15 minutes with Alfen’s Hessel Faber: Developing EV charging technology collaboratively
To mark the 15-year anniversary of our EV Charging business, we’re talking to some of the exceptional individuals driving our success. In our final interview in the series, we share our discussion with Hessel Faber, one of the pioneers behind Alfen’s work with EV charging equipment.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did your journey at Alfen begin?
I have a long history at Alfen, and it’s been incredible to witness the company’s tremendous growth firsthand. Initially, I played a key role in Alfen’s procurement process, focusing primarily on smart grids. From there, I transitioned into a more research and development-oriented role focused on EV charging. But in 2009, our R&D department was non-existent. We lacked both software and hardware developers. It was a period of trial and error, marked by relentless hours - often working through the night. Despite the challenges, our belief in our mission to electrify mobility drove us to develop pioneering prototypes for EV charging stations. I remained dedicated to this field for ~7 years, relishing the opportunity to innovate new products and help deploy an extensive network of EV charging stations throughout Europe.
Today I work as a product owner within Alfen’s Energy Storage Solutions business, connecting stakeholders with our software development teams. I’ve been in this role 8 years and I have been fortunate to develop new skills and learn from a variety of experts. But I have a lot of sweet memories when I go back to those pioneering days in EV charging when we asked ourselves complicated questions like: ‘how do we support the electricity grid when mobility electrifies and how do we develop a smart piece of hardware that charges electric cars? Can we let drivers authorise themselves and how can we set standards for things like charge plugs and communication protocols?’
How did your work align with Alfen’s mission to accelerate EV adoption in Europe?
I focused on amplifying EV charging across the continent. An instrumental step I took was developing a roaming platform that interconnects multiple chargers. This project spanned 3 to 4 years so the satisfaction of delivering it in partnership with a committed team from various EV charge point manufacturers was great. We shared a collective ambition to accelerate EV adoption in Europe, and this collaboration was a significant stride in achieving that goal.
How has the EV charging industry evolved during your time at Alfen?
I've seen the EV charging industry change so much. We started with just 1 charging station, and today we have delivered more than 628,000 charge points in 30+ countries throughout Europe! What’s really exciting is that we’re now using energy from the cars themselves, and EVs have become widely accepted in society.
What are you most proud of in the area of EV charging?
I'm most proud of developing the Open Charge Point Protocol with grid companies represented by the Elaad Foundation, software experts and industry partners in 2009. This standardised protocol has been crucial in facilitating the seamless growth of EV charging infrastructure worldwide. It took a lot of hard work from many people to make it as globally accepted as it is today. Also, being part of the early adoption of electric driving, creating payment systems and setting up the first EV charging stations in the Netherlands are milestones that mean a lot to me. Collaborating with many others to make these changes happen was really fulfilling.
I also remember back in 2009 when the first public charging station in the Netherlands was officially opened by the late former Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers. Surrounded by journalists, he charged his electric Volkswagen Golf on the street using an Alfen charging station. We were incredibly proud to have built the first charging station on Dutch soil. This inaugural station was named Tube, and we sold it to cities like Leeuwarden, Den Bosch, Zaanstad and Tilburg. We also installed them at the headquarters of network companies like Enexis, Alliander, Stedin, Rendo and Delta because we were committed to involving them in this revolution.
How do you envision the future of EV charging and its impact on society and the environment?
In the world of EV charging, there’s still a lot we can improve. I think our next big focus will be on making energy management systems better. Imagine when 20 to 30 cars are charging together, and some are almost full – the tech could tell the chargers to move to the next car that needs it. Additionally, with Vehicle-2-Grid in mind, we also see a big opportunity for car batteries to store energy and the role we can play as Alfen to facilitate this. And we're keen on making EV charging even greener, which means teaming up with solar PV and other renewables.