What are the biggest challenges facing deployers in the rollout of EV charging infrastructure?

I have witnessed the EV market gaining momentum in recent years. But with this growth comes a lot of challenges. 

As an EV driver, I believe the primary concern is adequate charging infrastructure rollout, as in most countries the number of available EV charging stations is way behind the level required to serve the rapidly growing amount of EVs.

But as a CTO of the EV charging software company, I see several other reasons why people are hesitant to switch to electric transport and the growth of EV charging infrastructure is not as rapid as we wish it to be.

Firstly, deployers of the EV charging infrastructure around the world are facing the pressure from factors like bureaucracy, overregulation by the government, poor access to the electricity grid, and in some countries, legal commitments to not re-sell electricity. Obviously, that complicates entering the highly competitive EV charging market for new players, and prevents existing companies from growing their business.

The second problem is the inability to make correct demand forecasts for charging services in most locations, as this market is still immature and consumption patterns might also alter in the future. This is influenced by the development of consumer models and progress in the development of new EVs. For example, if electric car batteries in 5-10 years have a notably larger capacity, consumer patterns of electric charging will drastically change.

What new developments and innovations are you seeing in the EV charging industry that are particularly interesting?

As my business is mainly related to EV charging software, I am also seeing the most interesting upcoming trends related to this field. I believe that scheduled charging, smart charging, V2G, IoT, and Plug & Charge technologies will play a crucial role in shaping the future of EV charging. 

As the market should always be user-oriented, by allowing users to schedule charging times during off-peak hours, companies can empower them to take advantage of lower electricity rates, while achieving another important goal - reducing the strain on the grid during peak hours.

For e-fleet operators, I see the next trend in developing algorithms that would allow them to schedule charging based on power constraints, price, and priority. It’s their primary interest to make the charging process smart & profitable. Another important point of optimization of the charging processes for fleets is the ability to sell unused power back to the grid. 

I agree with IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) that suggests EVs could serve as the "battery banks of the future" since they spend 95% of their time parked. To achieve this, smart charging & V2G technologies particularly must be implemented to facilitate EVs' ability to stabilize electricity grids.

Plug & Charge technology is also just around the corner. Users are dreaming of the time they will no longer need to physically use a credit card or mobile app to launch the charging session or pay for charging. The adoption of this standard by companies like Tesla and BMW is already underway, and it is expected to become even more widespread in the future.

Although it may take some time for all charging stations to become compatible with this standard, once they do, it will be much more convenient to charge your vehicles at home or in the workplace.

What are the major opportunities for your business in the EV charging infrastructure sector?

Nowadays, the EV charging software niche is like an Eldorado for software and hardware developers — most business processes and technical solutions that already exist on the market are yet immature and not ready for mass use, so there is a lot of work to be done. I am not only speaking about the user experience of the charging process - the user experience of the stations and EVs themselves is also to be improved. Work on refining all this will continue for a long time.

Since all of the aspects I mentioned are to some extent powered by software technology, I believe the EV charging software industry is bound to prosper. 

Over the past decade, EV charging infrastructure deployers were focused on quantity, since just a few companies were entering this comparatively new niche. Now, it’s all about quality, as the EV owners are not just enthusiastic technology pioneers anymore — they are picky users demanding premium experience in all aspects of their user journey. Now a new wave of users is approaching, choosing affordable electric cars instead of premium Teslas and comfortable Nissan Leafs. Of course, this will affect the market as a whole. How? Only time will tell. As software developers, it’s in many ways our duty to provide them all with a 5* experience.

Oleksandr Fedotov is CTO of ExtraWest, which provides custom software solutions to EV charging companies worldwide, so he watches all of the industry trends to keep his finger on the pulse.