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By Scott McArthur, Senior VP & Chief Technology Officer – Sound Payments

Attend any EV technology conference and you will be presented with varying opinions about timelines for rolling out Electric Vehicle infrastructure and demand in the industry. At petroleum and fueling tradeshows, you will take in passionate discourse that hail EV infrastructure as light-years away from serving the general population.

What everyone seems to agree on however, is that electric vehicles and charging must be affordable and simple in order to appeal to the masses. The NEVI (National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure) Program Fund is a huge step in moving the needle in the right direction.

Historically, as electric vehicles made their way into the marketplace, charge point operators may have not considered everything to make it accessible. This includes long-term infrastructure needs to roll out charging options to the public en masse and with regulations that often accompany consumerism.

Why now would they deviate away from payment applications and membership accounts and offer a physical payment if there is little incentive to do so at the moment? The answer is simple. Our governing bodies started to see the bigger economic, environmental, and infrastructure picture. They are creating programs, approving grants, and regulating funding. With the rise of EV infrastructure and regulation, and efforts to facilitate public charging, using only proprietary payment applications and membership accounts limits options for the public.

While many improvements to the current EV landscape are being explored to increase availability to the general public, none is more significant than the requirement for charging stations to accept physical payments to promote accessibility. As with the petroleum industry, charging stations must move toward allowing customers to conveniently pay through means they are comfortable with versus specific downloaded apps and membership cards.

Some might see the future of EV infrastructure rolling out slowly and only in large markets, but we live in a fast-paced society with high consumer demands. Integrating a seamless and affordable experience at a charging station now will prompt our on-demand populace to adapt to the new EV environment without interruption of their basic needs.

Gas stations were the last type of business to make the necessary updates to accept EMV payments at the pump and there are still stations that have not upgraded. Some station owners require customers to pay inside because they have shut off pump payments out of fear of chargebacks. Customers that see a “pay inside” sign, usually just drive to the next station – they don’t have time for the inconvenience. This is an example of loss of business for station owners. In the EV industry, it is two-fold – there is loss of business when a charging station is not accessible to an existing EV owner but also that it is stifling growth among the public that does not own an EV. Many will not even purchase an EV until they are confident about ease of charging.

Many EV CPOs and OEMS recognize the need for physical payments whether that is due to the push from NEVI or realizing the need to support customers’ different payment preferences. Having healthy competition in the marketplace when it comes to different components of a charging station will ultimately help make owning and charging an EV more affordable and accessible. Physical payments is one of those components. Establishing lower processing rates, along with hardware and software services, will be an important part of keeping overall costs low.

For current and future EV charging companies, it may seem easier to partner with a company that does it all, but those solutions  often come with a much higher price tag and stifle long-term growth. A flexible, cloud-based payment solution that is processor and hardware agnostic has many advantages and integration is simple. Depending on the platform, the CPO may have hardware choices and can select a processor partner that makes sense for their business and operational requirements. The cloud solution also abstracts the payment portion of the transaction from the CPO platform. This allows the CPO solution to stay out of PCI scope and keeps payment transactions secure.

Changes to the applications can be as simple as a new software download, new check box enabled feature or even a plug-n-play device. There is no need for an additional PCI audit to be conducted on the change as solutions are designed to ensure that the payment and data remains secure during critical points of the transaction.

So what does this all mean? As CPOs and charging hardware companies are exploring options to bring a complete, public customer-facing payment solution to market, keeping an open mind and exploring options will ultimately better service the general public by making EV charging easier and more affordable. Rather than looking at ways to cut costs later because the market is saturated and competition is tough, there is an opportunity now to choose the best option that makes EV companies profitable and customers happy.