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What is the Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI)?

Seventy-one percent of Americans say they’re interested in buying an EV. With demand surging, EV charging stations, manufacturers, and service providers are figuring out how to work together to make widespread EV adoption possible. 

Many are looking to open protocols, like Open Charge Point Interface, to help solve the challenge of convenience for EV charging businesses and their customers. Read on to learn more about OCPI and what it means for the EV industry.

What is OCPI?

OCPI, or Open Charge Point Interface, is an open, automated roaming protocol that connects EV charging station operators with service providers. Before delving into what that actually means, let’s talk a little bit about the key players in the EV charging space.

Charge Point Operators (CPOs)

CPOs install, operate, and maintain EV charging stations. They’re the backend of the EV charging operation. CPOs may own the stations themselves or operate the chargers for third parties.

e-Mobility Service Providers (EMSPs)

EMSPs offer charging stations to EV drivers. They’re the network owners and constitute the frontend of the EV charging operation. Some EMSPs also operate their own stations, which makes them both a CPO and an EMSP, but some simply run a network of EV chargers and have a third party (a CPO) install, maintain, and operate them. 

The bottom line: The EV charging landscape is complicated. And this complexity has a direct impact on EV drivers. Some CPOs and EMSPs don’t work together, which makes it hard for the average consumer to figure out where they can charge their vehicle. This lack of standard practices and tech compatibility also impacts network operators, who need to figure out which CPOs work with which EMSPs to run a functional EV charging network. 

OCPI strives to solve this issue by connecting various hardware and software components from different CPOs and EMSPs, allowing EV drivers to roam between charging networks.

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How does Open Charge Point Interface work? 

OCPI allows network operators to exchange information about reservations, charging records, and financial transactions, as well as location information. This enables them to track their clients across different charging networks. As a result, EV drivers get access to any OCPI-compliant chargers in the area, with real-time information on prices and availability.

For the consumer, using OCPI-compliant EV charging stations is the equivalent of being able to use a single credit card to pay at multiple gas stations instead of having to carry different cards for Shell, Chevron, and ARCO. For network operators, it’s a simple, free way to standardize operations as the industry becomes more established. 

Open Charge Point Interface is published and managed by the EVRoaming Foundation, an international organization of leaders in the EV industry. You can find OCPI documentation and download the protocol for free from their website. Keeping the protocol free and accessible to all is a key part of EVRoaming Foundation’s purpose, along with making EV charging more transparent and convenient for consumers. OCPI is the most popular roaming protocol in North America.

Key features of OCPI

OCPI allows for automated, real-time roaming between charging networks. The exact features vary between versions; this list includes features available on OPCI 2.2:

  • Peer-to-peer roaming: Allows two service providers to connect and track customers across their networks.
  • Roaming via hub: Allows roaming between a predetermined group of networks and service providers.
  • Mixed roaming: Provides the most freedom for EV drivers. Any OCPI EV charging station is open to connecting with other networks.  
  • Real-time data: Drivers can see real-time data about EV charging stations in the area, including availability and cost.
  • Charge session authorization: Allows network operators to authorize charging sessions and handle reservations.
  • Billing and tariffs: Accepts payments across OCPI-compliant networks.
  • Platform monitoring: Network operators and service providers can track and manage data across their charging networks. 

The EVRoaming Foundation has a complete list of OCPI specifications

OCPI vs. OCPP

Open Charge Point Interface is sometimes confused with Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). The two protocols are not the same, though they share a common goal of making widespread adoption of EVs possible. While OCPI refers to roaming between charging networks, OCPP is a type of universal language between chargers and their managing software. OCPP allows network managers to choose EV chargers and EV charging software from different providers. 

How does OCPI adoption benefit EV charging businesses? 

OCPI adoption means greater flexibility and convenience for your network and your customers. 

The goal of OCPI and other open protocols is to allow EV drivers to charge their vehicles at any EV charging station, even if the network operator (CPO) and the service provider (EMSP) do not have a contractual agreement.

For EV charging businesses, that means an unlimited choice of OCPI-compliant chargers and less reliance on agreements with individual manufacturers. In other words, it means freedom to build an EV charging business with tools that work for you.

ChargeLab is your roaming partner 

We designed our software to be open and interoperable from day one. At ChargeLab, we advocate for universal EV adoption by supporting our partners and customers with hardware-agnostic solutions. Learn more about what we do.

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