EV Charging Is Not A Country-Specific Technology Transformation

EV Charging Is Not A Country-Specific Technology Transformation

Interview January 2020 Delta Electronics India EV Charging Technology Transformation

Delta Electronics India has carved out its presence in the nascent Indian electric vehicle (EV) charging space

In an exclusive chat with Auto Tech Review, Akshay Barbuddhe, Business Head, EV Charging Solution, Delta Electronics India, gives us an understanding of how the company’s charging solutions can help develop the country’s EV ecosystem.

Akshaye Barbuddhe is currently serving as the Business Head, EV Charging Solution at Delta Electronics India. In his current role, Barbuddhe is responsible for managing and growing the company’s e-mobility solutions across the country. He has an unbridled passion for technology and innovation and carries over two decades of industry experience in power electronics space. Prior to joining Delta Electronics India, Barbuddhe had served as Country Business Manager at Eltek AS. Barbuddhe holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Amravati University.

ATR _ Give us a perspective about Delta Electronics India’s recently rolled-out E-mobility Tech Experience Centre?

Akshaye Barbuddhe _ The objective behind the E-Mobility Tech Experience Centre is to come up with vehicle-to-grid solutions in India and provide customers, business partners and electric vehicle (EV) charging service providers a complete experience of the whole EV charging ecosystem. The centre offers various globally accepted charging solutions such as Type 2 Connectors (used for AC charging in Europe), Combined Charging Systems (CCS, used for DC charging in Europe and in the US to some extent), CHAdeMO (widely prevalent in Japan), GB/T (widely adopted in China) and Bharat DC001 (used in India with capacities ranging from 7.5 kW to 150 kW, catering primarily to the four-wheeler segment).

The Centre provides an opportunity to experience live demonstrations, understand the global technology adoption methodology as well as charging process simulation and its integration with multiple hardware, software and cloud servers. As far as carrying out design, validation and testing of our products is concerned, we leverage open charge alliance (OCA)-certified testing tools as well as the charging point operator software platform. We conduct various simulations, including simulating different capacities of a battery or simulating certain protocols among others. As you know interoperability in EV charging is crucial – for example, a CCS cannot be vehicle-specific – it has to work with all vehicles, so we have to ensure interoperability in EV charging at all times.

There is still a significant amount of apprehension in India about EV charging. Our experience centre initiative will create more awareness as well as understanding of the EV charging technology and suitably address prevailing concerns over EV charging. The EV charging space is an ever-evolving space and the future roadmap will witness significant technological advancements. Given this scenario, we are aggressively working on a robust vision to deliver future-ready solutions to meet the ever-evolving automotive industry needs.

We are also exploring the possibility of adding renewable energy to EV charging solutions and a lot of work is happening on this front. Hopefully, this will be a reality. The roll-out of this centre will be an enabler towards providing innovative, cleaner and energy-efficient solutions for a better tomorrow.

Can you give us an insight into the company’s recently launched EV charging solutions – DC City Charger and AC Max?

Both DC City Charger and AC Max are next generation EV charging solutions. The DC City Charger is a fast-charging option, where the charging time can vary from vehicle to vehicle and can usually take around 30 to 90 min to charge any four-wheeler. The AC Max, on the other hand, is a slow-charging solution. This solution can take five to eight hours to charge, depending on the type of four-wheeler being charged. A key highlight of the AC Max is that it offers over-the-air remote upgrade capabilities that enable charging point operators (CPOs) to improve the charger’s firmware, thus eliminating the need for on-site maintenance as well as improving management efficiency.

Both these solutions ensure easy installation as well as offer protection against over voltage, under voltage, over current, short circuit, over temperature, ground fault and residual current. These charging solutions have Wi-Fi-enabled Bluetooth, which effectively means that no network cost is required.

Various global charging standards can be ideal for the Indian market

Different countries have been adopting different charging standards. What kind of EV charging solution can work well for a market like India?

Globally, a number of EV charging standards such as Type 2 Connectors, CCS, CHAdeMO and GB/T are getting adopted. I don’t see EV charging as a country-specific technology transformation but rather a global technology transformation. I see no reason why we as a country should make EV charging standards ourselves, because various questions will crop up with no definite answers – who will make it, who will maintain it, who will ensure it will grow with time with application needs. From the Indian perspective, it makes sense to leverage what is available globally so that maximum benefits can be reaped. Further, leveraging a globally prevailing standard ensures two things – it has a well laid-out roadmap and is more sustainable.

