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Webinar Follow Up: How Open-Source Software is Revolutionizing EV Charging

In our first webinar, we discussed how CitrineOS can help to upgrade EV charging networks to the OCPP 2.0.1 standard. In our newest blog post, Thana Paris, our Director of Open Source Program, answers your most asked questions in detail.

On February 14th, 2024 we held the first webinar introducing CitrineOS to an interested audience. Interest was high, and attendees participated from all over the world. During the Q&A session, our participants brought forward numerous interesting questions that we feel will be of interest to anyone exploring the possibilities that CitrineOS can provide. However, not everyone who was interested was able to attend the session and, due to time constraints, not every question was able to be addressed. We asked our Director of Open Source, Thana Paris, to answer these questions in detail below.

What is CitrineOS?

CitrineOS is an open source charging station management system which implements version 2.0.1 of the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). CitrineOS is designed to be a modular, API based platform for operators of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

With it you can:

·      Provision New Charging Equipment: Seamlessly set up new charging stations, ensuring they’re ready for action.

·      Complete Charging Transactions: Enable secure and efficient EV charging experiences for users.

·      Remotely Control Charging Equipment: Take charge of your charging infrastructure from anywhere, ensuring optimal performance.

·      Monitor Charger Equipment Uptime, Power Levels, and Degradation: Keep a close eye on the health and efficiency of your charging stations.

·      Manage Energy Consumption and Throughput: Optimize energy use and throughput, reducing environmental impact.

Why did we develop CitrineOS? What’s our Motivation?

Today, EV charging technology and its champions face severe challenges in delivering a consistent user experience. The most critical issue is too many cooks in the kitchen: EV manufacturers, charging station manufacturers, charging station management providers, and e-mobility providers are all making decisions in a vacuum that do not play well with each other. Tesla has achieved an excellent user experience by owning every part of this chain and using proprietary technology to integrate them, but the future of EV charging will require interoperability outside closed ecosystems like the one Tesla has created. Recognizing this, Tesla released an open version of their plug standard, the North American Charging Standard, which has been widely adopted. This is just the first step the industry must take.

S44 has a decade of experience creating custom software for EV charging. Out in the field, we saw that siloed and inconsistent implementations of OCPP stood in the way of delivering a consistent user experience. The most widely adopted version of OCPP, version 1.6, supports no messages for the ISO15118 'Plug-and-Charge' feature, no messages for providing pricing to chargers or updating their user interfaces, no messages for detailed diagnostics or fine-grained control of charger hardware. OCPP 1.6 is an incomplete standard that has led to each implementer creating custom messages to handle essential functions. As a result, historically each charging station firmware version has only worked with one charging station management software solution, locking charging station network operators into technology stacks that were inflexible and expensive to maintain.

Why OCPP 2.0.1?

The current version of OCPP, version 2.0.1, was released in 2020 and came with solutions to all of 1.6's problems. This required extensive changes, making it very hard to update existing 1.6 systems to 2.0.1. The challenge of executing these updates led to virtually no adoption of 2.0.1 for several years.

This changed in 2023. On March 30th 2023 the US government identified EV charging stations as critical infrastructure - exactly like gas stations - meaning it is a national security concern to make sure EV charging stations can be swapped between operators - exactly like gas stations. Recognizing this, the US government took the next step by publishing the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) standards alongside a 5-billion-dollar spending package for expanding charging station coverage across the US. NEVI requires OCPP 2.0.1 in order to ensure charging station interoperability. Between this development and the strain of aging 1.6 systems, now is the time for the industry to adopt OCPP 2.0.1.

Why Open-Source?

Open source software is vetted by the community, meaning it is tested by more people and under more diverse scenarios than any organization could ever hope to achieve internally. With interoperability being our primary concern, open source was a natural choice. Everyone involved in EV charging can use, test, and contribute to CitrineOS. Our hope for the future is this: if a charging station works on CitrineOS, it works everywhere.

Being open source, API based, and modular also makes CitrineOS more than just an OCPP 2.0.1 charging station management system. It makes CitrineOS a platform; an operating system capable of running a variety of value-adding services. Any company or enterprising individual can copy CitrineOS and integrate it with their new ideas, either as an open source extension or as their own Intellectual Property.

As the original author of CitrineOS, S44 is leading the charge towards an EV charging ecosystem capable of delivering the best possible charging user experience every single time. Contact us today to see how S44 can help you leverage CitrineOS, such as by building custom software to adapt it to your specific use case or hosting it for you in a Software-as-a-Service solution (see contact info at bottom of page).

Does CitrineOS contain any tools/methods for mocking or simulating chargers and connectors?

EVerest, an open source charging station firmware project authored by Pionix, supports OCPP 2.0.1 and can be dockerized for easy charging simulation. Check out their github (link here) for more information.

What are the hardware requirements to support the OS?

CitrineOS is cloud-agnostic and supports any charging station capable of OCPP 2.0.1 communication. It is lightweight and deployable even on a laptop for easy development and prototyping.

What are the first steps in figuring out if this could be a good fit to support certain customization efforts?

Reviewing OCPP 2.0.1 documentation is a good place to start for customization involving controlling or extracting data from chargers. CitrineOS supports every 2.0.1 message via its API, and a full implementation of 2.0.1 message handling is in the works for completion in Q2 2024.

Once familiar with the abilities and kind of data OCPP 2.0.1 supports, integrating your functionality into CitrineOS can be done in a variety of ways to best suit your needs! You can fork the repo and add your own code, though if you aren't intending to merge it back into the open source you may lose the benefit of updates to CitrineOS in the future by making your fork incompatible. A better approach is to create your own modules that draw from the message broker, create your own services that ingrate with the API, or connect to the same underlying database and/or cache. You could also explore any combination of these options.

How would you support a large migration from an existing CPMS to CitrineOS?

At S44, we have handled large migrations between CSMSs multiple times in the past. If building a new backend based on CitrineOS, a phased rollout plan with secure data migration is vital. Such transitions require a lot of support and extensive planning.

You don't need to go all-or-nothing with CitrineOS though! Another way to migrate is by fitting CitrineOS into your existing system architecture, reusing as much of what you currently have as possible. This way, you can choose to adopt more of CitrineOS over time as your needs vary. CitrineOS is modular and API based for this very reason: you can skip some modules, sending certain messages to your own services via the message broker instead, and repoint API calls to CitrineOS rather than redesigning them. This approach requires careful consideration of your specific circumstances to execute but is far lower effort in the short term. The expertise required to facilitate this method is available at S44.

ISO15118 Certificate Chain with Hubject is listed - Will the "Rent our Building" aaS enable other certificates like SAE or CharIn?

Since Hubject is the most commonly used option in the North American and European markets it is the only option we currently plan to support out of the box for the near future. However, we are willing to discuss adding SAE or CharIN as ISO15118 public key infrastructure certificate authorities, or any other new feature, to our SaaS offering depending on the scope of your project. Reach out today!

CitrineOS is poised to change how the world thinks about EV charging technology with a common, open source software foundation and there’s never been a better time to get involved. Ready to break out of the walled garden? Book a meeting with Jason today to learn how S44 and CitrineOS can help with your implementation!

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