The charging infrastructure for EVs is developing at a rapid pace, which could address the need for increased adoption of cleaner forms of transportation
The mobility industry, which is what the transportation of the future is being referred to, will witness a high degree of electrification, including hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) as well as pure battery electric vehicles (BEV). BEVs will definitely require to be charged from an external power source, and within the realm of HEVs, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) also need to be charged using a power socket. This indicates that the infrastructure for charging BEVs and PHEVs will play an important role in the adoption and penetration of future forms of mobility.
Almost every single manufacturer in the Indian four-wheeler segment as well as a few in the two-wheeler segment have either developed or are developing electric models in their portfolio. While all companies offering electric models create a charging point at the residence of the customer, they do not necessarily offer charging infrastructure across cities they operate in.
A few examples of companies offering good support to their customers, in terms of vehicle charging infrastructure would be Ather Energy and MG Motor India. Ather Energy had launched its charging infrastructure open to all EVs, called AtherGrid, even before it launched its Ather 450 electric scooter. Similarly, MG has partnered with multiple charging infrastructure providers for home and public charging stations, specially focussed on its soon-to-be-launched ZS electric SUV.
In addition, standalone companies focussed on products for charging EVs are also entering the domestic mobility market, in order to address the growing trend towards vehicle electrification. These companies are either start-ups, or have a history of providing charging solutions for telecommunications and related industries. The charging infrastructure experience of these companies enables them to offer optimised solutions that can meet the EV market demands.
The main division, in terms of EV charging, is in the time taken for the battery to be charged, namely slow, rapid and fast charge. The first two types of charging are enabled by alternating current (AC), whereas fast charging is carried out by direct current (DC) that handles high current and delivers quick turnaround times for vehicle charging. The method of charging EV batteries can also be divided on the type of charging, which includes public/ personal outlets, quick-charge stations and on-board charging.
Charging outlets at public spaces or at customer locations could offer slow charging, since the vehicle is expected to be parked at that location for a reasonably long period of time. Meanwhile, quick-charge stations, as the name suggests require rapid and fast charging capabilities. On the other hand, on-board charging mainly includes brake energy recuperation, where kinetic energy is generated while braking is covered back into electricity.
Even the charging infrastructure itself is being equipped with technologies to make these systems smart, so as to accommodate remote monitoring, cashless payments and safer power cut-off. Therefore, there isn’t just an increase in the roll-out of charging infrastructure, but also in the development of smart systems that are calibrated into them to make them more intelligent. Smart sensors in the charging station and the vehicle communicate on multiple parameters to ensure that charging is not only quick, but is also carried out safely, with low impact on the battery life.
Wireless inductive charging of EVs is an idea that could become a reality much later, once charging methods are standardised further. Wireless charging is expected to witness faster adoption in electric two-wheelers than electric cars, since the adaptability for this segment is faster.
Electric two-wheelers are not usually used for long distances, they are parked in stacks and have small-sized batteries that recharge quickly. All these properties of electric two-wheelers work in favour of wireless charging. These factors, along with the fact that India is a huge two-wheeler market, would make it easy to build infrastructure for wireless charging of two-wheelers. Such wireless EV charging applications can also be put into place, especially with implementation plans to develop smart cities.
Battery swapping is another viable option for EVs, which is more of an indirect form of charging, where the depleted battery in an EV is swapped with a pre-charged battery for quick turnaround of the vehicle back to its intended purpose. This form of energy recuperation for EVs requires a sizeable amount of space to store and recharge batteries, and is considered appropriate mostly for mass transit modes like e-rickshaws and buses. However, for large-scale adoption of battery swapping, there will be a need for standardised EV batteries across different OEMs.
With the slow-paced, but sure-footed growth in EVs in the country, the entire EV ecosystem is deliberating on adequate charging standards that can be ideal for the Indian market. There is a need for a cost-effective and standardised equipment for EV charging infrastructure, and it should be studied as to how any particular global standard could be deployed in the market successfully. The most globally accepted charging standards are Combined Charging Standards (CCS), followed extensively in Europe and the US; CHAdeMO adopted in Japan; and GB/T in China.
In the Indian context, the government introduced the Bharat EV standards, called Bharat EV Charger AC-001 and Bharat EV Charger DC-001, for AC and DC charging, respectively. These specifications were focussed on the immediate requirements of electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers and cars having a battery voltage rating of under 100 V. Some industry experts believe that the Bharat Standard will be for AC charging, while CCS (high voltage), and CHAdeMO (low voltage) can work for DC charging. This could be the path for the Indian EV charging space to adopt until the country develops a complete set of standards.
Therefore, while the standard for AC charging seems to be in place for the Indian EV industry, it still has to choose and develop a standard with regards to DC charging. The standard for DC charging could be a customised adoption of an existing global standard, or one that could be built up from scratch specifically suited for the local EV requirements. More importantly, once a set of standards have been developed, it is imperative that these charging standards are mandated by the regulatory bodies and applied in the industry.
There has been tremendous growth with regards to the level of development work that has been carried out on the vehicle electrification front in India. However, the area of charging and related infrastructure hasn’t witnessed the same level of development or interest. This scenario is changing but the rate of innovation and standardisation for EV charging needs to be multi-fold, in order to catch up with EV developments.
Further, the extensive EV push by the government, and regulatory requirements for cleaner modes of transportation all indicate that charging infrastructure and the related ecosystem require higher levels of collaborations and innovations to meet the required adoption levels of EVs in the market. A big positive is that there are specific suppliers focussing on charging infrastructure and related systems, who are already conforming to global standards, which will eventually make it easier for them to adhere to any set standards.
(With inputs from PowerSquare, KPIT, Delta Electronics)
TEXT: Naveen Arul