What is the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP)?

The key things you need to know about the Open Charge Point Protocol and why it matters for EV charging businesses
The official OCPP logo surrounded by leading EV charging equipment manufacturers who comply with the protocol.

Sales of electric vehicles hit record-breaking levels in 2021, and that growth continued well into 2022. While that’s great news for the environment, it also means that existing EV charging networks may struggle to keep up with demand. The Open Charge Point Protocol allows EV charging stations to mix and match hardware and software providers, which lets businesses build networks in a faster, more cost-efficient way.

But exactly what is OCPP, and how does it work? Here’s everything you need to know, including the opportunities OCPP can create for your EV charging business.

What is OCPP?

The Open Charge Point Protocol, or OCPP, is a free open communications protocol that allows different brands of EV charging hardware and software to work together. OCPP-compliant chargers will work with any OCPP-compliant software.

OCPP allows for interoperability and flexibility for network operators and value-added resellers because they can mix and match different OCPP chargers on one software platform. This gives EV charging businesses greater freedom — no more worrying about whether or not a certain charger will work with the current setup. Instead, network operators can choose EV chargers based on price point, market demand, or other criteria relevant to their business. 

How does the Open Charge Point Protocol work?

OCPP is a “syntax” or language that allows a network charging station to communicate with EV charging software (sometimes called CSMS or charging station management software), even if they’re made by different manufacturers. 

The Open Charge Alliance (OCA), a global consortium of EV leaders, writes and publishes OCPP as part of its advocacy for greater interoperability in the EV industry. The protocol is available to anyone — you can download the latest version of OCPP for free from their website. OCA also offers a certification program for OCPP 1.6 to EV charger hardware and software companies.

Key features of OCPP

OCPP allows for open communication between an OCPP-compliant charging station management system (CSMS) and networked EV charger. Here are some key features:

  • Device management: Allows charge point operators to remotely configure and monitor charging stations.
  • Load balancing: Allows limited power on an electric circuit to be balanced depending on how many vehicles are plugged in. Note that power management is a complicated feature that depends on both the CSMS provider and the EV charger. Nonetheless, OCPP enables the load balancing conversation to happen between CSMS and EV charger.
  • Transaction processing: Accepts and processes charging authorizations and billing.
  • Security and access control: Allows network managers to control access to chargers and set user parameters.
  • Display and messaging support: Standardized messages to communicate and troubleshoot with the EV driver.

A full list of features and updates is available on the OCA website

OCPP vs. OCPI 

Open Charge Point Protocol is not to be confused with Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI). OCPI refers to roaming between charging networks, while OCPP enables communication between OCPP EV chargers and OCPP-compliant EV charging software. That being said, the two protocols share a common goal to standardize the EV charging infrastructure and make EV charging more convenient and accessible to the public. 

Benefits of adopting OCPP

Simply put, adopting OCPP can save EV charging businesses time (and potentially money). Because any OCPP-compliant charger will work with any open CSMS, you won’t have to worry about an EV charger manufacturer going out of business, suddenly raising prices, or making other changes that don’t make sense for your network. It’s the equivalent of being able to keep your mobile phone when switching to a different carrier.

It also makes the EV charging landscape easier to navigate for new businesses and stimulates competition — manufacturers and service providers can focus on improving features and customer experience in an open environment, instead of focusing on compatibility. 

ChargeLab supports OCPP

ChargeLab’s CSMS is built to strictly adhere to OCPP protocols.

ChargeLab was one of the first 50 members of the OCA and the first private Canadian company to join the alliance in 2017. Learn more about our OCPP-compliant software here.

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