As one of Europe’s largest independent Electric Vehicle charging network, we believe that while the EV Market is in its early stages, participants in the market must design it properly from the outset to ensure its future success. There is no doubt that electrifying transport will make an important contribution to society’s de-carbonisation targets.
However, this journey must include gaining EV drivers’ trust. The challenge we face is: can we offer the same level of convenience to drivers that are used to driving a combustion engine vehicle, or what can we do to make their driving experience even better? Allego believes that we can improve upon the driving experience and is committed to providing seamless access to our charging infrastructure.
Serving EV drivers is at the heart of our business. Our mission is to charge all makes and models of EVs and ensure our network is interoperable and accessible to as many EV drivers as possible. This is easier said than done, as there are two significant challenges we face in looking to achieve this goal:
- First, there is a technological challenge. Interoperability is dependent upon smooth communication between the distribution grid, charging hardware and vehicles. All of these elements need to speak the same language to ensure full calibration. With hundreds of new vehicles entering the market, this is a continuously changing landscape.
- Secondly, there is a challenge of managing the EV market ecosystem, including onboarding Mobility Service Providers (MSP’s) that meet our selection criteria as quickly as possible. This requires continuous communication of our network’s accessibility, availability, physical location and advertising the conditions of use through the clear communication of prices. Allego as a pure player Charge Point Operator (CPO) is intrinsically motivated to get this right as we build and optimise our network to serve customers. Becoming interoperable with as many MSP’s as possible is instrumental to enable an optimal EV Driver experience.
Why we believe in offering full interoperability
At Allego we are a pure player CPO, combining attractive charging locations with safe, seamless charging experience in order to ensure that the wide scale adoption of EV’s becomes common place. We are continuously investing in and expanding the size of our network in order to accommodate the growing number of EVs entering the market. However, since the CPO landscape in Europe and the UK is fragmented, it is our firm belief that all market players must do their utmost to facilitate full network interoperability. Allego believes it makes little sense to create separate networks that are not made and designed to be interoperable. If full interoperability is not assured, EV drivers will suffer and be confronted with a poor user experience. That can be to no one’s benefit.
One pitfall that currently prevents some market parties from working together on interoperability is the need to put in place cross border agreements that relinquish a level of autonomy. This might run counter to the self-proclaimed interest of some CPO’s and has resulted in the selective on-boarding of MSPs by some to optimise their own infrastructures. As a result, we see that EV drivers are faced with the cumbersome requirement to sign up to multiple CPOs and MSP’s, many with their own unique access and payment requirements (charge cards, apps, subscriptions, etc.) to ensure a level of a carefree charging experience.
At Allego we define ‘Interoperability’ as the ability of all EV driver to access, charge and pay at any public charge point. To enable this, Allego continuously scans the market on preferred interfaces for EV drivers. We are proud that our network is compatible with more then 260 MSPs today.
At this time, we see the following access methods to charge:
- Plug and Charge: the Car authorises itself to the charger. This represents a real user-friendly solution, but year-to-date we see car manufacturers investing in their own charging infrastructures embracing proprietary access solutions leading to unique access services (i.e., only their own brand may charge their vehicles). With ISO15118, a market standard for vehicle to grid has been introduced which in the end should result in interoperability in Plug and Charge, meaning that it should work independent for all CPOs, irrespective of car brand. This will become tangible when charging Hardware Manufacturers’ and Car Manufacturers’ will embrace this market standard and CPO back-end systems recognise this form of authorisation of sessions.
- Direct Payment (Contactless): the EV Driver is enabled to pay with a credit card or bank card. Most of the time this is enabled by the CPO directly supported by payment providers. Payment can be made contactless by introducing a payment terminal supporting Near Field Communication (NFC) meaning the EV Driver can tap its bank card to the reader.
- EV Mobility Services Providers (eMSP’s): Traditionally MSP’s are mostly known by company car, fleet or leasing vehicle drivers who use a fuel card providing them access to almost any gasoline station within their country or across multiple jurisdictions or borders. The gasoline stations in this case are in the combustion engine world, the equivalent of the CPO’s. The comparison holds in the sense that that company car, fleet or leasing vehicle drivers with a fuel card are reimbursed for the refuelling costs and the MSP arranged for the financial clearing between employer, employee and fuel providers. Of course, we see the traditional players in this space recognising the need to extend their services to the EV infrastructure, as we also recognise new market players emerging e.g., utilities, car manufacturers, transport service companies. The key challenge is that business relations must be established between all these eMSP’s and CPO’s and information must be exchanged (e.g., location, tariff, and detailed charging records representing specifications of consumed energy per session), to enable a transparent and seamless charging experience.
- Roaming Service Platforms (RSP’s): RSP’s represent Interoperability Clearinghouses facilitating interoperability from a technical as well as a commercial point of view. The most well-known RSP’s year-to-date are eClearing, Gireve and Hubject. Through these platforms, eMSP’s and CPO’s can establish multiple relations quickly via standardised terms and conditions as well as technical protocols securing accurate exchange of vital information as specified above.
As stated Allego firmly believes in the need of full interoperability. As a consequence, Allego has invested extensively in supporting interoperability via all of the above listed roaming methods via the Allego EV Cloud™ (Allego’s own back-end system).
Today Allego is in prime position to onboard new MSP’s quickly via direct peer-to-peer connections and connections via RSP’s. We actually claim that we can reach 100% interoperability within half a year after setting-up our first charging location in every European country, assuming that EMSP’s utilise one of the roaming methods supported by Allego.
Allego is also actively advocating the need for interoperability via government and influencing bodies. Enforcing regulations can dramatically accelerate interoperability. With the introduction of their ‘Road to Zero’ plans, the UK Government for example have been clear on their ambition for the UK to have ‘one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world’. And the announcement in 2019 that all new UK rapid EV chargers must accept contactless debit or credit card payment from all EV drivers by spring 2020 was in line with such a vision.
However, ad-hoc contactless payments covers just a piece of the interoperability puzzle. Allego strongly believes in the added value of MSP’s who enrich the charging experience for EV Drivers over many axes. Most MSP’s offer an app allowing the EV driver to find chargers, see their state of operation, availability and tariff per kWh/minute. They can enrich this with other data, e.g., is there a grocery store or restaurant nearby? But they can also extend services by for example offering e-Bike, car sharing or public transport services via their token/app. Allego is actively looking for Added-Value Services and therefore highly values the eMSP network.
Allego is committed to attaining full interoperability because its instrumental to gaining the trust and preference of both present and future EV drivers. We will ensure that our charging network will provide a transparent, seamless and added value charging experience. We warmly welcome every MSP to our network that can help contribute to this enhanced user experience. So please join us in our effort to help convert all drivers into becoming EV Drivers by applying for a partnership via the Allego website.