A panel of industry leaders joined Electric Autonomy Canada last week to discuss enhancing the electric vehicle charging experience by connecting vehicles, service providers and charging infrastructure through Plug and Charge technology
If construction of more charging infrastructure is universally seen as a key to accelerating electric vehicle uptake, a close second for many drivers is the need to make current and future charging stations equally accessible for use by all drivers.
The ultimate goal — a streamline, seamless, any-stop charging experience — lies in the introduction and adoption of Plug and Charge technology.
To help charging network providers, site hosts and EV drivers learn more about this emerging topic, Electric Autonomy Canada recently hosted a discussion featuring panellists from Porsche Canada, BC Hydro, Siemens Canada and the webinar sponsors, Autocrypt.
The conversation ranged from defining Plug and Charge and explaining how it can streamline the charging experience, to highlighting some of the challenges and barriers to adopting the protocol.
You can watch the full discussion with Electric Autonomy in the webinar sponsored by Autocrypt and read the summary below.
Boosting ease of use
For most EV owners today, rolling up at a public charging station can be a “clunky” and “cumbersome” process, says Kush Obhrai, product manager — Taycan, Macan, Charging Infrastructure at Porsche Canada.
In order to charge their vehicle, a user typically needs a phone app or an RFID-equipped card. However, apps are often not compatible across charging networks — meaning users currently require multiple apps, cards and accounts to charge up at different locations.
In contrast, Plug and Charge — the shorthand term for a protocol that enables secure communication between the EV and the charging station — allow drivers to simply plug in their vehicle at the charging station, with built-in, backend technology taking care of charging and billing.
“[Plug and Charge] simplifies the entire process by allowing the car to self identify with the charger and it makes it really seamless and easy for the customer,” says Darren Scott, product manager eMobility at Siemens Canada. “So it eliminates all the need for RFID cards and apps.”
The importance of authentication
Plug and Charge technology is based on the ISO 15118 international standard and kickstarts all the processes needed for automatic vehicle charging.
“The ISO standard defines the communication protocols to prevent any gaps or disorders in data exchange between electric vehicles and charging stations and also takes care of both wired and wireless means of communications,” says Sean HJ Cho, president of Autocrypt North America.
The key technology in Plug and Charge, adds Cho, is the backend authentication system which securely exchanges the EV user’s information and data by authenticating and validating the vehicles and chargers involved.
Vehicle manufacturers, charging station operators and mobility service providers all need to come together to coordinate their efforts to ensure a smooth and secure charging experience for the user.
“There’s a lot of stakeholders at play here,” says Porche’s Obhrai.
“It starts with producing the vehicle…before a customer even sees a vehicle there are certificates installed in that car that will allow it to communicate in this [Plug and Charge] landscape in the future,” says Obhrai. “Fast forward a couple of months…a happy customer picks it up…[and] at that point they have to sign up for a charging contract.”
The charging contract is where the customers provide their vehicle’s information and credit card numbers for charging payment. This is shared with the mobility service provider to verify the existence and authenticity of the vehicle.
Obhrai explains that if each of the actors has the necessary certificates and contracts the charging process will begin seamlessly.
Complex interactions with key players
To date, there are only some vehicles in the market that are Plug and Charge capable, such as the 2021 Porshe Taycan, 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai IONIQ 5, and the Rivian R1T. In Canada, currently Electrify Canada is the only EV charging network that offers Plug and Charge technology to its customers.
During the panel, Mike Wenzlaff, senior program manager, electric vehicles at BC Hydro pointed out that while Plug and Charge is the ideal for EV drivers and is building momentum in the market, the number of actors involved — from OEMs to electricity networks to EV station owners — will make it challenging to bring it all together and universally adopt the technology.
He predicted, given these complexities, full adoption across Canada could take up to a decade.
Says Wenzlaff: “We have a whole mixed bag of different hardware in different networks and then we also have geographic challenges. We have places where there are very weak cell phone signals, so what happens if there are Plug and Charges all set up? From a network owner’s perspective, how do you still support the customer when there are these mixed relationships?”
Despite these challenges, progress is evident. In the past year, a number of network providers have struck roaming agreements enabling EV drivers who are members of one network to use a different service without adding a separate account. Plug and Charge will take that utility to the next level.
Ultimately, Porche’s Obhrai says, it comes down to all the stakeholders working together. “The key to making it a seamless experience, of course, is those relationships between the charging station operators and the OEMs and so on and how that happens. Because, like with all standards, there’s interpretation at some level that needs to be done between teams of people. So that’s the level that really needs to be looked at.”