The Indian automobile sector has been growing at a rate of 11 per cent and has emerged as the fifth largest automobile market in the world. The alarming air pollution level in the country, to which vehicular pollution is a significant contributor, is driving the automobile industry to implement strong measures, including the adoption of cleaner fuels as well as increase investments in electric vehicles (EVs) and smart charging infrastructure. In the past few years, the adoption rate of EVs has seen an upward trend and until April 2018, 56,000 units of EVs had been sold (including two- and four-wheelers). By 2030, EV sales are expected to increase to around 46.5 million. To cater to the needs of growing EV users, a robust charging infrastructure would be required.
Key drivers for growing e-mobility demand
Two key drivers supporting the adoption of EVs are the need for reducing pollution levels and the thrust towards increasing energy security by reducing dependence on imported hydrocarbon fuels. The alarming pollution levels in urban areas have forced the government to adopt green modes of transportation such as EVs. Since the adoption of EVs would result in zero carbon emissions, the sales of such vehicles are likely to increase in the coming years.
Other major benefits that EVs offer include low operations and maintenance costs, ability to directly transform vehicles from diesel to electric, eliminating investments related to compressed natural gas infrastructure, and their environment-friendly nature.
However, despite the major impetus being given to the segment, the uptake of EVs in the country is still very low as compared to foreign countries. This can be attributed to various factors such as higher capital cost of vehicles, limited vehicle variants, longer charging duration, etc. Besides, the lack of appropriate charging infrastructure is one of the major challenges affecting growth of e-mobility solutions.
Standardising EV charging
Globally, there are mainly three standards for EV charging. These are combined charging systems (CCS), GB/T and CHAdeMO. All three standards have different charging connection points and differ in terms of their geographical location. The CCS standard is prominent in Europe and the US while the GB/T and CHAdeMO standards are widely used in China and Japan respectively. Currently, in India, there exists no such standard for high-powered EVs. However, the Bharat standard is being followed for vehicles that have low voltage and low power requirements. It is applicable to a charging speed of up to 15 kW and has a 230 V single-phase charging point. Using this, a two-wheeler can be fully charged in an hour and a four-wheeler, with batteries of 12 kWh or more, in about five to six hours. The Bharat standard comprises Level-1 type of DC chargers that have a voltage output of 48/72 V and power output of 10 kW or 15 kW.
As most of the newly launched vehicles across the world support 50 kW of power, the trend is mainly in favour of adopting the CCS standards. These standards support larger and heavy vehicles that have higher power requirements. However, for the Indian market, the government is looking to adopt a mix of CCS and CHAdeMo standards, thereby promoting a multi-standard charging infrastructure. This is expected to have widespread applicability due to the presence of various international car manufacturing companies, including those of Japan and Korea. However, manufacturers are now trying to comply with different standards in different markets.
As per the draft standard of a charging station prepared for the Indian market, a multi-standard charging station will comprise a fast DC charging point (with 50 kW of power) with CCS and CHAdeMO connectors (50 kW), two Type-II AC charging points (22 kW and 43 kW), and one AC 001 (3.3 kW) and DC 001 (15 kW) Bharat charging points. An investment of Rs 2.5 million will be required for setting up a single multi-standard charging station, of which Rs 1 million will be utilised for the charging component and the remaining Rs 1.5 million will be allocated for the infrastructure component (transformer, mountings, cablings, construction, etc.).
Developing charging technologies
According to the latest available estimates, nearly 85 per cent of EV charging is carried out at home or at the workplace. This is mainly because the long period of time required for charging an EV is not an issue when charging at such places. However, charging infrastructure developed on highways, in public spaces, etc., requires fast charging points. The government is exploring a variety of charging technologies in order to promote public charging and retail charging methods.
Each of the aforementioned global standards has been amended to incorporate high charging capacities. These now allow charging stations to deliver up to 400 kW of power, thereby increasing the charging capacity in a safe way. Voltage levels have been doubled from 500 V to 1,000 V at a maximum current of 400 A. Further, new communication protocols are being identified and tested. These include the plug-and-charge functionality (which enables automatic authentication and billing when the plug is inserted into the EV charging inlet), radio frequency identification cards and mobile applications (to let the driver know about battery charging requirements, nearest charging stations, etc.), roaming of EV charging services (customer of an e-mobility service provider can easily access the infrastructure of other operators while travelling).
In addition, vehicle-to-everything technology is being tested in various countries including Japan. Under the technology, batteries can return power to the energy grid, home or other networks. This technology enables various means of returning power such as vehicle–to-network, vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid.
Other technological advancements in the segment include wireless charging, battery swapping, opportunity charging, smart charging (integration of the grid with the vehicle), etc. A pilot project is likely to be launched soon by NTPC Limited in Gurugram to assess the feasibility of using a battery-swapping technology for three-wheelers. Meanwhile, NTPC has already installed charging stations at all its generation plants and is also looking at installing charging infrastructure at all its offices and plants.
The way forward
With the growing trend towards adopting e-mobility, the government is planning to formulate a comprehensive framework for promoting the development of charging infrastructure. It is also planning to install over 4,230 charging stations at a proposed investment of Rs 10.57 billion. There are plans to set up a charging station at a distance of every 3 km in major cities and every 25 km on major highways. Nearly 1,218 stations are planned to be installed in nine major cities (with a population of more than 4 million) and 200 stations are proposed to be installed on seven major highway corridors. These initiatives for developing a robust charging infrastructure in the country, along with the ongoing technological advancements, will certainly increase future demand for EVs. This, in turn, is likely to open up a plethora of opportunities for technology and equipment providers.
Based on presentations by Jasmeet Khurana, India Manager, REMobility, WBCSD; Priyank Agarwal, Vice President, Strategic and Business Development, Mobility, Exicom Power Solutions; and Anil Kaushik, Additional General Manager, Business Development, NTPC Limited