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Trying to pick a commercial EV charger? Here’s why you need to start with back-end software

Looking to enter the EV charging space? You’re not alone. By 2028, the value of this once-niche market will hit $120B. As a flood of new network operators, value-added resellers, and other players rush into the industry, the winners will largely be determined by a few key strategic choices — especially regarding charging station management software (CSMS). 

Choosing a CSMS is not a decision that should be rushed, but it is essential to entering the burgeoning EV charging industry with a head start. Read on to learn how you can make the right decision from the get go.

Why finding back-end software is step one

There are two main reasons why emerging EV players should start by finding the right back-end software: It’s the backbone of the charging network, and it will directly impact the hardware you can use.

  • The backbone of the charging network: The CSMS is the command center of any charging network, providing vital support to fleet operators, property managers, and end users. It allows operators to optimize energy management, process payments, monitor their hardware, and more. CSMS plays a central role in the charging network ecosystem, so it should be the first piece you get in place.
  • The hardware-software connection: Many CSMS solutions have limited compatibility with charging station equipment, meaning you could put yourself at a serious disadvantage if you go hardware first. If you have a manufacturer in mind, select the best CSMS for that option to start. Or, if you’re not sure what hardware is right for you, a good course of action is often to choose a CSMS with broad compatibility across charging stations. 

Creating your own EV charging business? ChargeLab is an industry-leading CSMS supporting over 30 Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) chargers from over a dozen manufacturers. From 

Built by a team with decades of experience with EV charging tech, ChargeLab is a powerful white-label CSMS solution. Our software works with any OCPP charger, accepts every major credit card, utilizes dynamic load balancing, and maintains 24/7 automatic fault monitoring — among many other features. From energy management to payments, ChargeLab’s fully featured back-end software gives EV businesses everything they need to run their network.

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5 key features of top CSMS solutions

Now, let’s explore the five key features you should keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

  1. Broad hardware compatibility: As we mentioned above, the wrong software choice could severely limit your options when it comes to charging station equipment. To keep from painting yourself into a corner, look for a CSMS that works with most major manufacturers.  
  2. Robust payment processing: To ensure you’re maximizing your revenue (or your clients' revenue), pick a solution that allows EV owners to use their payment method of choice at the station.
  3. Smart energy management: CSMSs can significantly mitigate the impact user power consumption has on the charging hardware. The best software uses dynamic load balancing based on charger grouping, vehicle priority, electricity prices, and more to manage energy flow across stations.
  4. Comprehensive hardware monitoring: Maintaining a charging network with high uptime is challenging, as human errors or technical malfunctions could interfere with the hardware’s functionality. Ensure operators can keep things humming by adopting back-end software that provides comprehensive equipment monitoring coupled with automatic notifications. 
  5. Complete access control: Another key feature in a CSMS solution is full control over network and station access. This capability is key to maintaining the security of the operation — and to properly managing the service quality. Ideally, a solution should allow you to create custom groups with varying permission levels.

The benefits of using a white-label CSMS

Some EV charging businesses and value-added resellers may consider developing their own CSMS as part of their strategy. While the in-house route has some advantages, the speed, cost-effectiveness, and lower risk profile of a white-label solution make it the right choice for most in this space.

  • Accelerating time to market: All things being equal, the business that can bring a solution to market faster has the edge over its competition. If you decide to build your own CSMS, you’ve tied up valuable human and financial resources in a project that will, even if successful, delay your plans by years. A white-label solution allows you to shortcut that entire process — and dramatically accelerate your time to market.
  • Cutting business costs: Software development is a long and costly endeavor. With the average salary of a software engineer nearly $100,000, the average development team between five and eight people, and the average time it takes to develop a simple software application of four to 12 months, the prospect of building out an advanced application like a CSMS from scratch is an expensive one. It becomes increasingly more so as you calculate the additional resources required to maintain and improve upon the initial application. A white-label solution, however, is much less costly while supplying fully functional and customizable back-end software.
  • Reducing downside risk: Using a white-label CSMS solution protects you from two major causes of downside risk. First, there are few guarantees that an in-house initiative will pay off, given that research has shown that 66% of development projects fail. Second, even if the team develops functional software, there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup your investment via future sales. A white-label solution avoids both issues: The software has already been validated by the market, and unwinding the commitment is as simple as canceling the subscription.

Finding an ideal CSMS tech partner

The EV charging market will change dramatically over the next five years. As the sector explodes, the businesses best positioned to take advantage of that growth will be those that make the right calls on a few fundamental decisions. As we’ve already covered, one of the most important is the CSMS provider.

Built by a team with decades of experience with EV charging tech, ChargeLab is a powerful white-label CSMS solution. Our software works with any OCPP charger, accepts every major credit card, utilizes dynamic load balancing, and maintains 24/7 automatic fault monitoring — among many other features. Interested? Our team would love to hear from you.

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If you're looking for software to help build your EV charging business, contact ChargeLab today.

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