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The fleet of electric cars in Spain has now reached 78,000 units. However, a powerful impulse strategy is necessary to achieve the goal set by the Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan of the Spanish economy, which aims to reach 250,000 units by 2023. This is an ambitious number that will require actions in all areas, not only the legislative one.
According to the Business Association for the Development and Promotion of the Electric Vehicle (AEDIVE) and the National Association of Sellers of Motor Vehicles, Repair and Parts (GANVAM), at least 43,000 new registrations of electric vehicles will be necessary each year over the course of the next four years to achieve the electrification goal that the Spanish government intends.
Despite these efforts, the diffusion of the electric vehicle in Spain barely reaches 3%, and this is because there are still certain pieces in this puzzle that prevent it. Among these pieces is interoperability, which together with the capacity of the batteries, or a more conducive legislation, can become the key to the expansion of this type of vehicle.
Interoperability, What Is It?
Strictly speaking, the term interoperability refers to open communication or the exchange of data between different operating systems or devices. This concept is not really new, as we have seen it in other industries such as telecommunications. Perhaps the term ‘roaming’ sounds more familiar to us. Using this simile, it means that we could charge our electric vehicle at any recharging point in Spain, Europe, and even the world.
Let us remember that years ago we had to activate roaming with our telephone company to have service on our mobile phone when traveling abroad. Now it is not necessary to do so; we simply travel and use the mobile normally without any prior action.
In the case of recharging points, it would mean a user can travel with an electric vehicle throughout the Spanish geography, while being able to charge in all of them without having to register with the different companies that offer this type of service. For that matter, Spain faces three important issues in the coming years. The first is the lack of charging points. The second, the impossibility of using all the charging points available on the network without prior registration and, the third, the maintenance of the mentioned points.
And this is undoubtedly a serious issue whose casuistry raises concern within the electric mobility sector and in the general public’s opinion. A recent survey of 1,432 Spanish electric vehicle drivers carried out by All Media Consulting, the firstcommunication agency specialized in electric mobility, indicates that these issues should improve. The survey concludes with the observation that 33.9% of participants are not satisfied with the price nor the ease of use of fast charging points.
On the other hand, this annual survey, which conducted its third edition in 2020, revealed that drivers’ opinions of the different freight service providers are not satisfactory either. A 2018 assessment of drivers (with their opinions of these companies ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best) found that only one of the nine companies surveyed managed to reach a score of 3. In 2019, this opinion worsened. According to the results, only two companies achieved a pass.
Therefore, a simple, open, and accessible process for all electric vehicle drivers is necessary. Because of this, it must be taken into account that the interoperability process does not only refer to the final stage, that is, the moment in which a user charges his car. It begins with the communication system between the electrical network and the charging point, as well as within the charging point itself, and how its software delivers that electricity to the BMS (Battery Management System) of the electric vehicle in question. To understand this issue, it is necessary to first review some history.
Where Are We Coming From And Where Are We Going?
Years ago, when electric vehicles were beginning to be mass produced, charging systems were also trying to advance their technology. The matter got complicated when manufacturers introduced the fast charging system, with the highest power to date, which we know today as CHadeMO. This system allows the batteries to be charged at a higher power, reducing recharging times. However, not all vehicles had this option; in fact, some still do not have it to this day.
This issue was soon resolved after the introduction of multiple standards in charging systems. With it, several systems could coexist in the same charging point. This helped the industry to develop faster.
And here, the really important thing is that the standards are versatile. In this way, they must ensure a system that is compatible with all vehicles on the market, both current and future. For a development such as this, it is also necessary that the systems are not closed.
Proprietary Or Open Network?
There are currently two types of network systems. We could say that the Tesla Superchargers network is a proprietary network, that is, a closed system, since it only works for electric vehicles of this American brand. This, logically, limits its use to a single group of drivers.
Accordingly, if the market continues in this direction, only the owners of the vehicles of each brand will be able to load on their own chargers. This is of little use when making medium to long-distance trips since it will depend on which manufacturer has the largest recharging network (which depends on the success of their sales).
The alternative goes through an open protocol called Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP). With this system, communication between a charging station and a vehicle is allowed through connectivity. This allows the charging process to operate smoothly.
How Do We Solve The Charging Problem?
According to data from the Spanish Association of Automobile and Truck Manufacturers (ANFAC), in the last quarter of 2020, only 572 new charging points have been installed in Spain. This is a very insufficient figure considering that the goal, according to the same source, is to reach 48,000 charging points by 2022. Efforts both in financial provision and in the elimination of bureaucratic obstacles must turn 360 degrees so that the momentum and implementation of electric mobility in our country becomes a reality.
Along these lines, a good implementation of interoperability would also help to improve the security, reliability, and maintenance of the existing charging infrastructure and any future developments. It must be taken into account that the charging points, especially the fast and ultra-fast ones that are arriving, must last over time and ensure their good long-term operation.