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OCPI vs OCPP: Everything you need to know about charge point protocols

How OCPI & OCCP unlock interoperability, and why it matters
OCPI vs OCCP

Acronyms: The confusing roads signs of language. As the EV industry continues to grow at an extraordinary rate, it’s become increasingly important to understand the differences in similar terminology. Take OCPI vs OCPP, for example: close enough to be confusing and important to know when navigating the world of EV charging. In this guide, we’ll break down the two terms and their nuances.

What is OCPI?

The Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) is an open, automated protocol that connects EV charge point operators with service providers. There are two other terms to understand before OCPI charging can be explained in-depth.

  • Charge Point Operators (CPOs): CPOs install, maintain, and operate charge points. They’re the back end of EV charging and will either own charging stations themselves or operate them for a third party.
  • e-Mobility Service Providers (EMSPs): EMSPs offer charging stations for EV drivers, forming the front end of EV charging. Some will also act as their own CPOs, while others will have a third-party CPO install, operate, and maintain their stations.

Not all CPOs and EMSPs will work together, making it more complicated for EV drivers to charge their cars. The lack of standards also impacts network operators, who must figure out which CPOs and ESMPs work together to run a charging network.

OCPI EV charging solves this issue by connecting hardware and software components from various CPOs and EMSPs, giving EV drivers the freedom to roam between charging networks. The protocol allows network operators to exchange information about reservations, charging records, financial transactions, and location information. Doing so allows network operators to track their customers across charging networks, which, in turn, lets EV drivers access OCPI-compliant charging stations in a given area—and shows them real-time information on pricing and availability.

Key features include: 

  • Peer-to-peer roaming: Service providers can track customers across networks.
  • Roaming via hub: Enables roaming between predetermined networks and providers.
  • Mixed roaming: Gives EV drivers more freedom when selecting a charging station. Any OCPI charging station can connect with other networks.  
  • Real-time data: Shows data about EV charging stations in real-time, including availability and cost.
  • Charge session authorization: Network operators can allow charging sessions and handle reservations.
  • Billing and tariffs: Allows payments to be made across OCPI-compliant networks.
  • Platform monitoring: Network operators and service providers can analyze data across their networks. 

To learn more, check out our blog What is the Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI)?

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What is OCPP?

The Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a free open communications protocol that allows any OCPP-compliant software to work with OCPP-compliant hardware. As such, OCPP gives EV charging networks more interoperability. Therefore, network operators can choose hardware and software based on price point, market demand, or other criteria, rather than on compatibility alone.

Functionally, OCPP is a “syntax” that allows a network charging station to communicate with charging software. The Open Charge Alliance (OCA) writes and publishes OCPP as part of its interoperability advocacy. OCPP charging is available for free; download the latest version from the OCA’s website.

Here are some of the key features:

  • Device management: Charge point operators can configure and monitor charging stations.
  • Load balancing: Allows limited power on an electric circuit to be balanced depending on how many vehicles are plugged in. OCPP allows the load-balancing conversation to happen between charging station management systems and EV chargers.
  • Transaction processing: Facilities charging authorizations and billing.
  • Security and access control: Network managers can control charger access and set user parameters.
  • Display and messaging support: Sends messages to the EV driver with critical information.

For more information, read our blog What is the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP)?

OCPI vs OCPP

While they share the same goal of making EV charging more accessible and intolerable, there are a few things to take into account when discussing OCPP vs OCPI. OCPI enables roaming between charge networks, while OCPP allows network managers to choose their hardware and software from different providers

Benefits of adoption

Both OCPI and OCPP charging can bring value to an EV charging network. With OCPP, you no longer have to worry about a charging manufacturer or software provider going out of business, raising prices, or making other decisions that could harm your business. Additionally, it makes the EV charging industry easier for new businesses to navigate, as they don’t have to worry about researching compatibility. OCPI, on the other hand, improves the customer experience. It’s a more flexible, convenient way for customers to manage their EV’s charge, as they can use any station.

At ChargeLab, we’ve designed our business with these two protocols in mind. Our software is open and interoperable, and therefore compatible with NACS, J1772, and CCS plug types. We equip CPOs with the tools they need to monitor, analyze, and interpret how their charge stations perform, with white-glove setup services that help you hit the ground running. Check out our software page to see how.

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