CONTRIBUTOR

Electric vehicles sales are surging ahead with a record 300,000 sold in the U.S. for the first time in the third quarter but in many respects, the infrastructure that supports EVs is struggling to catch up. S44, a leader in EV charging software for automotive OEMs and to EV network operators, today announced an open software initiative that hopes to alleviate some of the digital transformation back-end management headaches associated with EV charging networks.

The S44 CitrineOS software hopes to heal the somewhat fractured nature of the U.S. EV charging industry. EV charging stations are owned by a variety of operations. Some are independent networks, others are managed by fossil fuel companies and others still are operated by automobile companies like most famously Tesla. The CitrineOS modular software package aims to enable widespread interoperability between charging equipment, vehicles, and networks on a worldwide basis. Basically, the idea is to create a seamless experience akin to cellular phone roaming. CitrineOS is compliant with Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) and the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) standards.

The stakes are high. The Biden administration aims to have 500,000 public EV chargers in place by 2030 and they have to be operational 97 to 99 percent of the time to receive federal funding. Recent studies indicate that EV chargers fall well short of the mark with an average of 72 percent of fast-charging stations operational. President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law is investing $7.5 billion in EV charging with another $2.5 billion available via grants. To qualify for funding, EV charge management software must be OCPP 2.0.1 compliant by March, 2024. CitrineOS is designed to help EV charger operators meet that deadline. One key provision is that EV drivers don’t have to use multiple apps and accounts to charge, meaning a single method of identification works across all chargers. Individual states also are stepping up their commitment to EV with California, for example, recently passing legislation designed to upgrade the electrical grid to help reduce charging times.

“Even with an experienced team, you’re looking at six to nine months to build NEVI-compliant EV charge management software from scratch,” says Julian Offerman, co-founder and CEO of S44. “With Citrine OS, you can do it in a month. Democratizing access to the software is the only way to be fast enough to hit the state and federal deadlines.”

The CitrineOS offers a list of capabilities. These include:

The ability to provision new charging equipment

Complete charging transactions

Remotely control charging equipment

Monitor charging equipment uptime, power levels and degradation

Manage energy consumption throughput

“Reliable and standardized open back-end communication is key for commercial, fleet, public and autonomous vehicle charging infrastructure,” says Cliff Fietzek, board member of CharIN North America, a proponent of EV charging interoperability. “CitrineOS is a game-changer for this communication, built natively on the latest charge point protocol standard, OCPP 2.0.1. Now anyone can leverage the open source libraries to get to work quickly—to bring even legacy networks into compliance.”

In short, CitrineOS is designed to enable industry-wide collaboration on a single code base. That type of capability is critical to the continued growth of the EVs. Charging networks are experiencing growing pains, with EV drivers complaining that EV charging stations often fail to work properly or are out of service. With even fast chargers requiring 25 minutes to completely charge an EV, a high failure rate creates a lot of frustrated EV owners who suddenly have a lot of unwanted downtime to gripe.

The pressure put on EV charging stations may get some future relief, however, if wireless charging research bears fruition. Researchers in Japan have already tested a wireless charging system embedded in public roads that would make EVs get by with less battery capacity and create lighter vehicles.

Meanwhile, wireless chargers like those being developed by Massachusetts-based WiTricity just need to be in range of the vehicle so a typical type-2 charging station could be hidden inside a planter, for example, in a parking lot or wall-mounted at home. WiTricity licensed its intellectual property to Wiferon, a German wireless EV charger developer. Wiferon was recently acquired by Tesla, so most industry observers expect wireless charging to arrive sooner than later.