Though many private and public organisations are investing heavily in EV technology, wider adoption can only occur if the Indian charging infrastructure also scales up. Standardisation of EV charging protocols is a challenge though. This article explores what’s boosting the EV sector and what’s holding it back.
By Simarpreet Singh
With the central government’s FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles) India scheme working towards achieving 30 per cent EV penetration by 2030, India is well on its way to making a gradual shift towards battery-operated automobiles to combat vehicular pollution. As carbon emissions will only get worse with a two-fold increase in the number of motor vehicles every eight years, the FAME India scheme is consistent with the larger objective of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and curtailing environmental pollution through the adoption of clean energy.
The government aims to set up 2,700 electric charging stations across the country by March 2022 under the second phase of the FAME India scheme. There are plans to set up one charging station every 3km in cities, and every 25km on either side of highways. While any private company or individual can set up charging stations in cities, only central utilities are authorised to create this infrastructure on highways.
Electric vehicles have been in the spotlight for some time now, but equal importance should be given to creating the charging infrastructure to run them. It is easy access to charging infrastructure that will eventually boost the adoption of electric vehicles. As more and more electric vehicles hit the roads, the charging infrastructure to support them has to grow proportionately otherwise the entire effort might fizzle out. Petrol stations, commercial complexes, car dealerships and commercial spaces like parking lots are potentially the ideal spots where charging infrastructure should be installed.
A report by the Florence School of Regulation (Italy) points out two major challenges faced by the charging ecosystem in India — ensuring the deployment of charging infrastructure and the integration of EVs into the power system. Ideally, to build a truly sustainable charging ecosystem, EVs should be recharged with renewable sources of energy like solar and wind power.
The EV market in India is at a nascent stage, but the scope is immense. Tax concessions and subsidised rates of electricity extended to charging stations and EVs, make it a profitable proposition. There is immense potential for AC, DC and super chargers in India. Initiatives by private companies are also moving in tandem with the government’s ambitious FAME India scheme. Many big players like Tata Motors and Hyundai, as well as startups like Ola Electric Mobility and Ather Energy have set their plans in motion to create an EV ecosystem. Notably, investments in EV startups have grown from US$ 20 million to US$ 406 million in the past couple of years.
Apart from state-run companies like NTPC, GAIL India, Indian Oil Corporation and Power Grid Corporation, big private entities like ABB and Acme Industries are also poised to enter the charging infrastructure business. In fact, Japanese electronics major Panasonic plans to set up about 100,000 charging stations for e-vehicles across 25 of India’s biggest cities at petrol stations, malls and parking lots, by 2024.
Going by the guidelines issued by the Union Housing and Urban Development Ministry, it will become mandatory for residential and commercial complexes to allow 20 per cent of their parking space for electric vehicle charging facilities. Apart from the Centre, many state governments have also come up with comprehensive EV policies. While Tamil Nadu has set aside an investment of ` 500 billion under its EV policy, Uttar Pradesh aims to set up 200,000 charging points by 2024 and replace 70 per cent of state-run buses with EVs. Apart from state-run buses, there is phenomenal potential for growth in the e-rickshaw segment.
In view of these concerted efforts, the country’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure market is projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 40 per cent in the next five years.
However, industry insiders believe that one of the biggest impediments in the way of adopting green mobility standards is the choice of charging infrastructure. As of now, the government has left it to charging station owners to decide on the type of EV charger they want to opt for.
It is clearly a tough choice for the government with leading automakers lobbying for the charging standards they are currently using, including the Japanese CHAdeMO, the European Combined Charging System (CCS) and the Indian Bharat Standard.
Companies based in India that opt for CHAdeMO or CCS will have to buy licences for this standard from authorities in other countries, which will be an expensive proposition. The Bureau of Indian Standards and the Department of Science and Technology are working towards standardising charging to reduce costs, but that will not be easy.
While the committee working on standardising EV charging protocols has issued guidelines mentioning the specifications for DC and AC charging, there is consensus within the industry about adopting all the three standards of charging. While Bharat EV is a low-voltage charging technology suited for a country like India with a high density of two-wheelers and small vehicles, CHAdeMO and CCS are high-voltage charging standards.
Here is a lowdown on these charging technologies.
The CHAdeMO protocol, which has been around for over ten years now, is a DC charging standard for electric vehicles. It is smart, grid-ready and has bi-directional charging. The CHAdeMO connector is a standalone plug that can be with or without an AC connector, which is a great cost-saving measure. The current is controlled by the vehicle’s electronic control unit. The output current is modulated as per the charging current required by the EV, on a real-time basis.
The European Combined Charging System (CCS)
Hyundai Kona will be the first Indian vehicle to use these fast chargers. Apart from Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford Motors, Renault, BMW, Chevrolet, Audi, Jeep and Fiat are the other companies that have adopted this standard. CCS has been developed and endorsed by the Society of Automotive Engineers. It uses Combo 1 and Combo 2 connectors at up to 80kW – 350kW. These are extensions of the Type 1 and Type 2 connectors with two additional DC contacts to allow high-power DC fast charging.
Bharat Standard is a low-voltage charging technology with an output of 72V – 200V. It is currently used to charge Mahindra and Tata electric vehicles. The Bharat Standard does not work on charging speeds above 15kW and is used to charge entry-level electric cars. This EV standard is the most economical of the three and has especially been created for the Indian market, which is dominated by two-wheelers and three-wheelers. Its other attraction is its lower upfront cost.
The author is the director of Hartek Group.