The Indian electric vehicle ecosystem is still in its nascent stage and for EVs to thrive across the country, the availability of adequate charging infrastructure is the need of the hour. The talk of charging infrastructure also brings into focus what kind of charging standards the country should embrace if EVs are to be adopted on a large-scale across the country.
It may be worth recalling that in late 2017 the government came out with Bharat EV standards, namely AC-001 for AC charging and DC-001 for DC charging, on the recommendations of a committee constituted by the Department of Heavy Industry, and headed by Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala. These specifications are meant to cater to the immediate needs of electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers and cars having battery voltage of less than 100 V. However, Bharat EV standards are seen as a more basic charging standard and are only currently adhered to by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. The rest of the electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers plying in the country are out of this ambit, as they depend on their plug-in-at-home mechanism to meet their needs.
On the global front, the electric vehicle space is witnessing adoption of different charging standards across geographies. As far as Europe is concerned, Type 2 Connectors are used for AC charging and Combined Charging Systems (CCS) are used for DC charging. The CCS has gained acceptance in the US as well. CHAdeMO charging standards are widely prevalent in Japan, while GB/T charging standards are widely deployed in China. It is important to note that the Combined Charging System is currently used by the Volkswagen Group, Ford Motor Co, Daimler AG and General Motors Ltd in the US and Europe.
What's The Ideal Solution?
So what kind of charging standards would be ideal for the Indian EV market? A senior government official on condition of anonymity said Type 2 Connectors are very much workable for India. “Globally, many countries are using Type 2 Connectors and it would work for the Indian EV space for AC charging. But we need to figure out what standards we want to adopt for DC charging – whether we opt for controlled area network (CAN) or power line communication (PLC). Leveraging CAN means you have to use CHAdeMO or GB/T standards and using PLC means you have to use CSS. Vehicle users in India are familiar with CAN and knowhow to manage this network,” he said.
The senior government official further added that CHAdeMO or CCS standards are essentially designed for highway capable cars. It is too small to fast charge (carry out DC charging) two/three-wheelers or small cars and is too big to fast charge buses. If India has to leverage CHAdeMO or CCS standards for two/three-wheelers, small cars and buses, there is a strong need to adapt to it and maybe rejig if needed, he suggested.
Another senior government official said automotive OEMs must shoulder more responsibility in the EV charging space. He said there is reluctance among OEMs to get into the space of designing charging standards themselves. “Everything cannot be provided by the government. The government can facilitate charging stations on highways, but OEMs have to take the lead in designing charging standards themselves,” he said.
Welcoming the Power Ministry’s notification that anyone can set-up charging stations for EVs, the official said the move will work provided it is backed by intelligent and well-networked electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). “It is a good policy provided you are dealing with a network. However, if it is not a network and many people are tapping into the grid, it becomes difficult to manage the grid. Over the long run, a controlling software will be needed to manage the network,” he noted.
Akshaye Barbuddhe, Business Head, EV Charging Solutions, Delta India, said there is nothing called ‘ideal’ in terms for charging standards for EVs. As per him, all charging standards are ‘complete’ on their own, comprehensive and can work in any geography and demography. The global automotive industry is dictated by four forces – US, Europe, China and Japan and various charging standards have become prevalent in these nations due to certain merits and demerits of these regions, Barbuddhe said.
Elaborating further, Barbuddhe stated that Type 2 and GB/T standards can work to a nicety for AC charging in India. He was of the opinion that combined charging system (CCS) is the best ‘engineered’ and can fulfil most applications, thus paving the way for meeting dynamic business needs. Ideally, any charging solution will work anywhere and has to be the most versatile, most comprehensive, most engineered, most scalable that can make the business sustainable over the long-term.
Further, he advocated different standards for various vehicle segments. “It is a wide and open market and you cannot put everything in one block. There should be choices for end-users and it will be unfortunate if we don’t have a market of choices,” said the Barbuddhe.
The EV ecosystem in the country needs a proactive approach from all stakeholders and in terms of charging standards, government agencies such Niti Aayog, Power Ministry among others must spell out whether the country is looking to leverage the globally prevalent charging standards such as CHAdeMO, CCS and GB/T standards for the Indian charging needs or looking to expand the specifications of Bharat EV standards.