With the increased petroleum consumption and prolonged pollution level, the need of the hour calls for deployment of light electric vehicles (LEV) on the Indian roads. Vinod Sharma, Managing Director of Deki Electronics Limited in an exclusive interaction with Baishakhi Dutta of Electronics Bazaar unveils the strategy behind the latest Indo- Finnish partnership between IPEC Drive Systems and L7 and how some of the Indian players are all set to bring in a revolution in the electric vehicle powertrain system.
Q) What is the most significant difference between the parallel/single-cell powertrains and the traditional systems? How are these more advantageous?
In a traditional powertrain system, while every cell may have a nominal voltage of 4 volts, the complete system requires around 48 volts. Each battery pack comes with a temperature sensor and voltage sensor which are connected to the battery management system (BMS), and then this circuit acts as the management for the whole battery pack. Because of the electronic circuit setting in the BMS, some amount of voltage gets converted to current all the time thus leading to thermal losses. Therefore the traditional powertrain system involves a lot of inefficiency in the process of dealing with energy.
In the single cell system, we are giving a single cell or a connected number of series of cells in parallel. This means, the delivered voltage of the battery pack is 3.65 volts, which is the normal voltage. The advantage of this advanced system is that the user can raise the voltage of the engines according to his needs starting from 3.65 volts and thus involving nominal thermal losses.
Q) What improvement in EVs will the new powertrain bring?
Using the single cell battery will enable users with 5 advantages. They are:
- The solution results in superior vehicle range, enhanced performance and increased reliability while optimising overall costs
- Due to the absence of thermal losses, the BMS and motor controller is not required. It also checks the issue of cell balancing
- The charger becomes much simpler since in the traditional system the charger used to charge through the BMS
- Monitoring the engine becomes very much simpler since with the help of this system, we are putting everything on cloud
- The cloud connectivity capability of these drive systems system can transform electric vehicles to becoming “connected vehicles”
Q) Kindly elaborate the function of the software solution “ChargeFlo” and how a software solution fits in to this kind of a system?
The software acts as a complete operating system. It enables users to have an in-depth knowledge about the charger of an EV. It helps users know how much electricity is to be consumed and for what duration. The billing amount with the local electricity authority is automatically controlled by the software.
As an individual, if you are charging your electric car or scooter, you get an app in your phone through which you can avail various facilities like paying bills directly, charging the EV and more. It also enables creates a between your vehicle battery and the charging unit, ensuring that the right amount of current and voltage is being passed down to the battery. On the other hand, if you are a fleet operator, you get information about the hundreds of chargers installed all over the country in terms of usage, billing amount etc thus ensuring a smooth monitoring system.
Q) How do you see this software-assisted approach shaping the automotive industry going forward?
The software assisted system is becoming a central mode of monitoring. For a consumer having knowledge about the EV charger and necessary details related to it, the monitoring facility is very crucial. The software ensures that the EV and its charger maintain a smooth operating process. Like all connected vehicles, this software will show the state of charge of the vehicle which will help consumers have a complete dashboard ready in front of him.
Q) What will be the business and revenue structure of the JV between IPEC and L7? How is Deki contributing to this venture?
At first, we created a company called IPEC Drive Systems Pvt Ltd which is a power electronics company. The company is primarily into making chargers (private and public charging pods for consumers). The company is mainly into manufacturing, design, testing and deployment for charging systems of e-vehicles. Currently we are manufacturing chargers for Ather Energy and intend to do chargers for other vehicle manufacturers and charging stations soon. Under IPEC, we are also driving installation of the first EV charging station in Delhi by December this year.
This company is made up of 3 partners – Deki Electronics (Noida), which specialises in electronics component and design perspective, Meher Group (Bangalore) which is a power and electrical company, and SungHo Electronics (South Korea), which is a public listed EMS company and are into power supplies. The three of us came together on board with an equal share.
Going ahead, IPEC as a company has done a 50-50 joint venture with L7 of Finland. IPEC is playing two roles in this JV – one as the investor and the other as the manufacturing partner. So, the drive, which is the most complex system, will be manufactured at IPEC. Our team is already working on customizing the L7 Drive for customers in India with production expected to start shortly. Currently we have factory in Bengaluru and within a year we envisage to come up with another factory in Noida for the North Indian customers.
Q) What made you chose the Indian market to launch the product?
Three major factors acted as the driving force behind this selection. Firstly, the drive is far more suited for two- and three-wheelers or small cars, because if you choose heavy vehicles, the current becomes very high. The components that are currently available in the market cannot handle that kind of current. Almost 73 per cent of the Indian transportation market comprises of two- and three-wheelers.
Secondly, India is trying to cut down its dependence on petroleum because of the high price, and also at the same time, want to clean up the environment much quicker. We have seen the adverse effects of pollution and environmental damage. So, strategically India has been a good option compared to many other countries.
Thirdly, since we are based out of India, we wanted to flag off the journey from our home country and have plans to further expand this reach globally.
Q) What are the current challenges in India for EV and which ones need to be solved on priority? Any solution?
From the e-vehicle perspective, the government is playing the role of an observer and has sort of agreed that they will leave it more to the market forces to shape up the EV industry. However the government has amended certain positive changes, like waiving off distribution charges from EV chargers. Furthermore, the government needs to play a role in creating necessary infrastructure and work on policy implementations. Existing policies should be enabled as well. For example, the e-commerce sector is undergoing a big boom currently. In this space, the government can come forward and help the EV industry by implementing a norm of running the delivery chain only through EVs. This will lead to a rising demand, which turn, will help a lot of players find a ready market in the country.
Q) Do you think there is sufficient clarity in the policy framework and regulations regarding EV charging stations in India?
Not yet. The government is discussing on standards and I hope some will come out soon, which will define the charging sockets both for AC and DC charging. That will make it a level playing field. So those kind of technical and configuration standards needs to worked up.
Q) How do you see the Indian EV market evolving and when do you see EV four wheelers becoming mainstream?
From the volume perspective, the first big EV sales will be led by two-wheelers in India, followed by three-wheelers. Then will come the four-wheeler fleet, like Ola, Uber, the electric buses (due to the huge push by the government). Privately held passenger vehicles will come last because of the challenges and high cost. Electrification of key corridors on highways are also something that needs attention since trucks and buses use up a lot of energy. There are challenges in terms of charging infrastructure also, when it comes to personal mobility which needs to be worked upon. So, I believe we still have a long way to go in this segment.