Should you buy an EV charger with OCPP?

Image: SA Power Networks

TLDR: Yes.

In this post, I’ll dig into why Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) is a game-changer for meeting the charging needs of Australia’s growing EV fleet. As more people jump on the EV bandwagon, we must ensure our electricity network can handle the increased demand. That’s where OCPP steps in, ensuring our chargers, networks, and energy providers can communicate smoothly and charge our EVs efficiently without wreaking havoc on the grid.

Read on to:

  • discover all the sweet benefits of OCPP,
  • check out some OCPP chargers,
  • see how OCPP can make your life easier.
  • understand the role of software in managing EV charging and other home loads,
  • learn why brand-agnostic is the way to go,
  • be clued up on the potential risks of DIY electrical work when interfacing with your charger.

So, let’s dive in and discover the amazing world of OCPP and its significance in shaping the future of Australian EV charging.

What The Hell Is OCPP?

Not to be confused with a cartel of fossil oil producers, OCPP stands for Open Charge Point Protocol. It’s a communication standard that allows third parties to monitor and control EV chargers. Because the underlying code is an open book, customers and suppliers are less likely to be left stranded if a particular company goes bust.

Hundreds of manufacturers signed up to this collaborative and cooperative approach. Of course, the Yanks haven’t much, probably because they think it has something to do with metric measurements, I don’t know.

All Chargers Should Have OCPP

OCPP is a no-brainer in my opinion. Connectivity will be very handy, and even if it’s not mandatory right now, grid operators are trialling demand response management with EV charging, just like they already do with air conditioning and flexible solar exports. I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t become widespread, driven by incentives or connection requirements.

We must ensure that the electricity network can cope for everyone’s sake. As outlined in the SA Power Networks (SAPN) graphic above, if we get car charging right, we’ve got the entire green area to charge all those EVs. If we get EV charging wrong, we’ll all have to pay for a horribly inefficient and needlessly gargantuan system.

If you’d like a little more of a primer, check out our EV charging 101 guide. We have articles written from many perspectives, and I’d encourage you to read these comments too; they’re almost as handy as some of our FAQs.

SAPN are well across the coming challenges. As consumers, we need to get our heads around it too.

What Will OCPP Do For Me?

There are a few things that OCPP will offer you, the end user, not least of which is smart charging that’s operable by an array of other devices.

Right now, you can buy an EV charger that will measure the energy coming and going from your house using a Current Transformer (CT) coil in the switchboard. If your solar is punching excess energy out to the grid, then the EV can soak it up. The problem is that not all EV chargers can do this, and those that do need to be within coo-ee of the main switchboard. Running the cable for a CT coil will be difficult if your garage is separate from the house where the solar is situated or divorced from the main grid connection point. You’ll need to drop some more cash on a wireless CT solution and hope it works.

If you have OCPP, you don’t need a CT to measure your solar exports. Software such as Charge HQ  can simply ask your solar inverter to provide that number in real-time and then instruct your charger how much power to put out to match it. That same software that manages your OCPP-compatible EV charger can also look at your home battery charging, energy consumption and wholesale electricity tariffs, then adjust your EV charging rate to match, with a handy app to tell you how it’s going and let you change settings.

Furthermore – if your local distribution network is under strain, it can ask your charger to stop charging until the situation passes. Conversely, if there’s too much energy in the system, it can ask your charger to start charging with free or negatively priced electricity to help even things out. With OCPP 2.0 the protocol can make use of V2G chargers and pull energy from your car battery when supply is tight, paying you a tidy premium for those kwhs and reducing the number of grid-scale batteries that need to be built.

What OCPP Chargers Are Available

There are lots of chargers available that support OCPP. But you want one with at least 1.6j or 2.0 tacked on the end. Our EV charger comparison table lists the ones we know about that you can buy in Australia. Look for the ‘OCPP compatible’ row.

At the moment, EV chargers are not cheap – starting at $750 for a Tesla Gen3 Wall Connector up to $2,500 for SMA’s wallbox. But if you’ve found a dirt cheap one on Ali-Express, please don’t ask your sparky to quote on installing it. In practice, a retail electrician can only afford to recommend an off-the-shelf solution. Something like a Fronius Wattpilot or Ocular unit has been suggested to me, but you’ll find lots of hardware in our EV charger comparison table.

