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German Electric Vehicle Players Launch Charging Info-Exchange Network |

Hubject’s founders (from left to right): Dr. Herbert Diess (BMW), Dr. Volkmar Denner (Bosch), Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber (Daimler), Andreas Pfeiffer (Hubject CEO), Dr. Frank Mastiaux (EnBW), Dr. Arndt Neuhaus (RWE) and Dirk John (Siemens).
The German chancellor confirmed last week a plan to have one million electric vehicles on the road in Germany by 2020. That calls for cars, charging stations, and electricity—and some kind of organization to connect the parties behind them— with as little fuss as possible. It’s an important issue, because Germany’s energy sector is very decentralized. The country has more than 1,000 utilities. Many are small local businesses, with most activities only in one city. What matters here is that the driver of an electric car should be able to charge anywhere in the country without signing a thousand contracts.

Enter Hubject. It’s a poor name when a German says it because it sounds like abject, but it’s a great idea. Germany is good at setting up organizations, so it should work well.

Hubject is a joint-venture between two car manufacturers, BMW and Daimler (Mercedes and Smart), two of the largest utilities, EnBW and RWE, and two huge conglomerate companies, Bosch and Siemens. Hubject invented a protocol (OICP, Open InterCharge Protocol) for exchanging information between an electric car and its driver, a charging station and a utility. If it works as good as expected, drivers will never need to know a thing about it.

Hubject just launched the Intercharge network, and what’s relevant to drivers is that with a single Hubject subscription, they will be able to use any charging station in the network. Plug in anywhere as much as you want, and receive one single bill at the end of the month. The Hubject scheme has been several months in the making, but there was a big surprise last week when news broke that the Intercharge network had spread across Germany’s borders. Several hundred public charging stations in Belgium, in Austria and in Finland joined the network. France is also working on something similar, with the name of Gireve, but Germany’s clearly doing it bigger and better having chargers from several countries right from the start.

The upcoming BMW i3 should be Intercharge ready (concept shown)
Volkswagen hasn’t made any official statement regarding Hubject yet, but with some of the biggest German companies supporting it, there is a strong possibility that Hubject will become dominant in some areas. And that could change many things. Today, EV drivers are happy to go to the first charging station they manage to find. Sometimes they are unable to use it because a registration or a RFID card is needed. In the future, EV drivers might look for an Intercharge charging station, where they will be certain that it’s compatible with their car and that they can charge without trouble (because they will be identified in the system). Nothing’s for sure yet, but the idea is that since BMW is one of the founders of Hubject, the upcoming BMW i3 could be Intercharge-ready, with all cars sold with a Hubject subscription (on the German market at least), and all Intercharge stations loaded into the navigation system.

Navigation system showing charging stations from the Intercharge network
Some people may not like the idea of a single electricity supplier recording all their charging sessions, but the idea of being able to use thousands of chargers in several countries with a single monthly payment is certainly nice. With most drivers still unsure about EVs, the idea of a continent-wide single payment system backed by well-known brands should give added confidence. So electric vehicle owners and shoppers should probably hope the Intercharge network grows fast and big.



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