Today’s electric vehicle (EV) charging experience can be frustrating. The first hurdle is finding a working, available charging station. Next comes waiting in or by the vehicle for 30 minutes or so, which can feel like a waste of time. The annoying charging experience is one reason why as many as one in five drivers trade in their EVs for gas-powered vehicles.[1]

Charge point operators (CPOs) that deliver a better experience stand to gain a competitive edge in a market poised for spectacular growth. The 500,000 public EV chargers installed in 2021 brought the worldwide total to nearly 1.8 million.[2] They are not enough. To keep up with demand, Europe will need 9 million public chargers by 2035, a 400% increase over the 340,000 public chargers available in 2022.[3] Investors are listening: analysts estimate cumulative global investments in charging to exceed $360 billion by 2030 and $1 trillion by 2040.[4]

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“EV charging infrastructure is a trillion dollar market opportunity over the next 20 years, but the pace of installations needs to accelerate rapidly.”

BloombergNEF, 2022

Growth and profitability hinge on smart cellular connectivity management

Imagine a great charging experience. It starts with working chargers. Dependable authentication, usage metering, and payment. A mobile app that shows charger location, real-time availability, and even dynamic pricing. SMS alerts on charging status (e.g., charging, 80% charged, 10 minutes remaining, charging complete) while the customer enjoys a coffee next door.

EV charging stations of the future will transform the 30-minute ho-hum charging experience into something drivers actually enjoy.[1] Equipped with cellular Wi-Fi routers, the charging station can provide a Wi-Fi hotspot for customers to work or watch the news from their car. Interactive displays to learn about local attractions—a source of advertising revenues for the station operator. A service to update the vehicle’s software while it charges.

Underpinning all of these customer experiences—today’s and tomorrow’s—is a reliable, secure network. Cellular networks are often more practical than wired networks for charging stations. They avoid the expense of wiring. They reach virtually everywhere, including highway service areas. Connecting a new charger to the cellular network can be as simple as inserting a SIM card. And many locations are served by multiple cellular networks, providing resilience if one network has an issue.

Challenges of cellular connectivity management

The ease of managing cellular network connectivity affects both the customer experience and profitability. Must-haves include:

• Service reliability. Out-of-service chargers or payment systems take a bite out of revenue. They also irritate customers who planned their trips around charging.

• Automated onboarding of new chargers. Individually provisioning large groups of chargers is time-consuming and error-prone, slowing down deployment.

• Automated rate-plan management. Assigning the right rate plans to hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of chargers—and then managing them—is an arduous task. Getting it wrong can lead to data overage charges that wreak havoc on projected profit margins.

• Insights into usage trends. Manually exporting cellular usage data to other enterprise applications is a tedious, time-consuming process and can postpone insights.

• Security. Unlike enterprise servers, EV chargers are out in the open, making it easier for bad actors to steal SIMs. Without a way to immediately detect and deactivate stolen SIMs, CPOs are on the hook for data charges until the theft is discovered, possibly weeks later.

• Single management platform across regions. For CPOs using multiple mobile network operators, integrating their management platforms is costly and cumbersome.

Scale faster, operate smarter, and protect better with Cisco IoT Control Center cellular IoT connectivity management platform (CMP) for EV charging stations. Unlike cellular IoT platforms that simply connect your EV chargers to the cellular network, Cisco IoT Control Center also helps you scale quickly and increase profitability by delivering outstanding customer experiences, reducing costs, and automating more of your business. Whether you’re just starting out as a CPO or already operate thousands (or tens of thousands) of chargers, Cisco IoT Control Center accelerates your IoT journey from deploying your first chargers to operating at scale.

Scale faster

Managing cellular IoT at large scale can be overwhelming. Cisco IoT Control Center makes it as simple to onboard and manage 10,000 chargers as 10.

Accelerate time to market. Quickly and accurately connect, provision, and deploy chargers in bulk. Reduce hours or days of work to just minutes with sophisticated rules-based automation using a simple, intuitive interface.

Simplify expansion. Expanding to other regions served by our global network of roaming partners? With Cisco IoT Control Center, you save the time and costs of integrating multiple CMPs and training your team to use them. Even if some of your charging stations are outside our service area, you likely won’t need to learn another CMP. More than 50 service providers around the world use Cisco IoT Control Center.

Drive innovation. Gain data-driven insights about expansion or targeted advertising with analytics on individual charging stations’ data usage. Cisco IoT Control Center is continually enhanced with emerging technologies like AI/ML-based analytics for threat detection and new 5G technologies for services like entertainment, advertising, and in-car services.

Operate smarter

Deliver better customer experiences and increase profitability with near-real-time visibility, control, and rate-plan optimization based on AI/ML-based analytics.

Increase service reliability. Receive real-time alerts if a charger hasn’t connected for a specified time period, starts sending unusual amounts of data, begins roaming, or otherwise behaves oddly. Quickly identify and resolve problems using sophisticated diagnostics and analysis tools, improving the customer experience and protecting revenue. Quickly rule out or resolve cellular connectivity issues before dispatching a technician.

