Over the past four years, we have supplied over 1,100 Compleo EV chargers to 370 UK franchised dealerships from Audi to Volvo, and we get asked a lot of questions from dealers about EV charging software. So, we’ve pulled together some answers for all the questions we get asked to help you understand what EV charging software does and why you might need it at your dealership.
How do I manage the EV charging at my dealership?
Over the past four years, we have often heard dealers say: “We had a few EV chargers installed back in 2019 to comply with OEM standards. They were hardly used, and only available when we were open. Then lockdown happened and they were used even less. Now it’s 2023 and most of our staff are driving EVs, the service department has an increasing number of EVs to charge up to 100% and we need to make sure all our demo vehicles are always charged. I know I need more EV chargers but why do I need EV charging software?”.
So let’s address the biggest question, WHY do I need EV charging software at my dealership?
Without software, your charger is very simply a fast, open plug socket. If you want to control who uses them, charge for charging or know how much electricity you’re using, then you can only do this with a software licence. It’s like having an iPhone with no apps. Useful for phone calls, but not much else.
When we talk to dealers we often hear that they need more and more chargers at their dealership, but first we ask “how do you know how many new EV chargers you need if you don’t know how your current chargers are being used?”. You may be surprised we ask this, after all we make money every time we sell a charger, but we want to be sure all customers are making the best decisions for today, tomorrow and for their business success. So, if that means fewer chargers today, but happier customers in the long run, then we’re happy.
What does EV charging software actually do?
In essence, it gives you control and information. At your dealership, you manage your fuel cards, the mileage on your vehicles and your expenses system closely. EV charging costs should warrant the same level of control.
Control who can charge – without software, your chargers are on “free vend”. This means anyone can drive up, plug in and charge for free.
Data dashboard – log in to see a wealth of information about your charging infrastructure. All software portals vary, but they should show you which chargers are in use, support trouble shooting and give you an easy access to download a host of useful information about your chargers and usage.
RFID cards per dept – In your dashboard, you can download a report as a .csv file which shows the amount of electricity (kWh) used per card. When you combine this .csv data with your electricity rate you can see how much each card is using in £££.
Charge for charging – if you want to charge anyone for charging, you will need software to do this.
How do I access EV charging software?
These days they are all cloud based, so you can log in via your laptop, phone or app. The number of admin users can vary per provider, but most should allow a number of people to access your software. For instance, you could have a couple of people in your dealership with access as well as a few at Group level and set the access levels for each administrator. You can also choose to outsource this service to someone else, known as a Charge Point Operator (CPO). This could be one of the large players in the market, or the small electrical firm who manage your dealership and buildings.
I have more than one dealership, do I need multiple logins?
No. Most software solutions should allow you to set up a group account which then lists all chargers and locations within your group, so you have visibility of the group all in one place. You can set controls so that DPs and other dealership staff can only see their site, whereas a group account can view all dealerships and PDI centres.
How do I know how much my EV chargers are costing me in electricity each year?
Great question. We did a quick analysis with one group who realised they had spent £800,000 via their EV charge points across their dealerships and PDI centres in 2022. They had no way of knowing how much to allocate to service, demos or staff charging. Whilst a department manager may not rush to allocate charging costs to their department, a Dealer Principal probably should have sight of this.
With a software licence you can login from anywhere, at any time and download the charging history for each charger, site or group. Then multiply this figure by your kWh rate and you know how much each user or charger has used. You can then calculate the cost to your business and allocate per department. As we all know, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Another dealership we know of used 30,000 kWh of electricity through just one DC charger last year (2022). If the average cost per kWh is 70p this amounts to £21,000 in electricity through one charger in one year. And they have no idea how much is for service cars, demos or staff cars.
How much are my demos are costing to charge vs service vehicles?
A software licence puts you back in control. It allows you to make sure each charging session starts with an authentication via phone or RFID card (rather than plug and play). Because each session is authenticated, it can be tracked via your software. The start time, end time, total plugged in time, kWh used etc are captured for each and every session.
Charging sessions can be authenticated via phone or RFID cards and are really easy to use.
The simplest way (but not always the best way) is to give one RFID card per department. A few dealer groups we work with have one card each for Demos, Customers, Service. The charging sessions can only be started and ended with a card and all the data is captured in your dashboard.
A more sophisticated solution for your dealership is to set each user up with their own digital footprint known as an EMAID so they can use an app for charging without paying. Humans may lose an RFID card, but they’ll never lose their phone! So everyone (or just some staff) in the service and sales teams can have their own EMAID and start and stop a charge on customer, demo and service vehicles via their phone. You can download this data at any time and see the activity for each user (EMAID) then attribute this to the relevant department.
How can I start charging my staff for electricity?
Giving your staff free charging sessions is the modern equivalent of giving them free petrol. It’s now unheard of. You can change this with software, and there are a number of options. The simplest, with the least ongoing admin for the dealership is to activate a payment system. Staff can then Pay As You Go (PAYG) via an app or web portal. Most software solutions offer a bolt-on for payment and are quite straight forward to set up.
The other option is to have an RFID card per staff member (like the Service dept and Demo cards we mentioned earlier). Staff swipe the card to start and end the charging and this is logged in the software. You can then log in, download a report and charge staff back on a weekly or monthly basis, or a frequency that works for you. Although it’s a bit easier to set up in the beginning, it does require some regular reporting and a charging back process for you.
What EV charging software can I use?
There are many, many options on the market. If you have Compleo chargers installed, you can use Compleo software (eOPERATE), but they are also designed to work with a wide range of other software solutions such as Monta, Ampeco, emabler and many more. If you’ve got a range of EV chargers at your dealerships (such as Compleo, podpoint, BP pulse etc) you will probably want just one software solution to manage them all, so make sure your chosen software provider has onboarded all of the chargers onto their system before you go live.
How much does it cost?
The Compleo software licence (called eOPERATE) costs £6.30 per charger per month. Other providers are similarly priced, though some software providers may give a discount for a larger number of charge points. Compleo eOPERATE is the same price if you have 1 or 1,000 charge points. Our model is to offer you the same level of management, information and data regardless of your infrastructure size.
An EMAID (single digital footprint per user) is £0.50 per user per month.
Can I charge visitors to charge?
Yes. Definitely. This could be the sales rep visiting your dealership, the Area Sales Manager from the manufacturer or EV drivers passing by who need a top-up. The best solution for visitors is to Pay As You Go (PAYG) via an app or web portal. One dealership we work with has a single DC charger available on PAYG charging which generated almost £1,000 in revenue in 2022.
Do I need my own App?
No. Most software solutions come with their own payment app. Some OEMs (such as Audi and BMW) have their own driver EV apps which integrate with a number of software providers such as Compleo eMARKETPLACE.
I’ve heard about load balancing, do I need that?
If you want to add more charge points at your dealerships, then you might need load balancing (available capacity is spread between the available chargers). The best way to find out for sure is to have your site surveyed, this will highlight what spare capacity you have (if any) for new EV chargers or if your current chargers need to be load balanced.
With an EV charging software licence you can usually add load balancing at your chargers or sites that need them.
Example of load balancing setup:
We will finish by saying (again) that without software, your EV chargers are just an open socket. For a small monthly licence, you can have total control over your chargers and manage the money flow within your dealership.
If we haven’t answered all your questions in this post, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be delighted to help.
Read more about Compleo EV charging solutions for dealerships here