Well-proven units are the way to go unless you’re happy to fiddle with buying extra hardware and poorly written instructions from ZJBeny for example.

Same Brand Inverter & EV Charger? You Still Want OCPP

Many solar inverter makers are offering their own EV charger. If you have an existing solar energy system and/or home battery, keeping everything monitored on the same platform is a good idea.

In this video, Tom would be better off with a battery, EV charger and inverter all from the same eco-system, or at least an EV Charger with OCPP. But that’s easy for me to say to an early adopter in hindsight…

Wildcard Option: Catch Power Relay Joins The OCPP Party

For those considering a brand-agnostic approach, I’m told that although it’s a few months away, the OCPP protocol will soon be a software option on the Catchpower Solar Relay, so you’ll be able to match your EV charging rate with surplus solar and control other loads with this flexible device. ETA has been jokingly mooted as the 5th quarter of this year, but the Australian developers are working hard on it, I’m assured.

What About The Enthusiasts?

When it comes to doing smart things with your home energy, some people love to fiddle. All power to them, right up until they ring me to ask why it’s broken.

Hackers can be a danger to themselves and others because they do unlicensed electrical work. I know many DIY guys would claim I’m just trying to look after a vested interest in a regulated industry, but it’s hard to explain to some of these people just how superficial their knowledge is.

This recent tragedy in Queensland shows that even legal DIY on ‘extra low voltage’ can kill:

Queensland’s Electrical Safety Office investigated the electrocution of a person who was modifying the solar panels on an off-grid solar PV system in a remote area. The deceased was found with significant burns to their hands and fingers.

 

The investigation found the solar PV system operating at around 100VDC, had been operating at an extra low voltage (not exceeding 50VAC or 120V ripple-free DC). The person performing the work was not required to be a licensed electrical worker, however, this incident highlights the real risk of working on such installations.

DIY Code Is Safer than DIY Electrics

A whole world of new functionality is available when you can get computers to talk to each other using an application programming interface or API. Even straight-laced inverter companies like Fronius have open APIs, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

If you have an OCPP-compatible charger, you can create a system that only uses software to read your energy consumption and solar generation from your monitoring system’s API interface and command your OCPP charger to act. It’s not without risks, but it’s much safer than modifying your electrics. Home Assistant is the most popular DIY route for charger monitoring and control. If you need inspiration, here’s a great Home Assistant case-study.

Hitting The Road with OCPP

Australia’s electric vehicle era is going to be great. But kissing petrol goodbye and embracing electricity will be a mammoth disruption. There’s a wild ride ahead, but with OCPP in our chargers, we can face the bumps knowing that our charging infrastructure isn’t just up for the challenge; it’s born for it.

About Anthony Bennett

Anthony joined the SolarQuotes team in 2022. He’s a licensed electrician, builder, roofer and solar installer who for 14 years did jobs all over SA - residential, commercial, on-grid and off-grid. A true enthusiast with a skillset the typical solar installer might not have, his blogs are typically deep dives that draw on his decades of experience in the industry to educate and entertain. Read Anthony's full bio.

Comments

  1. As usual, fantastic info.
    ??
    How far is “cooee” for the charger to be from inverter? Obviously a cabling size issue similar to restrictions on distance of battery from inverter.

    As far as I know Amber is the only provider who will pass through the negative wholesale price to charge a vehicle for free or even pay you to TAKE electricity from the grid.
    Are there other suppliers who do this too?
    Cheers

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi Neil,

      My seat of the pants estimation is that cooee can be a pretty inconsistent standard, it depends which way the wind is blowing. Champagne comedy I know but the thing is that CT coils generate tiny little signals. When those signals travel down a cable which is laid parallel to the big fat supply funneling 30amps into you car they can be overwhelmed or interfered with by a phenomenon called capacitive coupling or induction. Basically the magnetic field around the charger supply is very strong and it generates interference. This can be mitigated by separating the wires or with shielded twisted pair cable for instance, but your charger may not be supplied with that. Some makers give you 10 metres and for instance and say it shouldn’t be extended. If your charger just needs an internet connection to use APIs then that can be a number of ways. eg Fronius use WiFi and dont have the option for a data cable at all.

