automatically make decisions when and how a vehicle has to charge.

The fleet operator ensures:

  • High uptime and on-time departure of the vehicles.
  • Sufficient charge for the planned route on the following day.
  • Reduce total energy costs and possible utility fees.

As an example:

In the case of the fleet operator, the vehicle telematics allowed them to see that drivers are only using 40% of the vehicle charge on each trip. This means that they can possibly adjust the trip schedules to do two trips without charging. It also impacts the way the smart charging software optimizes the charging of vehicles. Taking into account the fact that each trip only requires 40% of the vehicle charge can significantly reduce energy costs during trip times and do most of the charging during long idle times when utility rates are lower.

OCPP enables fleets to:

  • Send frequent data from the charging process such as meter values to the optimization system.
  • Send charging commands (charging profiles) from the optimization system to the charging station.
  • Serves as telematics backup during the charging process if the telematics system is interrupted.

Conclusion

Vehicle telematics is undoubtedly an efficient way to manage vehicle fleets.

When integrated with OCPP backends and smart charging systems, telematics is the ideal way to make sure that vehicle fleets are being optimally charged and operated, saving time and money and increasing reliability.

Ampcontrol is a smart charging control system that uses OCPP and can integrate seamlessly with a vehicle telematics system.
Read more about our technology, and how we implement OCPP here.

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Ampcontrol is a cloud-based software that seamlessly connects to charging networks, vehicles, fleet systems, and other software systems. No hardware needed, just a one-time integration.

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