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Most would agree that the electric power industry, while trying to plant its foot in the 21st century, often remains in the20th century – some might even argue the 19th!  So when it comes to developing a point-of-sale (POS) business model for electric vehicle (EV) charging, it comes as little surprise that the utilities are still finding their way. But consumers are already experiencing much better service transactions in other areas of their life and EV charging needs to evolve in the same way to speed deployments and maximize market potential.   

To illustrate an example of how POS services work, let’s briefly examine my day:

  • This morning I woke up in a hotel room that I reserved with some information (unverified) and my credit card number (perhaps unverified, but traceable). When I checked into the hotel last night, I showed my state-issued ID and handed over my credit card for input (verified at that moment). 
  • To get to the hotel, I rented a car. Surprisingly, the process to reserve a car doesn’t require much beyond a name and address, but in my case I did register a “profile” with that company to speed up (plane-to-car time) my arrival experience since the required information of who I am and how I pay is already stored and processed.
  • To get a cup of coffee this morning, I used a phone application provided by the coffee chain in which they have stored a credit that is based on applying a charge to my credit card. To buy more credit, I used my credit card.

All of these credit card transactions leverage standards and processes developed by the financial industry and used in particular by my bank and the vendors in question. To varying levels of security and risk aversion, there is an established process for companies to take my credit card, validate it, and to agree that a payment has been applied.

When it comes to charging electric vehicles, EV owners like me know what we want. I want to park my car, connect to an Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) device, swipe my credit card, get some “juice” (electrons), and move on. I want the EVSE to be certified as delivering the amount of kilowatt-hours (kWh) I was billed for. I want the same (or better) security for that transaction as any other transaction I might complete with that same credit card while parked.

This approach requires:

  • My getting juice wherever and whenever I want (I will not join someone’s club to have access, unless there is a compelling reason)
  • The point-of-sale (POS) concept. The correct charges are a matter of the POS terminal programming. I have no trouble buying, for example, gasoline in different states. The POS terminal ensures that I am charged and pay the appropriate taxes for that particular instance. I expect no less when driving my electric vehicle in different electric service areas.
  • My loaning car to whomever I want and them recharging it (or not)

I don’t want to “pair” my car to charge it. I don’t want to make sure my car has the right form of communications, be it ZigBee-based, SAE-based, ANSI C12-based or others, to get electricity, except that contained within the charging mechanism. I don’t want to join yet another club to buy electricity. I don’t want to hand my friends five bucks when I visit and plug into their home (though if I did, I could use my credit card for this using a device like “Square”…).

From the interoperability standpoint, this requires a lot of work between many parties: the utility, the EVSE vendor, the company offering the opportunity to charge, the credit card companies, security professionals, and many others. However, this is what I expect. I want the same experience with purchasing electricity for my car that I have had for everything else in my life using a credit card.Any other EV drivers groaning at the complexity of this problem?  In my next post, I’ll cover these problems in more detail and explore some pathways to solutions. Let me know your thoughts and ideas.

Aaron F. Snyder, Ph.D.
Director, Smart Grid Labs

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