Is lab-certified range enough to build consumer confidence in Electric Vehicles?

A classic example of expectation versus reality was when Nissan Leaf was sued for a design effect which caused their EV batteries to prematurely lose battery life, and thus impact drive range.

Updated: May 14, 2021 10:34 AM

Mileage or fuel efficiency denotes the average distance covered by an ICE vehicle per litre of fuel. Among Indian buyers, “kitana mileage deti hai?” is one of the important considerations while buying any vehicle. When it comes to electric vehicles, the distance covered in a single charge becomes its mileage or range. Recently, the Delhi government delisted the electric version of the Tata Nexon from its subsidy scheme as concerns were raised on its promised range vis-à-vis actual range on the road.

While it may not be fair to compare both categories of vehicles under the same lens as the stage of development and value propositions are poles apart, the issue has stirred a debate on lab-certified versus real-life experience in the context of EV range.

Both EVs and ICEs undergo homologation or lab tests to determine their performance and range specifications. However, the results shared by the lab are always different from that experienced in real-time driving conditions as the tests are conducted in a controlled environment or in other words ‘ideal’ conditions.

Saurav Kumar, CEO & Founder, Euler Motors

Interestingly, the acceptance of disparity between promised mileage and true mileage is higher in ICE vehicles. While companies use promised mileage to their advantage in showcasing their products as more fuel-efficient, customers are aware and understand the differences, and therefore choose the most attractive option amongst many. Further, refuelling is not a practical challenge for these vehicles.

Electric vehicles are tested for their range via MIDC (Modified Indian Driving Cycle) mode. Like mileage tests, these are done under prerequisite weather conditions on flat gradients while the battery is fully charged, and no other electronics are in operation. Such an ideal environment helps the vehicle to deliver maximum range output. Like ICE vehicles, the actual range is lesser than the promised or certified range. However, EVs remain a fairly new technology that is surrounded by apprehensions related to its performance, availability of charging infrastructure and standardization.

In such a scenario, a startling difference in the range of vehicles can create doubts in consumers’ minds. Over the next 5-10 years with wider adoption and mass awareness on EVs, consumer acceptance to such disparities would also improve, like ICE.

A classic example of expectation versus reality was when Nissan Leaf was sued for a design effect which caused their EV batteries to prematurely lose battery life, and thus impact drive range. The suit enunciated that Nissan had misled its consumers regarding the battery and driving range. In the wake of such cases, the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) was implemented globally as a new standard practice to provide real life driving data and a better match for on road performance. This inconsistency on range is what EV OEMs need to address, not just in India but globally.

The OEMs in electric vehicle space need to address this perplexity around the range. One of the standard ways is to disclose both certified and actual range, to avoid a fate like Nexon’s. While certified range is ideal range, actual range is dependent on road performance.

Also read: Five reasons why electric cycles make a great mobility solution during a pandemic

Therefore, the overall testing conditions need to get tighter and more authentic. For instance, in case of three-wheeler light commercial electric vehicles, testing is conducted with 150Kg payload, while it is recommended to test vehicles at larger payloads such as 400-500kg across different topographies to determine actual range. Similarly, passenger cars should be tested while operating ACs or heaters and other electrical functions.

Further, battery packs in EVs degrade with time, and lose capacity to store energy. The range shared by OEMs is based on vehicle performance today, consumers should be made aware about battery degradation and impact on the range in the longer run. Even though these parameters will help in getting closer to promised range, external scenarios like traffic, driving patterns and behaviour and road conditions that can impact range. While tighter testing methods is the right approach, it also warrants creating the necessary charging and supportive infrastructure that helps EVs operate smoothly on roads.

EVs in India are at a nascent stage and mass awareness on this technology is still a milestone we need to achieve. It is imperative to provide a realistic picture when it comes to range and battery performance for an informed purchase decision. The industry should vouch for authentic road tests and standardization on specification to instil confidence in buying electric vehicles.

Author: Saurav Kumar, Founder and CEO, Euler Motors

Saurav is an innovator who is fascinated with technology and advancements that help make lives better. An alumnus of Delhi College of Engineering, Saurav co-founded Cube26 Software Pvt Ltd before Euler Motors.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.

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