EV Charging Infrastructure in India | Challenges and Opportunities

While there have been huge strides taken in India to drive the adoption of electric vehicles, all this will come to naught if something is not done to improve the additional support infrastructure needed.

August 17, 2021 6:16 PM
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The strides that India has taken when it comes to shifting the world’s fourth-largest automobile market to an electric vehicle is laudable. The FAME II policy, aimed at promoting faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles in India, is visionary and has led to a phenomenal start to the shift towards a more environmentally friendly automobile market. But there are still some tweaks needed if we are to move forward and keep the momentum going.

With the FAME II policy, India laid out its aim to become the electric vehicle hub of the world, by the year 2030. Thus far, the policy has worked as a phenomenal catalyst when it comes to inviting young players with the entrepreneurial spirit to build cleaner and sustainable mobility solutions towards a better tomorrow. In last year’s Union Budget, the Government announced even game-changing incentives to drive people to purchase electric cars, especially first-time car buyers.

The demand for electric vehicles is increasing every day. As many as 236,802 electric cars and 25,735 electric two-wheelers were sold in FY21 as per the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV). However, this surge in electric vehicles sales requires a proportional boost in the EV charging infrastructure as well.

India has adequate infrastructure for Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles with as many as 70,000 fuel stations across the country. This gives drivers the confidence to travel anywhere without the fear of being stranded. However, electric vehicles, ‘fuel’ comes from the charge left in the battery.

Current estimates suggest that 80% of the charging occurs at personal spaces like vehicle owner’s residence and in some instances, the workplace. The lack of publically available charging stations comes with what is referred to as range anxiety. There is no surety that a driver can top up in case the charge is running low.

The car needs more time to charge. A two-wheeler has a battery capacity of 2-3 Kwatt per hour while four-wheelers battery sizes can go up to 45 kw per hour The designated L1 chargers used at home, comes with a 5-15 ampere and 240 Volt power supply which takes around 9+hours to charge for an electric vehicle.. The billing of the charging is based on the home-metering system at least until there is a policy to bill differently for electric vehicles at home. The other more evolved technology is the L2 chargers, which take about 7-8 hours to completely charge the vehicle.

The other challenge is the unification and standardization of adaptors and electric chargers in India. The Department of Heavy Industries in 2017 published the Bharat Standards of EV Charging standardizing the charging protocols and inter-facilitate chargers and EVs by different OEMs. These standards cater to electric vehicles with a battery voltage of 100 volts and less namely; AC-001 & DC-001.

Today the Indian EV manufacturers are following the DC-001 protocol for their vehicles as per the charging guidelines issued by the Ministry of Power in the year 2018. In the past couple of years, the Indian government and many private players have installed Bharat DC-001 standard EV charging stations across the country expecting the carmakers to follow the same protocol. DC-001 chargers are designed to be low-cost, eco-friendly, and for entry-level powertrain-based vehicles. In Delhi alone, more than 300 DC-001 charging stations have been installed.

However, foreign electric vehicle manufacturers are following global standards like CCS and CHAdeMO. There has been a debate around DC 001 chargers that they might become redundant in the near future. This is false. As future electric vehicles cars will adhere to high voltage power trains, intra-city public transport and advanced two-wheelers can make good use of DC-001 chargers.

The other thing to keep in mind is the additional load on the power grid and DISCOMS which will come through the charging stations once electric vehicles become more accessible economically. EVs present numerous opportunities along with challenges in their interface with the power grid, which is part of Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI).

VGI refers to the many ways in which a vehicle can provide benefits or services to the grid, society, the EV driver, or charge point operator by optimizing plug-in electric vehicle interaction with the electrical grid. Though, the load on DISCOMS and power grids is going to mount. It will also create opportunities for DISCOMS to earn more revenue. DISCOMS’s primary function is to provide a stable supply of electricity to end-users. The stability can be compromised if at the peak time several EVs are connected to the same power grid for charging resulting in grid-overload.

While there have been huge strides taken in India to drive the adoption of electric vehicles, all this will come to naught if something is not done to improve the additional support infrastructure needed. With the infrastructure comes the confidence and the aspiration to own and operate the vehicle of the future.

Author: Nimish Trivedi, Co-Founder, Prakriti e-Mobility Pvt Ltd

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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