Deliver great customer experiences. Keep tabs on thousands of charging stations from one interface to make sure they’re operating and sharing their location and status with your mobile app. Confirm that payment systems are working. With Cisco IoT Control Center you can also offer dynamic pricing based on time of day and other variables. Customers who have the flexibility to charge at different times of day or in less popular locations appreciate the cost savings.

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We have so much more insight and control over our units now than we did before. Cisco IoT Control Center has paid for itself, tenfold.

Project Lead, Metering, Regional Utility Company

Avoid data overage charges. Use Cisco IoT Control Center to automatically optimize rate plans using AI/ML-based analytics. Be confident that you’re getting the best pricing based on current data usage. Automate workflows to save time and lower costs. Reduce operational costs with sophisticated process automation. We provide more than 100 APIs you can use to integrate cellular-connectivity data with your other business applications, avoiding the time and resources needed to manually import data. For example, integrate with your support ticketing system to automatically create a ticket whenever a charger goes offline. Integrate with your analytics application to understand usage trends. Seeing when and where usage peaks or dips can help you plan expansion, optimize operations, and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns.

Protect better

Built by Cisco, a global leader in security, IoT Control Center gives you multilayer, enterprise-grade security and helps you respond quickly to suspicious device behavior.

Prevent unauthorized access. Protect your customer data and backend systems with multifactor authentication and role-based access controls.

Prevent SIMs from being used in another device. With a few clicks you can set a rule to automatically deactivate a SIM inserted into a new device and notify the appropriate people in your organization.

Speed response. Quickly identify potentially compromised chargers with real-time device monitoring and advanced analytics. Cisco IoT Control Center automatically initiates the right actions when devices exhibit unusual data and connectivity behavior.

Whether you’re a CPO, auto company, energy company, department of transportation,or another government entity, Cisco IoT Control Center can help you scale faster, operate smarter, and protect better.

Learn more about Cisco IoT Control Center (2CONTROL) here.

1 Electric Car Owners Switching to Gas Because Charging Hassle, Business Insider, July 28, 2021
2 Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022, BloombergNEF
3 Power Sector Accelerating e-Mobility, EY and eurelectric, 2022
4 Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022, BloombergNEF

Ever since electric vehicles (EVs) started to become a viable transport alternative, the phrase ‘range anxiety’ has been tossed about, with most pundits citing the fear of not being able to reach your destination without running out of power as a barrier to EV adoption. Even today, range anxiety is still mentioned as one of the top reasons why people are reticent about transitioning to electric vehicles. The funny thing is, though, that almost as soon as this phrase became part of the conversation, it became a myth. And some would argue that range anxiety was never a thing in the first place. So, let’s look at expectations and why ‘range anxiety’ doesn’t match with reality.

In 2011, when the first major EV was released to the market (the Nissan LEAF for those interested) you would get maybe 160km out of a full battery charge. And for some, that would be enough to make you nervous about running out of power, especially when the network of charging stations back then was minimal.

By 2015, though, the average EV had a range of around 200km, while today it hovers around 350km – a number that is expected to rise to around 400km in the not-too-distant future. And the charging station network? It has grown by leap and bounds. In the UK, there were 37,261 EV charge points spread across 22,049 charging locations by the end of December 2022 – a 31% increase from the previous year. In the EU,there were roughly 375,000 charging stations by the end of 2021, with that number expected to increase rapidly in the coming years.

Expectations vs reality

Those who cite range anxiety might have visions of being stranded on some roadside with no charging station in sight – and no ability to ‘fill up a gas canister’ for an emergency top up. But how far do people drive and where are they going?

If we look at the numbers, a study conducted on more than 600 000 vehicles across Europe showed that 8 in ten drivers travel less than 100km a day. That same study finds that 6 in ten drivers travel less than 50km a day. To break it down even further, in the UK, the average trip length is 8.4km, while globally, the average daily car journey is around 15 minutes or about 15km. In Europe, internal combustion engine (ICE) drivers average just 13,600km per year, while EV drivers are clocking up averages of 14,200km annually. In the US, 95% of car journeys are under 48km, with 60% less than 9km.

So, what does this tell us? That most of our time behind the wheel is spent on short, stop-start journeys – but even if those trips are longer, range anxiety really isn’t a realistic factor.

Here are a few individual EV model ranges to give you an idea of scope. Range, of course, varies due to things like weather and payload, along with factors such as city, highway, or rural driving. This means Real Range is an industry calculated average – and it’s important to note that the median range for EVs has increased by 56% in the last 6 years or so.

As you can see, the range numbers vary a great deal and this has to do with battery size, but even on the lower end you aren’t likely to run out of juice mid-trip. Most people charge their EVs at home, usually overnight, and while this has previously presented a challenge to those living in apartments, this too is changing as public charging stations rapidly grow in numbers, along with landlords installing charging stations in parking areas.  And while the number of EV charging stations does not yet match the number of gas stations, the rapid EV adoption we are currently experiencing means that will change very quickly.

