Installing new charge points is a complicated business.
Typically, you need a well-defined process to select the charging speed, identify charge point brands, apply for federal incentives, and apply for utility permits.
Charging point operators often forget that operating and maintaining (O&M) EV charge points are at least equally important and complicated. Insufficient O&M leads to downtime and can lead to a horrible driver experience. If operating an EV fleet, poor O&M of charge points can cause delays in your vehicle schedules and the loss of potential business.
In this article, we’re going to discuss why monitoring EV charge points is important, how charging management software helps to monitor charge points, and how to get started with monitoring your charging operations.
Why is it important to monitor EV charge points?
We can identify three main challenges that the monitoring of EV charge points helps us overcome: high O&M costs, loss of revenue through vehicle downtime, and optimizing charging operations for the best results.
Let’s take a look at these three benefits in more detail.
Reduce operation and maintenance (O&M) costs
Running an EV charge point over the course of a year isn’t cheap. The US Department of Energy calculates that the cost of operating and maintaining an EV charge point is $400 per year for an AC charge point and $800 per year for a DC charge point.
In other words, the cost to operate and maintain a charge point over its lifetime can add up to several thousand dollars, in addition to any initial installation costs.
Where do most of that expense come from? A large proportion of the overall cost is made up of labor fees and transport costs. You will need to pay technicians or engineers to carry out regular inspections and maintain the charging points by driving to the site. The replacement of spare parts also adds to the cost.
The application of smart charging software enables remote monitoring, which helps you to cut down on labor and transport costs.
Increase revenue with improved charge point availability or minimizing EV fleet downtime
If you run a public charging network, any charge point out of order represents lost revenue and can cause customer dissatisfaction and delays.
If you manage the charging of electric fleet vehicles, then charge point downtime can result in delays and lost work.
Therefore, minimizing the downtime of your charge points should be a priority, as it directly impacts revenue and profits.
To demonstrate the problem, a recent survey of EV drivers in California reported dissatisfaction with the following:
- broken plugs (9%)
- unexpected shut-off during charging (6%)
- charging stations not functioning (22%)
- payment problems (18%)
- needing to contact customer service via cell phone (53%).
It’s easy to imagine the negative impact that these problems would have on the charge point operator’s revenue.
Without the right systems and software in place, maintaining a high charger uptime is difficult. Many factors impact charge point uptime, such as misuse by the driver, hardware quality, weather conditions, internet connection, and incorrect configuration.
Implementing a reliable hardware monitoring system is critical to keep charge points up and running as much as possible.
Continuous improvement of EV charging sites
Every time you add a new charging site, you learn something new.
You can get plenty of support when setting up a charging site, such as services for planning, engineering, and other types of preparation. However, you gain the most experience when you operate a charging site and get the chance to learn from the challenges and problems you face.
You’ll also learn from your mistakes. For instance, if you install too many charge points, you’ll learn the importance of measuring the utilization rate and adjusting it to suit.
Monitoring your EV chargers carefully is the best way to understand your charging operations and improve them based on the data you collect.
Using software to monitor EV charge points
Charge points are often installed in several different locations. If you have more than a handful of chargers, it can become a real challenge to monitor all of your charge points effectively, especially if you don’t have a remote monitoring system in place.
Charging management software (CMS) is the best way to monitor and manage your EV charge points remotely. All modern EV chargers provide easy ways to remotely connect to software, enabling simple and effective real-time monitoring.
In order to choose the right charging management software, you should take into account the following considerations:
These days, most charge points use open charge point protocol (OCPP) to connect to charging management software such as Ampcontrol.
If you plan to install more charge points in the future, you must select software that works well with most charger brands.
Try to avoid software that isn’t universally compatible with OCPP. If you choose software that is designed by hardware manufacturers, you might have to make a costly switch to another, more agnostic CMS at a later time.
Charging Management Software as Ampcontrol works with nearly all global charge point brands as it uses OCPP technology.
Charging management software uptime
Just as you want to maximize your charge point uptime, you also need to maximize the uptime of your CMS. It makes it difficult to monitor your EV charge point if the software system fails or unreliably collects data.
Go for software that has a minimum uptime of 99.9% with an ideal uptime of 99.99%. This means the software is unavailable on average for only a few minutes per month.
Currently, most charging management software is cheap and prone to failure or inaccuracy.
As a more mature CMS solution, here at Ampcontrol, we ensure an uptime of 99.99 to 99.999%. We train our engineers to follow the principle that uptime is more important than new features. In other words, we never compromise on reliability.
User interface for charger monitoring
As a fleet manager or charging site manager, overseeing the monitoring of charge points is only a small part of your job. You have dozens of daily tasks to take care of.
For this reason, you probably have only 5 to 10 minutes per day to spare when you verify the charge point status. The last thing you want is to waste time retrieving the right report, which could take much longer.
Additionally, you’ll have to onboard colleagues on how to use the software, who may not have any technical background or a good understanding of EV charge points.
Well-designed software helps to avoid friction in your team and reduces wasted time when searching for the right KPI or graph.
Please note that this doesn’t mean that the software should be simple in its functionality, just simple to use. You want the software to give you much more than just limited information. In case of problems, you need to access historical data, real-time graphs, and details on individual charge points or connectors.
Hence, the software should support a large set of graphs and allow you to retrieve detailed information on your charge point operations, just as Ampcontrol does. See below for an example of Ampcontrol’s user interface.
Essential EV charging parameters to monitor
When you start monitoring your charge points, you need to know which parameters are important and what they mean.
In some cases, you may actually need to monitor a charge point parameter over a more extended period of time to identify possible errors. We have compiled a comprehensive list of the most important charge point parameters to monitor.
Maximum power output of the charge point
Often the charger doesn’t charge at its maximum output. You can measure this value over the previous few days to identify possible issues with power modules or similar.
Energy consumption of the charge point
Seeing the total energy consumption by charge point or EVSE connector not only identifies which charger is used the most but also which charger is not used at all. The data can indicate a problem with the charging session initiation by the user.
EVSE connector status
EVSE connector status (also called “OCPP status”) shows the status and condition of the plug. The most typical status is “available,” “charging,” “finishing,” “unavailable,” and “faulty.” No one can initiate a charging session if you see a “faulty” connector.
Number of charging sessions
This gives you an overview of the site utilization by the time of day. It will show you when the charging site is used more. If the number of charging sessions drops unexpectedly, you can also use this as an alert signal to notify the ops team.
Charge Point Connectivity
When using OCPP charge points, your charge point uses WebSocket technology to send data to the monitoring software. This technology is often used in conjunction with web applications (e.g., WhatsApp). If the connection breaks (e.g., internet connection loss or system error), the charge point automatically reconnects. The status of this connection gives you insights into the health of your charge point.
The utilization rate of charge points
The utilization of charge points is often defined as the time when the charge point is actively charging. A high utilization means you have many or long charging sessions every day. Typically high utilization is a good indicator of either well-located charge points and will lead to a high return on investment (ROI).
Of course, there are many more parameters and metrics that you can use. The parameters listed above are just a small sample of those available. Charging management software such as Ampcontrol shows many more useful data points.
How to get started with charging management software?
The easiest way to get started with CMS for charge points is to test. We start with detailed product demonstrations with most partners and customers and give them access to a test account. Even if they haven’t installed any charge points, they can see virtual charging sessions and understand how their ops team can monitor the EV charge points.
If the charge points are already installed, we can connect within a few minutes and provide the ops team with real-time access to data, alerts, and more.
For more information, please reach out here.