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What are CPOs and MSPs?

CPOs and MSPs are essential, interdependent players in electric mobility. Together, they install and manage charging stations for electric vehicles.

Charge point operator (CPO)

A CPO or "charge point operator" is a company that installs and manages charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.  This includes not only the charging stations, but also all the wiring and meters needed to connect them. The CPO is also responsible for maintaining the charging stations after installation. They generally provide an online monitoring system and 24-hour support.

Some CPOs can adjust the charging capacity of stations to the energy available on the network in real time, via what is known as load balancing. This intelligent load management saves money and ensures that the capacity of the electrical system is not exceeded at times of peak consumption.

If you're an individual in a single-family home, you don't have to get a CPO to install your charging stations. You can just contact a qualified electrician or a specialist company directly.

To help you choose, the website has drawn up a list of CPOs in Brussels.

Mobility Service Provider (MSP)

The role of the MSP is to provide mobility products and services. It helps drivers of electric vehicles find charging stations and offers various payment methods.

MSPs generally offer a subscription combined with a charging card or a mobile application. This allows you to charge in your building, at work or at a public charging station, for example, just like a fuel card. The MSP can also be involved in the monetisation or reimbursement of charging costs, for example when your employer contributes in full or in part to these costs.

Some CPOs also offer mobility services, but this is not usually the case in reverse. Pure MSPs don't usually own charging stations.

To help you choose, the website has drawn up a list of MSPs in Brussels.

Network coverage and roaming

If you want to be able to charge your electric car anywhere, it's important to make sure that your operator has an extensive network. In fact, your charging card only gives you access to the charging station networks that your MSP has signed an agreement with. In Europe, you'll easily find MSPs with extensive network coverage, such as Chargemap. Plus, more and more MSPs are also offering the option to pay for charging directly with a credit card.

Eventually, the ideal situation would be for the majority of the world's charging stations to be accessible through one single customer account. For this to be the case, all charging points must be able to communicate with MSPs via a common language, such as OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol). Developing these standards will ultimately enable us to offer an optimal charging experience to electric vehicle drivers, wherever they may be.

How do you choose your MSP?

There is a huge range of options and platforms available on the market, and finding your way around can be a real challenge. Charging cards are generally combined with a subscription formula offering various pricing models: per kWh, per hour, per session, etc.

Moreover, there are several criteria to consider:

  • Choose independent providers who don't have any exclusive agreements with CPOs or specific energy companies.
  • Check pricing transparency: are the rates clear and easily accessible via a mobile app or website, for example?
  • Choose your provider according to the networks you intend to use most often.
  • Ideally, make sure you have at least 2 charging cards.
  • Compare providers: in Belgium in 2023, the average price is €0.40 per kWh for charging at a "slow" public station.

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