[Interview] EV-Charging is the most important and most enduring trend of the coming years

Interview with Felix Blum, Chief of Back-End and Payment Solution at Wallbe. Felix is a payment expert who has accompanied several trends in cashless payment during his career.

Felix, at Wallbe you actively accompany the payment development for eMobility and you have been involved with the topic in your private life. Where do you see the future of payment in the area of EV-Charging today?
This future presents itself to me so to speak “double-tracked”. Track one concerns the mainly private driver: Payment is made either directly by card at the charging station or via an app as an eCommerce transaction.
Track two addresses fleets and vehicle fleets: Fleet cards will become established here, but in my opinion not on a card basis, but via apps.
A third strand – which is still in the distant future – comes from the car manufacturers themselves. They are currently creating the technical prerequisites for the car itself to identify the user. Tesla has already created a very well functioning solution at its own charging stations; purely the vehicle without any further aids carries out the identification.
The communication of the charging station with the e-vehicle brings us to ISO15118. What does this standard mean for Wallbe?
We are currently working more and more with ISO 15118, which is not yet very important, but in the future, both topics Plug & Charge and Vehicle2Grid will be interesting. The implementation of the new ISO is very important to us, it means a very big step towards “Plug & Charge”, especially on an international level.
“For public charging stations, such as hotels or via parking space managers, the integrated payment terminal is definitely one of the most important criteria.”
Which payment methods do Wallbe customers currently prefer?
This area is very target group-specific. For public charging stations, such as hotels or via parking space managers, the integrated payment terminal is definitely one of the most important criteria – also due to the Girocard acceptance in Germany (which, however, can be transferred to all local cards in European countries).
Semi-public charging stations, e.g. company car parks, do not always require a payment terminal and the associated card acceptance; they often use the billing method via user account or, in some cases, directly via payroll.
“e-Mobility user should not feel any difference with their e-car compared to the previous fueling process at fuel filling stations.”
What advantages does the directly integrated payment terminal offer?
There is the principle of accessibility, which means that all international and national cards must be accepted (e.g. the girocard in Germany, the bankomat card in Italy or the card bancaire in France). This can only be achieved with a payment terminal – and of course, as is the case with CCV, the provider must be able to guarantee the processing of all these cards.
On the operator side of the charging stations, the following applies: every e-mobility user is a potential customer and should be able to pay with his or her preferred means of payment.
At the same time, the terminal must also offer protection against manipulation.
In order to provide the whole thing with numbers: Currently, 95 % of all tenders require a payment terminal, which we can offer through our partnership with CCV. This is also in line with our basic strategy: e-mobility user should not feel any difference with their e-car compared to the previous fueling process at fuel filling stations, i.e. they should not have to change their user behaviour.
Pricing in the EV charging sector is a point that is discussed repeatedly. How do you see the development in the coming years, also in terms of tax structuring?
When filling up with electricity there is a price-labelling obligation, i.e. the price displayed at the beginning of the charging process is binding. We use our networked systems to ensure that this price is the same at all locations. There is no such thing as billigertanken.de, as is often used at fuel filling stations when it comes to filling up with electricity.
There will also be no mixed calculation, i.e. the price cannot vary during charging. This would be technically possible, but it cannot be depicted in terms of organisation and is also not practiced in the mineral oil sector.
With the taxes, the normal VAT rate is already due. However, I am sure that there will be more taxes on top. The state’s subsidies will not always remain; at some point, the state will also want some of it back financially.
Nationalised areas will also be created in the infrastructure. Currently, many research projects are the intellectual property of the state.
The EV charging regulations vary from country to country. How do you deal with this challenge as an international service provider?
The regulations are indeed diverse, but we have the biggest challenge right on our doorstep: the regulatory framework in Germany is definitely the most complicated. Many other countries orientate themselves towards Germany, e.g. concerning the calibration law, so we often have to deal with adaptations of German standards.
In other places, we work together with local partners, such as in Italy. Here the regulation applies that the sales of the charging station are directly transmitted the tax office. We implement such individual interfaces with partners and of course, we critically examine what is economically viable. Incidentally, India is the simplest: the user fills up the tank, the line is activated via the earthed plug, and the user pays at the cash desk. There is no complicated billing model or similar – the only requirement is that the electricity switches off after 20 minutes. Due to the lack of bureaucratic structures, the penetration of e-vehicles in India will be much faster. The government is also active here and promote the change from conventional vehicles to e-mobility.
What are Wallbe’s recommendations regarding payment?
We recommend in principle to install a payment terminal at all half and public charging stations. Germany, for example, is considered as THE transit country of the EU, international systems are essential. As soon as e.g. Dutch, British or Belgian people drive through Germany to Italy or Austria, this can be a sometimes, demotivating experience for e-mobility user and we have to work hard on the already mentioned accessibility for all users.
This accessibility should also be reflected in the available, e.g. by making it possible to find charging stations and their current prices via google maps or directly via the car navigation system.
In addition, we still need the acceptance of RFID chips, which are also widely used.
Last but not least – why did Wallbe choose CCV as payment partner?

With CCV, we have found a partner who has many years of experience and who, like us, takes an international approach. Since CCV is also the market leader in outdoor payment in the petroleum sector in Germany, we naturally profit from many years of market expertise. We can also rely on CCV for the future, with new innovative products such as the CCV IM30, which offer well-thought-out solutions for future requirements. The CCV IM30 uses an Android operating system and can also guarantee PIN entry. Currently, we have to stop charging at 25 € (higher amounts require PIN entry even for contactless payment). The topic of Android occupies us especially as a possibility for “One-Device-Only”, i.e. the apps on the terminal are used as price indicators and more. Personalisation is becoming an increasingly important topic, and apps will play a major role here as well.