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Detail picture of a charging plug of an e-charging station in a car

Ensuring that e-mobility doesn’t stall

Telekom subsidiary Comfort Charge relies on T-Systems’ SAP expertise to keep batteries fully-charged and billing processes transparent.

E-mobility has finally taken hold – slowly, but surely. As of August 2021, almost 1 million electrically-powered vehicles were already being driven on Germany’s roads. In the previous year alone, the number of newly registered cars with all-electric drives rose by 206 percent. As a result, according to the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) in Flensburg, 13.5 percent of all new cars registered in Germany already had an electric drive.

Need for 440,000 charging stations

A parking lot for electric vehicles

No wonder, then, that KBA President Richard Damm states: “E-mobility has arrived at the heart of the mobile society. Positive user experiences, reliable technologies, and an ever-expanding range of vehicles are making it easier to switch to e-mobility.” If the current trend in the registration of e-cars continues, Damm is confident that “the target set by the German government of seven to 10 million registered electric vehicles in Germany by 2030 can be achieved.”

The automotive industry’s clear commitment is giving electromobility an additional boost. Take Volkswagen, for example: With a 20.2 percent share of the all-electric passenger cars in Germany, the company is ahead of Renault (18.1 %), Smart (11.6 %), and Tesla (11.1 %). But it also true that the e-car owners driving on German roads only had access to 23,800 charging stations nationwide at the end of September of this year, according to Statista. However, the rapidly increasing e-traffic should also be able to flow smoothly by the end of this decade. 

In the 1960s, gas station chains in Germany such as Gasoline, Texaco, and DEA ensured that the TV commercials for the VW Beetle could claim 13 (!) times in 30 seconds: “It runs and runs and runs and ...” Ensuring the same applies to its electric-powered successor in 10 years’ time will require not only a nationwide network of more than 400,000 additional charging stations. It will also require intelligent processes and applications that ensure smooth cooperation in the background and transparent billing processes for the players involved. When the current Mobility Report 2022 published by the Zukunftsinstitut Frankfurt also comes to the conclusion that “the e-volution is picking up speed,” then credit is due to companies like Comfort Charge in Bonn.

Complex Billing

As a Charging Point Operator (CPO), the company currently operates a nationwide network of 160 stations with up to 150 KW of charging capacity. These fast-charging points take just nine minutes on average to fill a car with electricity for up to 100 km of driving.

While Comfort Charge is responsible for the physical infrastructure, as well as negotiating parking spaces for e-fueling and ensuring that the electricity flows smoothly at the charging stations at all times, it is the e-mobility providers (EMPs) who handle the business side of the charging stations. They make the charging stations accessible to private customers and commercial vehicle owners, who can identify themselves at the stations via charging cards or apps and start the charging process. In addition to this model, Comfort Charge enables ad-hoc charging processes, which can be carried out on a cashless basis via PayPal, credit card, or a membership card of an automobile club – and without a contract with an EMP. 

This complexity alone raises the question of how mobility providers can make their billing for e-charging transparent, fast, and reliable. In order to present the customer with a transparent bill, heterogeneous data from various sources has to converge in a single system. The central challenge, according to Comfort Charge Managing Director Patrick Eberwein, is “to reconcile diverse, and in some cases, very dynamic data sets: the prices of the electricity suppliers, the quantity purchased per charging point, the individual contract data of an EMP customer as well as the access to payment service providers have to be integrated and mapped in a comprehensive way. This requires a powerful and reliable backend – and an entity that takes over the clearing, i.e., the harmonization of the billing data vis-à-vis the e-mobility providers.”

Automated billing

A woman pays at an e-charging station with her credit card

To meet the high demands of the clearing, Comfort Charge worked with T-Systems to implement an SAP-based platform solution for B2B business. “An ongoing project,” says SAP Solution Designer Gerhard Klein from T-Systems, “that is growing together with Comfort Charge’s infrastructure and requirements.” The platform-based and fully automated B2B system is used to settle charging data between Comfort Charge and the various e-mobility providers – and creates stringent financial processes by harmonizing the often heterogeneous data from the systems of the cooperating EMPs.

But despite its great potential, the market relating to e-mobility also faces uncertainties. The fact is that both charging infrastructure operators and e-mobility providers must be able to ramp up capacity quickly. “This only works smoothly if the systems can be scaled in the background without restrictions. With our SAP services, their provisioning infrastructure as well as the application itself can be expanded almost indefinitely,” says Gerhard Klein from T-Systems.

However, scalability is essential. After all, powerful billing solutions such as the SAP-based billing platform form the backbone of a reliable and thus future-proof e-mobility infrastructure. This ensures that the power supply along German roads doesn’t stall and the motto continues to be: “it runs and runs and ...”

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About the author

Thomas van Zütphen is a long-term observer of the IT-TK industry and has led T-Systems’ customer magazine (previously known as Best Practice) as Editor-in-Chief for the past 15 years.

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