E-MobilityBusinessOpen Standards

CPO vs EMSP - what's the difference?


Gabriela Stawiarska



e-mobility charging EV-CPO vs EMSP

Knowing the industry complexity, at Solidstudio, we thought it would be a good idea to launch a series of blog entries on e-mobility fundamentals. The articles are to shed light on some of the topics that may not necessarily be clear to everyone.

CPO vs EMSP - what's the difference?

In the winding paths of e-mobility related topics, there’s a plethora of terms repeatedly popping up. This comes as no surprise given the industry’s specification, known to no other branches. Understanding the involved technologies and market players requires mapping out tons of complex systems, and it’s all followed by a specific terminology.

The word e-mobility itself can be slightly confusing to some. In fact, it's an umbrella term for service providers, service customers, technology suppliers and product manufacturers (including software and hardware) that collectively operate within the electric cars business.

Amongst the multitude of positions, professions and specializations, one of the most frequently appearing are Charge Point Operators and e-Mobility Service Providers.

Now, what are they and what’s the difference?

electric vehicle ecostystem

What is an e-mobility service provider?

In short eMSP is a unit that provides charging services directly to EV drivers and manages the payments for charging sessions. It should be free to say that eMSPs are responsible for the end-user care. They deliver the possibility to locate a charging point, get it to run and finalize the transaction. It’s also up to them to establish the charging network monetization ( payment methods, adequate tariffs and real-time billing) and customer satisfaction, ensuring the best client experience. One can say that eMSP’s are responsible for ensuring that products of CPO’s are ready to be used by EV drivers.

To facilitate the use of charging stations eMSP’s usually operate with apps allowing EV drivers to log and conduct a charging session remotely.

EMSP charging management software. EMSP app

As stated above, eMSP’s main role is to serve the end-users, so naturally the primary software used are the eMSP apps which are downloadable for EV drivers, preferably from the primary software stores and available for both, iOS and Android. They work in such a way that EV drivers can create an account and login with their unique credentials. Once authorization is granted, the EV user can then locate the nearest charging station (oftentimes also be navigated to it) and facilitate the charging session via the app.

In order to run smoothly, such apps require a bunch of functionalities. It must be taken into consideration that it’s a matter of operating an entire pool of charging points that can come from various CPO’s, while in need of providing a complex service covering all customer’s needs.

Amongst the most necessary functionalities of a properly set up eMSP app, we can differentiate:

  • user registration and authentication (login/logout, password reset, T&C’s acceptance, RFID grant and remote token activation)
  • profound charging experience (charging station search, remote start/stop based on RFID authorization, real-time charging session monitoring)
  • payments (card payments, transaction history stored in a secure manner, accountability of adequate taxes, receipt/bill production in real-time)
  • customer experience (easy-to-navigate, intuitive layout, customer service contact info - preferably directly from the app, issue notifications)
  • tariff management (possibility to manage - alter/add/erase end-user and b2b tariffs, reports generation)
  • back-office (users verification and detailed preview, real-time bugs and malfunctions reporting, close monitoring of charging points, data storage for optimization purposes)

You can see Solidstudio EMSP App here.

What is a Charge Point Operator?

In contrast to eMSPs, Charge Point Operators are responsible for the construction of the charging stations. They are focused on developing and maintaining the charging infrastructure, which includes hardware installation, ensuring proper connectivity of charging points and their service. CPO’s main point of interest is keeping the technicalities up and running and, if needed, reacting to possible malfunctions in real-time. This is specifically important as a vast majority of charging stations should stay available 24/7.

CPO’s also care about the energy management and seamless connectivity to the grid, this includes i.e. energy storing or utilization of renewable sources of energy.

CPO charging management software

Unlike eMSP apps, CPO Platforms operate more on a backend basis. EV-CPO software is to a great extent responsible for ensuring the entire charging station pool runs seamlessly and with no detected malfunctions. Simultaneously, its job is to report in real-time any possible issues, to then generate a data record allowing for avoiding such problems in the future.

The platform should also stay highly scalable, that is for the potential network expansion and for the possibility of connecting to multiple eMSP’s. It is especially crucial now, as the charging network undergoes possibly the greatest growth in history. Ensuring an easy adoption of new technologies is beyond significant. High-level interoperability and scalability can only be achieved when the CPO platform runs in accordance with widely accepted industry standards. Here is when open standards integration comes as a must.

Amongst the most necessary functionalities of a properly set up CPO platform, we can differentiate:

  • station management (registration of customers, activation and deactivation of charging stations, remote maintenance)
  • tariff management (rates management, necessary alterations)
  • smart charging (static, dynamic, and renewables, charging profiling, and V2G)
  • eRoaming and open standards (scalability with industry requirements)
  • customer management (including individual, group, or enterprise managing)
  • customer support (usually 24/7 with fixed SLA’s)
  • dashboard and reporting (for bug fixing, ensured real-time reaction, data storage)

You can see Solidstudio CPO platform here.

EMSP vs CPO - what’s the difference? In short.

But before that, it has to be mentioned that although there are some principal operational differences, there are a number of companies who combine the roles of EMSP’s and CPO’s, creating an in-depth, profound e-mobility environment. Such undertaking allows for complete fleet management from all sides and is known to be quite efficient and effective.

Nevertheless, below you can see a brief summary of the most prominent differences between eMSP’s and CPO’s.

  • EMSP’s serve the end-users while CPO’s take care mostly of the charging stations network and their expansion
  • EMSP can be deemed as the frontend of e-mobility operations while CPO is the backend
  • CPO’s are to the greater extent responsible for the growth of charging networks, their scalability and interoperability
  • EMSP’s are more responsible for the satisfaction of EV drivers and their journeys
  • EMSP’s are ones to deliver the apps to EV users that facilitate the charging, while CPO’s deliver the chargers themselves
  • EMSP’s software is customer-centric while CPO’s software is more operational