The proverbial velvet rope may do wonders for trendy nightclubs, but it's apparently hurting the plug-in vehicle industry. While the lack of available public charging stations is largely viewed as a hurdle to broader EV adoption, research firm Frost & Sullivan says membership-based payment systems a big hindrance.

While the membership model, in which drivers are required to "join" a network to use a particular type of charging station, is great for the folks who build and deploy the stations, it's inconvenient for people who simply want to pull in and "fill up" just as they do at gas stations.

One solution is the broadened use of so-called near field communication (NFC), which would allow drivers to simply use their smartphones to get their payment sources authenticated. Frost & Sullivan calls NFC a "game changer" for plug-in adoption.

While not ditching the membership model altogether, ECOtality, maker of Blink charging systems, and ChargePoint (formerly Coulomb Technologies) in March formed a joint-venture called Collaboratev LLC that allowed a cross-membership of sorts, giving the two sets of "members" access to both types of charging stations.

Read Frost & Sullivan's press release below.
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User-friendly Payment Options for EV Charging Will Reduce Adoption Barriers, Notes Frost & Sullivan

End-to-end authentication and payment services through smartphone applications an important trend in the EV market

LONDON – 29 May 2013 – Insufficient infrastructure has been the main dampener for the wider adoption of electric vehicles (EV), with user concerns revolving around the insufficient number of charging stations across a widespread area and cumbersome methods of authentication and payment. The implementation of user-friendly authentication and payment systems will go a long way in improving EV uptake.

Currently, the most common method of authorising access to charging stations is the membership model. EV drivers register with charging station networks provided by specific utilities. For an initial deposit and/or monthly charges, registered users are issued radio frequency identification (RFID) cards that can be used to authenticate and initiate charging at a station.

This subscription-based model is popular among charging station owners because of its profitability – it locks in a proportion of the limited customer base for a specific time period, ensuring easy return on investment. However, it is inconvenient for EV drivers. The payment options are limited, drivers cannot use available facilities unless they are members of the network, and registering with multiple networks means carrying multiple RFID cards. However, there is an emerging trend of cooperation among EV networks to accept common authentication credentials and allow interoperability of charging stations.

"The subscription method misses the opportunity to tap into current social trends and a connected community with its widespread adoption of smartphones and expectations for digital and real-time transactions," observed Frost & Sullivan ICT Research Associate Shuba Ramkumar.

Besides RFID cards, other emerging authentication and payment options in the EV market involve using Short Messaging Service (SMS), mobile apps, or a mobile wallet on a smartphone. Even then, registration with the charging station provider is sometimes a prerequisite for using the payment options, which can be a stumbling block for non-member EV drivers.

"The adoption of near field communication (NFC) within the EV market can be a game changer in EV drivers' experience," opined Ramkumar. "It has the potential to provide secure authentication and access to authorised entities, and is being tested in Deutsche Telekom's (DT) smart city project in Friedrichshafen. The results may prevent NFC from being written off as a mainstream technology in a connected society future."

In short, a logical first step to encourage more EV users is empowering them with charging network availability and convenience of payments. Charging station owners will benefit from having more EVs on the road and should work towards the easy-to-use, fast, end-to-end authentication and payment services.

If you are interested in more information on the role of ICT in EV infrastructure, please send an e-mail to Katja Feick, Corporate Communications, at, with your full contact details.

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