India’s journey toward electrification began nearly two decades ago with the introduction of the micro car. But, in recent years, the Electric Vehicle (EV) architecture in India has completely transformed. New EV models are being introduced in the market with OEMs projecting ambitious plans.
When one discusses and talks about electric vehicles, one strangely limits themselves to the vehicle powertrain and battery capacity. These are unquestionably essential to the EV’s operation. However, EVs represent a complete shift in vehicle architecture from traditional cars. This means that in addition to the engine’s transformation, the roles of components within the vehicle will also be scaled up, modified for compatibility, or become obsolete.
Vehicle architecture has evolved over the years, a car that was considered only a mode of transportation earlier has now become a personal space for its passengers. Though battery and motor are essential components of a vehicle, but an EV is more than just the battery and motor. However, an electric vehicle is a vehicle architecture transformation. Cars have become connected in addition to being electric.
The introduction of connected technologies along with the internet adds a whole new dimension to the transformation. The old boring interiors have been replaced with the latest touchscreens and heated seats. With the introduction of new and refined braking systems, the traditional and old braking system is being replaced. The new sound system which offers a natural sound experience for the passengers has overtaken the old stereo systems in cars.
Human Machine Interface is another technology that is being incorporated into vehicles which further helps in personalising the vehicle. These technologies serve many functions and can make vehicles safer, communicate critical information about energy consumption and battery optimisation, and provide other important vehicle details to drivers.
However, when discussing an electric vehicle, energy conservation becomes critical. All these futuristic technologies in a car, including heated seats, lighting, an audio system, temperature control, and numerous electronic control units, add to the energy burden. Every component of the vehicle that requires power must be energy efficient.
But, with High-Performance Computers (HPC), this issue can be resolved. HPC can solve complex problems by combining functionality into a single unit, reducing reliance on other electronic control units, sensors, actuators, and so on. Thus, energy mapping and seamless communication improve EV’s efficiency, allowing it to travel longer distances with fewer interruptions.
All these technologies are aided by connectivity which also opens the door for predictive maintenance which helps in preventing any future breakdowns. Continental is also working towards developing many technologies that will complement EVs. Continental is working on over-the-air update solutions that can update the entire vehicle, from the powertrain to the infotainment systems.
Continental’s acquisition of Argus Cyber Security, back in November 2017, ensures secure data channels for in-car and inter-platform connectivity through its devices. Continental recently collaborated with Volkswagen and supplied key automotive components in their latest EV launch, ID. 3 and ID. 4 which offer long ranges, plenty of space, dynamic handling, and next-level digital connectivity.
Continental conducted a Mobility Study in 2020 to understand the views of the customers regarding electric vehicles, majorly targeting the developed countries. Charging stations is primarily an issue in metropolitan areas, especially in larger cities, the proportion of car owners who could potentially charge an electric car in their normal parking spot is significantly lower than in rural areas. In larger cities, a lack of charging stations is more frequently cited as a reason to not buy an electric car in the near future. Similar issues are also faced by developing economies like India.
Poor infrastructure is one of the most pressing concerns among those considering buying electric vehicles. Poor infrastructure includes not only a lack of charging stations but also a lack of proper charging setup in their home. Charging a heavier electric car could be a major issue for any electric car owner if there is no proper setup nearby.
Another challenge that people may face in terms of buying an electric vehicle is the range that is offered by EVs. This problem comes with the lack of charging infrastructure. Especially in a country like India with diverse terrains, the energy consumed is higher. As the demand for EVs is increasing,
Indian architecture is improving and evolving but it is a process by itself. Indians in the metro cities generally spend most of their time being stuck in traffic which increases energy consumption and as a result, offers a lesser range.
To counter the issue of charging stations and battery charging, battery swapping can be implemented. Battery swapping is an option that involves exchanging discharged batteries for charged ones, allowing one to charge them separately. This disconnects charging and battery usage and keeps the vehicle operational with minimal downtime. But, this also comes with its set of challenges.
The initial investment in establishing a Battery Swapping station is relatively high. This would include costly electronics and machinery to support the swapping infrastructure, as well as an additional battery buffer. Manufacturers believe that having a unique battery design will give them a competitive advantage in this market. But to counter this problem, battery standardisation is critical for interoperability if battery swapping is to become the norm.
Lack of standardisation is another such issue that is currently hampering the adoption of EVs in India. To be unique, the manufacturers are coming up with vehicles that have different charging ports which also has a direct impact on the charging infrastructure.
Despite all these challenges, the demand for EVs in India has surged in the last five years. The EV ecosystem enables one to explore previously unimaginable possibilities. The vehicle’s architecture is transforming, becoming automated, and is incorporated with previously unimaginable features. There are limitless possibilities for electric vehicles beyond batteries and powertrains.
The Author is Prashanth Doreswamy, President and CEO, Continental India.
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