Last month when Hyundai India launched its long-range electric car, the Kona, opinions were divided on whether its 39.2kWh battery pack really offers a 452-km range on a full charge (certified by the Automotive Research Association of India), even as the same car, in the European Union, has a certified driving range of 289-km.
Last year some government officials in Delhi refused to use electric cars made by Mahindra & Mahindra (eVerito) and Tata Motors (Tigor EV), citing low driving range. While both these cars have a claimed range of more than 100-km, an official reportedly said that both models failed to run even 80-km on a single charge within city limits (http://bit.ly/2T4MXhT).
So why is there such a large difference between the promised driving range and what users actually get, or, in the case of the Kona, what is claimed in India vis-à-vis what is certified in the EU?
One, range is a function of driving style and traffic conditions; in petrol and diesel cars as well, you don’t always get what is promised.
Two, in the case of the Kona, while the ARAI tested it on the MIDC (Modified Indian Driving Cycle) mode, or ‘ideal’ conditions, in the EU the car is tested on the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure, which mimics real-world driving.
One thing is certain, when you go ahead and buy that electric car, keep in mind that you might never get the range that is promised. In petrol or diesel cars, it doesn’t really matter because there are fuel pumps at every nook and corner. But with electric cars (and almost non-existent public charging infrastructure), it leads to a phenomenon called ‘range anxiety’—the term is now so popular that it’s included in the Oxford Dictionary.
Thankfully, there is a solution, and it’s rather simple: Tell the user in real-time the exact distance her car will travel. It’s being developed by MapmyIndia, the map data company.
Rohan Verma, CEO & executive director, MapmyIndia, says the solution, called the MSMP (MapmyIndia Smart Mobility Platform), or simply ‘battery-efficient navigation’, tells the driver in real-time how much distance her will car cover.
How does it work?
Battery-efficient navigation is displayed on maps that contain ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ information about the environment in which electric cars navigate. These maps, Verma says, understand static features such as road geometry, slopes, gradient and curvature, as well as dynamic features such as traffic. Based on these inputs, the maps tell the driver the most efficient way to reach from point A to point B. “With electric cars, maps will no longer be used just for navigation, but for helping users plan their journeys around charging stations and to ensure they get to their destination without the risk of getting stranded,” says Verma. The MSMP, Verma adds, is fully ready, and a major carmaker will employ these maps in its soon-to-be-launched electric car.
How does it look?
Globally, there are apps that calculate the range of your electric car, usually in the form of a circle on a map showing the approximate range. This range is based on the battery level. “Our solution, on the other hand, creates isochrone maps (these look somewhat like a spider’s web). It ‘reads’ the battery level, driving style, traffic congestion, gradient and weather conditions to tell the driver exactly how much distance the car will cover,” says Verma. And in case the destination is outside this isochrone map, the MSMP will show the route to the destination via the nearest available charging point.
The MSMP, most likely, will be displayed on a touchscreen on the dashboard of future electric cars.
Verma adds these maps are so dynamic that they change their display results depending on who is driving and where the car is being driven. “There are 7-8 parameters that affect the range of an electric car. We have built an AI model specific to a driver. Two drivers in the same car will have different maps. That’s what we are doing for many new electric cars that will be launched in India in the near future,” he says.
While MapmyIndia has a first-mover advantage, other map data companies might also enter this area as electric cars become popular. Verma says: “It’s time to understand that you just cannot have an ARAI-certified or urban driving cycle pan-India for electric cars. Users need to be communicated the exact range of their cars. The entire experience of using electric mobility should be much more convincing.”