      I’m not sure who else is paying for negative pricing but you might try Local Volts if you really want to get involved with selling & buying electricity.

      • John Mitchell says

        The Zappi has built in CT monitoring via Cat 5e. Can’t see that being a problem over distances like 30 metres which would generally be the most for a garage on one side of a residential property to the other. Of course it’s not OCPP which is annoying.

        • Mick Salmon says

          Not sure if this is completely on topic, apologies otherwise because I believe it to be relevant.

          My understanding of the following is that it is not going to be feasible to expect to charge an EV in QLD using mostly solar.

          https://thedriven.io/2023/06/19/queensland-home-ev-charging-rules-just-got-dumber-as-network-ignores-industry

          All feedback/comments welcome.

          • Anthony Bennett says

            Hi Mick,

            We have a post coming up soon to explain that but I’m glad you raise it. The author is wrong to expect you can charge a car at 7kW/32a any time you please and we need to make sure people understand that a little bit of demand management, like they already do for air conditioning and hot water, will go a long way to lower bills and better reliability

        • I have just installed a Zappi running CAT 6 cable a little over 50m (install manual says up to 100m), and it works perfectly.

          I have a ‘Powerpal’ unit connected in my meter box and comparing the two readings (Zappi CT’s on three phase and the Powerpal) they align beautifully.

          I went with Zappi (v2.1 with inbuilt hub) despite no OCPP because I have an Enphase microinverters solar system (11.4kW) and Enphase doesn’t play nice allowing API access to companies like ChargeHQ. I would have needed to install a Powerwall or similar to get the API and that’s a very expensive solution.

          I figure the Zappi with CT monitoring of my exports will do everything I need it to and doesn’t rely on multiple software links that can fail (or be removed completely if there is a commercial dispute).

          Only potential issue I see is when (if) I get a battery it may be difficult to get them to play nice, but that’s a long way down the road at current prices and trends.

          • Eamon Thomas Leahy says

            As of last night (20/7) with the latest update my Zappi v2.1 is OCPP compliant!

            I have not looked into at all as I have no use for it at present, but good to know that the Zappi now has OCPP.

  2. Hi,
    I installed my own ZJBeny OCPP charger. (32A single phase Plug in) It was relatively easy to set up: Put in the code to let it talk to my Wifi, then install the OCPP software into Home Assistant. There was no extra hardware required.
    Once installed, one just needs to set up HA to use excess solar PV generation. Not exactly something a Jo Blo could do, but not too hard for someone with computer smarts.
    The ZJBeny comes with an option of the DLB box (Dynamic Load control), but I have not needed to use it.(HA does that for me). If used, the DLB box uses a normal RJ45 network cable to communicate with the EVSE (car charger) by RS485 communication. This cable can be quite long if required. A Sparky would be able to install the charger with no problem. The documentation from ZJBeny is adequate in my opinion. ZJBeny made the early versions of the Tesla wall box (different controller & firmware, but same Tombstone housing) so the build quality is reasonable. To my mind a well priced option.
    To comment on DIY work, in many countries (such as Britain) you can do your own wiring as long as it is inspected. I think we are too far down the licensed tradesman route. I was caught up in the compliance nightmare when years ago I installed a grid connected Wind turbine. The rules changed during my install, & I had to get an ‘expert’ to certify my installation. I knew far more about electrical safety & wind turbines than he did. I feel I actually trained him as well as paying his exorbitant fees! My technical background is broad: working on very high voltages on Medical equipment, as well as vast experience in the Industrial tech area.

    • Hi Doug,
      I’m v interested to hear that you’ve set up your own ZJBeny OCPP using Home Assistant. What model ZJBeny did you use? Obviously it is a wifi model, but it’s not clear (to me) if it was the OCPP model. Or does the OCPP you’ve installed on HA control the current output of the Beny via wifi?
      I’d be most grateful for any additional info – I’m thinking of using a RaspberryPi to run HA and OCPP to control my ZJBeny, if possible. My Beny has wifi but no OCPP.
      TIA

  3. As a layman, I ask if these chargers are future-proof to the extent of being able to sell power back into the grid, or power the home in the case of a blackout?
    For example Mitsubishi advertises this:
    https://www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au/vehicles/outlander-plug-in-hybrid-ev.html
    “the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV can act as an additional battery cell for your homeO3. It can draw power from your own solar system, or the grid during low cost hours, and then store that energy on boardO3. During peak times you can draw on power saved in the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV’s battery and use it for your home, offsetting your electricity bills. Any power you don’t use can be fed back into the grid to offset your bills.”

