“We are continuously evaluating industry need”

Interview with Fortum’s Awadhesh Jha

An early mover in the electric vehicle (EV) charging space, Fortum commercialised its electric transportation programme in 2011 under the Charge & Drive brand. Since then, its operations have spread across Europe and India. Fortum provides its cloud-based charger management system as a service to various stakeholders in the EV charging space. In an interview with Renewable Watch, Awadhesh Jha, vice-president, Charge & Drive and Sustainability, Fortum India, talked about the company’s EV charging operations in India and globally, its in-house software management platform and its application in various areas…

What is the scale of Fortum’s EV charging infrastructure operations globally?

Fortum has been offering EV charging services in the Nordic market since 2011 under the Charge & Drive brand. Currently, we are operating more than 5,800 public charging points on our Charge & Drive platform in Nordic countries. Under another brand, PlugSurfing, we are enabling EV users in Europe to access more than 90,000 charging points. In Nordic countries, we have been operating a wide range of chargers including 22 kW Type-2 AC chargers, 50 kW DC fast chargers, and 150-350 kW high capacity DC chargers, which can provide a range of 100-125 km in less than 10 minutes. We have also created a corridor of high-power capacity chargers between Oslo-Stockholm-Helsinki. In addition, we are offering our cloud-based charger management system in 20 countries under the European software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Our SaaS platform enables charge point operators (CPOs) to manage their charging network.

For its India business, Fortum has made 66 DC fast charging points operational in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. Recently, we established India’s first public charging network of 50 kW DC chargers at dealership locations of MG Motors. These stations can be accessed by any car owner if the car is compatible with CCS/CHAdeMO standards. We are continuously evaluating potential opportunities across the country.

What are the current EV software management platforms being used by your company?

We use our in-house software Fortum Charge & Drive for operating our EV charging network. It is a cloud-based SaaS platform, which can be licensed for commercial use worldwide. The cloud-based SaaS architecture enables flexible, pay-as-you-grow models, and white label alternatives. The platform handles hundreds of thousands of charging sessions per month from thousands of connected chargers. In line with our commitment to promote EVs in India, we offer our software and white label consumer apps to other vehicle charging businesses as well. With our SaaS platform, we are enabling the growth of EV markets by offering our cloud service to other CPOs, business houses, government agencies, municipal corporations and utilities to set up, operate and manage their charging stations. We do not see them as competitors; rather we consider them co-creators of the market.

What are the key features of these EV charging management platforms?

Fortum Charge & Drive offers a cloud solution for EV charging service providers and infrastructure investors. The service is configured to suit a wide array of custom requirements, from back-end administration that allows an operator to see the current status of each charger, control the charging at each station (start, stop, restart), manage the charging connect, configure chargers, carry out remote monitoring and diagnostics, and price plan administration to the front end of the consumer mobile app and the web portal.

The Charge & Drive SaaS cloud solution is hardware-agnostic. Multiple hardware manufacturers are already integrated, and more are being added continuously. Our service allows network operators to remain in control of their network and charging points, regardless of which hardware is in use. Besides, our roaming capability with flexible payment options provides a superior end-user experience. Fortum Charge & Drive offers the only mass-market proven solution for EV charging, and has a personal commitment towards growing the charging business. Further, it provides the status of charging points (available, in use, out of service) to end consumers; flexible payment options through RFID, credit/debit card; multiple payment models like per minute, per kWh, charging history, etc. It enables fully secured charging, which ensures that the charging process is not initiated without authorisation, either through RFID or mobile app. The biggest advantage of these systems is that they help us build truly unmanned charging stations. They offer our customers a platform to control the charging need of their EVs without being instructed or guided by a third person. Our SaaS systems are proven and tested from our experience in the Nordic market and impart immense reliability and credibility to our service.

How has the platform helped the utility in managing the power demand and supply (load management, ToD, etc.)?

Fortum Charge & Drive Management Cloud helps the CPOs safely manage a larger number of chargers with less amount of connected load. This is done through our software, which allows the efficient distribution of the load to different chargers according to the fuse size and the number of connectors in a load balancing group of chargers. A default starting value is reserved for each connector and the additional load is distributed amongst the connected EVs. This ensures that the EV continues to receive flexible power on a real-time basis without unduly disbalancing the grid.

Fortum Charge & Drive Management Cloud also supports different types of pricing structures, which can be used by the CPO to set different prices at different times of the day and on different days of the week.

Is the platform helpful in V2G integration? What are the key issues?

We have been continuously evaluating the need of the industry. Globally, the charger management system is following the protocol enumerated in the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), which is developed and maintained by the Open Charge Alliance, a global consortium aiming at promoting open standards through the adoption of the OCPP. With various CPOs following OCPP norms, the platform is interoperable for end consumers as far as charging is concerned. The OCPP version 2.0.1 has provisions for vehicle-to-grid (V2G), which are currently supported by a few charger manufacturers. Most of these are at the pilot stage. While we do not support V2G features at present, we are evaluating these for implementation at an appropriate time.

We implemented a V2G pilot project in Oslo, Norway. The battery reserve that is installed in the garage balances power loads in order to avoid straining the power grid during times of high usage. Our solution enables parking garages to set up large EV charging facilities without any expensive and time-consuming upgrades to their power grid. Through this installation, power can be transferred both to and from the batteries of charging cars.

Can the data be accessed via a mobile app? What data can the customers access through mobile apps?

An end user can access the chargers by registering with Fortum Charge & Drive India through its mobile app. The customer will be able to see the charging stations and their locations, their pricing at each location, the number of connectors available and their availability status, type, etc. The app has the capability to process payments and generate a GST invoice for customers. Through the app, the user will be able to see the charging history, add-remove credit/debit cards, manage RFID, etc.

What are the evaluation criteria to select an EV management software platform? What is the platform’s interoperability with other similar platforms?

The evaluation criteria could be different for different CPOs and electric mobility service providers. Our SaaS platform offers a charge point management system, which allows remote management of chargers, including their troubleshooting and diagnostics. Our platform supports real-time monitoring of the entire network, addition/editing/deletion of chargers, updating of firmware, etc. We currently offer load balancing as explained earlier. CPOs using our platform have the option of undertaking price administration. We also support integration with various other operators using suitable application program interfaces like roaming, external EMP and map service.

What are the required architecture and integration requirements for this platform (OCCP, OCPI, etc.)?

The choice to support the integration is completely dependent on the business need of the CPO. The open smart charging protocol, the open charge point interface, OCPI, the open inter-charge protocol and ISO/IEC 15118 are some of the protocols available for adoption by CPOs depending on the need and use case.

 

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