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What is CTEP? Everything you need to know about California EV charger regulations

The California Type Evaluation Program is bringing standardization and accountability to the EV industry
A woman leans against her EV while it charges in a parking lot.

Standards in the EV industry have long been closer to best practices than hard rules. Now, the California Type Evaluation Program (CTEP) is ushering in compliance requirements to make sure commercial EV chargers are manufactured for safe and fair use. 

That means hardware distributors installing or selling EV chargers in California will need to certify their devices to ensure they meet safety standards. But what is CTEP, and what does it entail for your business? We’ve got the details. 

What is the California Type Evaluation Program (CTEP)?

The CTEP is a certification program from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS). It was created to ensure that weighing and measuring devices are designed for their intended use, operate correctly, and carry the required markings. The certification process is aimed at preventing fraud and the sale of faulty devices that may be unsafe or ineffective. 

In January 2020, the CTEP added commercial EV chargers manufactured or installed in California to the compliance roster. 

What does the CTEP certification have to do with EV chargers?

The link between the California Department of Food and Agriculture and EV chargers may not be an obvious one. The answer lies in the “measuring” language in CTEP regulations. EV chargers are considered measuring devices under the program because they measure out and transfer electrical energy to EVs. In short, the state of California wants to make sure customers who charge their EVs are getting what they pay for.

EV charger manufacturers and operators will need to make sure all their chargers are providing EV drivers with a uniform experience (i.e. displaying the correct kWh and accepting the same payment types). Using open, interoperable EV charging station management software can help you make the compliance process easier. ChargeLab’s enterprise CSMS integrates with CTEP-compliant hardware and provides the back-end features necessary to support the user experience. Get in touch to learn more.

CTEP requirements and timelines

All commercial EV chargers that collect a fee will need to obtain a certificate of approval (COA) through the CTEP. 

That means if you manufacture or install Level 2 and Level 3 chargers for public use in California, the CTEP requirements apply to you. Here are some timelines:

  • As of January 1, 2021—all newly installed commercial AC chargers will need to comply with the CTEP on installation.
  • As of January 1, 2023—all newly installed DC chargers will need to comply on installation.
  • By January 1, 2031—all AC chargers installed before Jan. 1, 2021 become subject to CTEP.
  • By January 1, 2033—all DC chargers installed before Jan 1, 2023 become subject to CTEP.

The CTEP requirements are adopted from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Handbook 44. Specifically, section 3.40 concerns electric vehicle fueling systems. Here are some highlights: 

  • Electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) must display the price per charge and indicate charge start and stop times. If using multi-tiered pricing, all tier prices must be visible prior to beginning a charging service. 
  • EVSE needs to display and record electrical output and price in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and decimal subdivisions.
  • EVSE should display prices and calculate running costs throughout a charging session, including during a loss of internet connectivity.
  • The reset mechanism for the indicating element can’t be active during a transaction. In other words, the EVSE can’t reset to zero when a customer is in the middle of a charge.
  • EVSE should have a clear and conspicuous label indicating the maximum power output.
  • EVSE must be field-tested for accuracy by comparing the total energy delivered in a transaction and the total cost charged as displayed/reported by the EVSE. 
  • Drivers must receive detailed receipts that itemize the charging session's cost and provide additional information.

You may also want to take a look at the FAQs section on the DMS website before diving into a gap analysis of your EV charger hardware. Once you’ve taken any remediation steps, you can apply for a Certificate of Approval (COA).

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How does the CTEP certification process work?

Let’s go through the CTEP certification process step by step. 

Fill out an application for COA

You’ll need to fill out an application for a COA, email or mail it to the DMS, and pay a $500 non-refundable application fee. You can pay the application and any other subsequent fees online

Work with a CTEP evaluator to confirm your EV chargers meet requirements

An evaluator will work through the specifications with you, recording their process through observations and photos which will be attached to your COA document. You will need to pay an evaluator fee (which usually covers the cost of services, equipment, travel, and per diem) before work can begin. Any leftover monies will be refunded to you if the evaluation comes in under the quoted amount. 

Receive your COA

If the DMS approves the evaluation results, congratulations! You will receive your COA in the mail, and it will be added to the DMS COA database.  

What does the CTEP mean for the EV industry?

Some may see the CTEP process as the harbinger of bureaucracy coming for the EV industry. And while the certification process may feel involved, it accomplishes a net positive. Namely, it seeks to discourage bad actors who may have been tempted by the lack of oversight to manufacture subpar products. A number of reputable EV charger manufacturers, including ABB, Zerova, LiteOn, and EVBox have already received COA on key models, and other brands are sure to follow suit.

Ultimately, CTEP requirements will also make widespread EV adoption easier by bringing in a slew of standard features to EV chargers. Consumers should be able to expect as uniform an experience from visiting your EV charging station as they would a gas station, and following the standards laid out by the CTEP program is one way to accomplish this goal. 

Leading the way to EV adoption

At ChargeLab we’re aiming to be the open standard in EV charging software. Our hardware-agnostic CSMS works with all chargers following OCPP. Let us know how we can help you make CTEP compliance easier. Send us a note.

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