    “With an approved Bi-directional EVSE, sold separately to the vehicle.”

    • Anthony Bennett says

      “With an approved Bi-directional EVSE”

      V2G or V2H versus V2L are really about capacity.

      The Wallbox Quasar which is now approved for use in Australia according to this article :

      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/ev-v2g-sa-mb2764/

      Interestingly it seems Tesla have now decided they’ll enable bi-directional on their cars… from 2025?

      Right now the Nissan Leaf, Outlander, EclipseCross(?) or iMiev (CHAdeMO plug equipped) vehicles can charge or discharge at a full 7kW or 30amps. For reference a standard house supply from the street is normally 15kW or 63amps (but it may surge to 100amps for 100 seconds before the main service will blow) The Wallbox Quasar is at the moment approved for grid connection but it will not function without the mains supply available, it”s not a grid forming device that can operate as an islanded system.

      V2L is a more modest supply from your car to just about anything with a plug on it. It’s governed by the inverter that the EV comes with (if there is one on board) so while some might be a few hundred watts, others might be 2kW or 3.6kW perhaps, (8 to 15amps) Running appliances and even a kettle isn’t out of the question provided they don’t have large surge loads.

      A decent V2L output from your EV can be though of as a camping generator like a Honda 2.2i and it’s legal to use one in the same fashion. You can have a generator inlet switch wired to your house and devote some essential circuits to it but it wouldn’t be capable of running your refrigerative air con, and might struggle with a rainwater pressure pump for instance.

      There are already stories of people running houses for days on end using a V2L adaptors in cyclone battered USA and New Zealand so that’s certainly a very useful option that people will become increasingly interested in.

  4. Richard Courtenay says

    We live in an area that gets regular electrical storms. I isolate my inverter and batteries etc as the storm approaches (when I’m home). What sort of protection do you suggest one would use with this equipment to prevent surges or strikes.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi Richard,

      You can get surge diverters fitted to your switchboard by any decent electrician but lightning protection, if you really go into it, has a whole Australian standard to read through.

    • Hi Richard,
      I have a Zappi without OCPP.
      I see OCPP is a niche EV charging and payment management solution within the general problem of monitoring and controlling Distributed Energy Resources.
      Recently defined standards such as CSIP-AUS will ultimately handle all types of device and link to all stakeholders but this will be years in implementation. In the meanwhile cheap and cheerful arrangements with simple controls may be the way to go?

  5. Michael Paine says

    I have been using the EV charger comparison table to identify chargers that support OCPP:
    https://www.solarquotes.com.au/electric-vehicles/compare-ev-chargers/
    I have also looked at Finn’s EV Charging 101. His #2 feature is that the charger is battery aware – that is, it does not charge the car battery from the home battery.
    The comparison table does not seem to cover this important feature. Or have I missed something?

    • Finn Peacock says

      Great point – there are 2 parts to this: 1) prioritise the home battery for charging and 2) instruct the battery to not drain in to the car battery

      Some chargers can do 1), but at the moment none can do 2) out of the box.

      The safest bet IMO is get a charger with OCPP so it is ready for battery integration going forward.

      I’ll look at adding a row for feature 1.

      • Michael Paine says

        Thanks Finn
        So my understanding of the desirable logic for starting EV charging is:

        IF
        PV energy is being generated &
        At least XX kW is being exported to the grid (or OPCC is denying grid export!) &
        The home battery is not discharging (or has been charged to 100%?)
        THEN start EV charging

        OTHERWISE IF
        Off peak ToU is active &
        The total grid import is not more than YY kW (eg aiming for a total amperage of no more than say 80A – to allow for heaters etc being active during off-peak times) &
        The home battery is not discharging.
        THEN start EV charging

        It’s complicated!

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