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ChargeLab Unplugged: ChargeHub’s Simon Ouellette on EV roaming

Learn about how to address roaming complexities and one massively underserved EV demographic
Graphic of EV Charger with the words, "ChargeLab Unplugged" in the center with a headshot of Simon Oulette on the right.

Long before he co-founded ChargeHub, Simon Ouellette was solving unique challenges in the electric vehicle space. A few notable examples: Designing, building, and delivering the world’s most northerly EV (used at the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Summit Station in Greenland), the world’s first stealth hybrid snowmobile, and the EV that unveiled the Olympic torch at the 2010 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

Yet tackling EV roaming—the ability to pay for a charge anywhere you go using a single account—in a way that’s accessible to drivers, e-mobility service providers (eMSPs), and charge point operators (CPOs) alike is an issue unlike any other. As ChargeHub CEO, Simon now stands at the head of a multidisciplinary team of data scientists, software engineers, digital marketing professionals, and designers building technical tools and software to address this challenge.

We were excited to get Simon’s perspective on the challenges and potential of EV roaming, as well as where it’s headed next. Here’s what he had to say.

Key Takeaways

  • The work behind EV roaming becomes exponentially more complex — technically, legally, and financially—as connections increase. Hub integrations unlock the benefits of EV roaming while minimizing complexities.
  • To accelerate electrification, the public charging industry must work to meet the needs of all EV drivers—such as fleet and rental drivers—not just EV owners.
  • The rapid growth of plug-and-charge will require fast, secure integration with EV roaming to offer a seamless experience.

What impact has the growth of EV roaming had across the EV ecosystem?

EV roaming matters quite a lot to EV adoption, far beyond easing range anxiety. Offering convenient public charging options to EV drivers is a key pillar of transportation electrification alongside a growing and reliable infrastructure. Since the EV charging infrastructure is growing fast (with more than 100 charging networks and 200,000 charging ports in the U.S. and Canada), the payment experience is unfortunately fragmented.

Getting to the next level of EV adoption is a priority for all industry stakeholders, and EV roaming is a key part of the transition. That’s why ChargeHub and industry partners such as Electric Circuit, BC Hydro, Nissan, CAA, and ChargeLab have regrouped around the Agora initiative to help get EV roaming higher on the agenda. The industry must always aim to offer the best charging experience for end users. The Agora initiative ensures that the industry shares this vision and scales up EV roaming.

What’s a major challenge your team has overcome in developing EV roaming solutions?

Providing an EV roaming solution means much more than just connecting the software of two organizations. For two entities to roam with one another, there needs to be technical, legal, and business alignment, as well as regular seamless accounting reconciliation. Interconnecting hundreds of e-mobility service providers and charge point operators is a huge task that we are directly addressing with our solution Passport Hub

What are some of the intricacies involved in establishing EV roaming across providers?

Offering EV roaming is not just a technical challenge. It also involves multiple commercial agreements, legal contracts, and complex financial reconciliation. As connections increase, it becomes more taxing for technical, legal, and accounting teams. This is why we have developed a solution, Passport Hub, that enables EV roaming on multiple charging networks with one technical, commercial, accounting, and legal integration. Today, it is the largest EV Roaming Hub in the USA and Canada.

One of the biggest complexities is building an in-depth understanding of the systems our partners want to use to increase their roaming capacity. Not everyone has the same interpretation of software interfaces such as OCPI. It is therefore our responsibility to fully understand the partner’s interpretation, or the specs of their proprietary API, in order to seamlessly integrate them into Passport Hub without any changes needed on the partner’s side.

What are some effective strategies for fostering collaboration between EV charging networks?

Once EV charging networks realize that scaling EV roaming becomes more complicated as they add new connections, they understand that offering EV roaming via a hub solution is key to developing their capabilities. It also helps that joining a roaming hub opens up access to millions of potential vehicles from commercial fleets and automakers in the most effective way. With a single integration via our Passport Hub, newcomers have the potential to streamline roaming connections without burdening internal teams.

It works the other way, too. Automakers, fleets, and other eMSPs tend to underestimate the compounding complexity of establishing roaming connections and business and legal agreements, as well as maintaining ongoing accounting reconciliation with an ever-growing number of charging networks.

Being an independent, third-party educational resource for these entities seems to be a well-appreciated trait. Once they realize the magnitude of the work ahead of them if they go forward with roaming without a hub, most entities turn to us instead.

Are there any emerging trends in the EV roaming ecosystem? How have they shaped your strategies?

We have discovered during our 10-plus years of experience that, when it comes to public charging, the focus has mostly been on EV owners and not necessarily EV drivers. The difference is important as the latter also includes “non-owner drivers” of commercial fleets, ride-hailing services, and clients of car rental or car-sharing companies.

Public charging has to be simple for all EV drivers. EV roaming has to scale with all these use cases in mind to achieve the bigger objective of accelerating transport electrification.

How do you ensure security and privacy for EV roaming users across various networks?

Security and data privacy are top priorities for all stakeholders in the industry. For EV roaming services, the EV driver's personal information typically remains in the hands of the eMSP—usually the app used by the driver to access EV charging services. The customer's personal information is not shared with the charging network unless that customer requests it.

In the case of direct connections, such as peer-to-peer interoperability agreements, data-sharing policies are specific to each interconnection. Given the importance of confidentiality issues, the companies involved have extensive data protection protocols in place.

How do you navigate complexities around international EV roaming services?

International roaming comes with having to deal with different currencies. ChargeHub’s Passport Hub solution makes the surrounding issues much easier for partners to deal with.

What do you see as the next big evolution or disruption in the EV roaming landscape, and how is your team preparing for it?

EV roaming is primarily offered via remote start on an eMSP—mostly a phone application and sometimes an RFID card. Gradually, we will see the growth of plug-and-charge experiences that require integration with EV roaming.

ChargeHub’s partnership with Irdeto, the world leader in digital platform cybersecurity, puts us at the forefront of this evolution. We expect to have more announcements to come in this area in 2024.

Get your network roaming-ready

At ChargeLab, we work every day to build a better charging experience for network operators and the drivers they serve. That’s why we integrate with OCPI roaming partners and advocate for the adoption of similar open standards. If you’d like to see how ChargeLab could benefit your business, contact us today.

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