Can you give us a perspective on the global trends for DC and AC charging for EVs and how is the pricing range for these two charging solutions?

AC charging (slow charging) is more prevalent globally, especially in Europe, with around 80 % adoption in residential societies, offices, malls, service stations, etc. The remaining 20 % of vehicle owners opt for DC charging (fast charging). On the pricing front, DC chargers are expensive for different applications
and can cost you in the range of ` 4-50 lakh. AC chargers can cost in the range of ` 70,000 to ` 3 lakh.

The FAME II Scheme outlines a bigger focus on modern battery technologies beyond lithium-ion. What’s your opinion of different battery chemistries?

If the automotive industry has to witness 50 % penetration of EVs globally, dependency on one technology will clearly not be a good idea. Exploring different battery chemistries is an encouraging thought and anyway alternatives are the way forward. People are talking about sodium-ion batteries, aluminium-air batteries, zinc-air batteries, among others, and a lot of work in these areas is still in its nascent stage. I’m sure alternatives will emerge.

There is an acute shortage of cobalt – a key raw material used in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries for EVs – your thoughts?

The paucity of Cobalt is a big concern as well as a challenge to the adoption of EVs. But I’m confident that the automotive industry is resilient enough to come up with alternate materials for manufacturing EV batteries. Globally, we are witnessing a lot of study in this area and we would surely find a way to address the shortage of Cobalt in times to come.

Access to EV charging infrastructure in the Indian context is considered a big stumbling block. What’s your line of thought?

So much has been said about India’s EV charging infrastructure over the last two years or so. A momentum has to be built for EV charging and allowed to grow with its momentum. Nothing will happen overnight as I think it will take two-three years for adequate infrastructure to happen across the country for the EV ecosystem to thrive. A considerable amount of work is happening in EV charging space and I don’t think it will be so much of a concern in two-three years’ time.

Range anxiety is another big talking point in the nascent Indian EV industry – your thoughts.

I guess range anxiety is more of a perception problem than anything else. This perception was built in India because the country got its first car with a 100 km range. Globally, there is no car that offers a range of less than 200 km. In the Indian context, we’ll not have an EV charging station every 2 km in the immediate future, but one EV charging station every 250 km should work fine for us, even as our EV charging ecosystem develops.

What’s your take on converting current fuel stations in the country into EV charging stations?

The objective of fast-forwarding the EV charging infrastructure is a good thought but I’m not in favour of fuel stations being converted into EV charging stations. CNG filling stations are already available alongside fuel stations in India, which is creating traffic chaos. Having EV charging outlets in fuel stations will not help. I’m a firm believer that if we are adopting something new anywhere, it must be tried separately and not along with the most scaled thing you have – refuelling petrol/diesel is an evolved system of 50 years and having EV charging outlets will only add to the chaos.

Paucity of cobalt is a big concern and poses a challenge to the adoption of EVs

EVs are considered one of the most viable alternate fuel technologies. Your thoughts.

There is no hesitation in saying that the auto industry will transition from fossil fuel to alternative fuel technologies. Having said that alternate fuel and ICE will co-exist and in this regard hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will have a role to play. Battery electric vehicles will take away certain portions of the various vehicle segments, but long-distance buses or trucks make valid business case for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

How do you assess the concept of battery swapping?

Battery swapping can be a good solution, especially for two-wheelers and three-wheelers – it is surely a working business model. As far as city buses are concerned, battery swapping is indeed possible from a technology perspective, but requires a fair amount of automation. Of course, infrastructure cost will go up if battery swapping is implemented for city buses and so there are challenges.

What’s your take on our theme for this anniversary edition – ‘Mobility Transformation: What India needs to do and how?

If I have to talk about mobility transformation, then e-mobility will transform the lives of people. There is a need for a strong people participation and the EV cost range must be kept out of their minds. I believe e-mobility will spread organically and the market should have some level of awareness in two years’ time, and by 2020-2023 a successful EV story would carve out in the country.

TEXT: Suhrid Barua

PHOTO: Delta Electronics India