Here in the Nordics, three in four new cars sold are EVs, and there are about five EVs on the road for every public charging point – people don’t all charge at once and many of us will be charging at home, so the fear of not being able to top up or having to wait in a ‘first come/first serve’ model is no longer really an issue. There are also myriad new solutions coming to market, including in-transit charging points and mobile charging stations.

And then there is the very basic fact that nearly all car manufacturers are investing in EVs and committing being part of the EV ecosystem expansion. VW alone has committed to installing nearly 3 000 new charging stations in the US, while a European high-power charging networs has committed €700 million in investment to enable rapid EV charging network expansion and accelerated growth across Europe. And there are new governmental schemes and investment being announced all the time, both on the local and national levels. In fact, the European Union has decided that the sale of new internal combustion engines will be banned by 2035, and all new cars will be battery-electric, meaning the automotive industry will play a big role in the battle for carbon neutrality by 2050.

To learn more about EVs and the ecosystem around them, download our EV Ecosystem White Paper.

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We need to be online 24/7 in order to operate efficiently and effectively. That’s why having reliable connectivity is so important.
Tele2 IoT was competitively priced and flexible – basically it was a very smooth process for us

Kristian Sandahl CEO & Founder ChargeNode

Before we get to how IoT enables the EV ecosystem, let’s take a quick look at the background: all across the world, the electrification of road vehicles is growing quickly. In fact, for the first time ever, more than half of car buyers say their next purchase will be an electric or hybrid model. This shift is driven by a number of things, including environmental concerns and low maintenance and operation costs, along with government subsidies and regulatory support. What this means is that there will be an estimated 140 million electric vehicles (EVs) in use by 2030. The European Union (EU) alone has more than 330 thousand publicly accessible charging point and that number is growing, but deployment is uneven.

So, how are we going to charge all those cars? EV owners want and need the same autonomy, range, and ease of refueling as they have gotten with traditional fuel-injected cars, which means we must do more than just install more charging points. What we need to do is develop a robust EV charging infrastructure.

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By connecting the entire EV ecosystem, finding charging stations will become easy, payment systems will be simplified, and a variety of value-added services will become available.

Connectivity is a crucial component to the evolving EV ecosystem and IoT offers huge benefits to all stakeholders across the value chain, including EV drivers, Charge Point Operators (CPOs), and network operators.  In order to connect, maintain, and manage the different parts of the EV ecosystem (charge points, payment systems, locators, maintenance, etc.) there is a strong need for resilient and secure two-way connectivity and not just in locations where wired infrastructure isn’t always readily or easily available.

But there are challenges in developing the EV ecosystem, including infrastructure management, addressing customer experience, profitability, maintenance, monitoring, energy management, and ultimately, how to create a universal ecosystem that works for everyone. IoT will play a crucial role in bringing it all together.

Managing charging stations

Charging stations are geographically dispersed, making it challenging and expensive to manage ‘onsite’. IoT enables CPOs to remotely monitor and manage operations and quickly resolve issues by presenting real-time insights into usage and device performance, including charger availability, fault monitoring, and troubleshooting – all of which help enormously when it comes to predictive maintenance and reducing downtime. Additionally, as charging station buildouts increase, data on existing deployments will help operators more accurately plan locations for new stations. Data can also be used to optimize charger utilization, identify areas for improvement, and track trends over time.

Charger availability

EV charging apps can search for nearby stations, check availability, and reserve a slot at the time required, based on battery capacity. Apps can also indicate charging rates or advise on off-peak hours for lower-cost charging.

Smart charging

Even at the best of times, energy rates vary throughout the year. Additionally, as EVs become increasingly prevalent, it’s crucial to be able to track charging stations in order to decrease grid load, because if a lot of people are charging their EV at the same time, this can put strain on the grid. By tracking and monitoring charging stations with IoT, you gain insights into how they are being used and how much power is being dawn, information which can be used to regulate the flow of power, so the grid isn’t overloaded. Overall, IoT allows us to manage the increasing demand for EVs while also keeping the grid stable.

Reducing downtime

Without reliable connectivity, sensors at charging points will not be able to communicate with the network, which means EV drivers will be left frustrated and the CPO’s credibility will be damaged. Basically, for IoT devices to function, there needs to be network availability and a stable, always-on connection. Cellular technology is the preferred choice, due to its presence in places where EV charging points would likely be installed, such as schools, parking lots, hospitals, office parking garages, etc. Downtime or poor connectivity can cost brands both revenue and reputation.

Security

IoT-enabled EV stations must do more than facilitate smooth energy exchange between EVs and the grid, or even information between customers and the charging point. Security must also be considered, because as the number of EVs grow and the EV ecosystem expands, the attack surface is also growing. Look at it this way: if a hacker is able to disable all EV chargers connected to the same network, it would be the equivalent to a gas shortage. Security is also crucial for the privacy of customers, such as their banking details. The advantage of cellular IoT connectivity is its built-in security measures that protect data and sensitive information, offering reliable and secure coverage, no matter the location.

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