Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Wilson F. via ChargePoint Network]Enlarge Photo
Electric car charging stations are cropping up in many public places, but accessing them can be difficult.
That's because most charging stations are operated by proprietary networks, which often require drivers to set up an account beforehand, and validate each charging session with a card or other proof of membership.
The newly-formed Open Charge Alliance hopes to change that.
The Alliance is a partnership of charging infrastructure companies; it replaces the similar Open Charge Point Protocol Forum. As the name implies, the organization's goal is to create open electric car charging networks.
The open network concept, also known as "roaming," would allow electric car drivers to join one network, but access the charging stations of other networks. It's similar to the way cell phone users roam from their native networks to others depending on available coverage.
The Alliance says this type of network will give electric car drivers the same freedom normal drivers enjoy at the gas pump. They would be able to pull up to any station, regardless of which network operates it, and charge.
Another advantage of open charging, the Alliance says, is that it gives station owners the ability to mix and match different networks' equipment, allowing the owners to better tailor their facilities to customer demand.
The group is developing an open network plan, called Open Charge Point Protocol Forum Version 2.0, which it will unveil in the coming weeks.
This isn't the first time a group has tried to implement roaming standards for electric car charging.
Earlier this year two charging infrastructure companies -- ChargePoint and (now bankrupt) Ecotality -- set up Collaboratev, with the goal of creating a "seamless" process" for electric car drivers to charge across multiple networks.