e-Mobility in India opens the pathway for decarbonisation of the transport sector and achieve its climate goals. Planning of charging infrastructure is critical to support the increasing electric vehicle (EV) fleets on Indian roads. EVs and their chargers are garnering substantial attention in the Indian R&D arena as well as the commercial sector. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is planning to extend Standards and Labelling to EVs and chargers and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), is in the process of developing charging standards. Furthermore, for e-mobility to gather pace on India’s roads, the EV charging infrastructure also needs to be focused upon.
Chandana Sasidharan, Senior Research Associate at Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), got into a conversation with Sajid Mubashir, Scientist G, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, to know more about the role of DST in e-mobility, EV charging standards in India, and standardising battery swapping in the electric mobility industry. Sajid Mubashir believes that it is the consumers’ right to know about charging stations and demand their provision in parking spaces across Indian cities.
Sajid Mubashir, Scientist G, Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India.
Sajid Mubashir (SM): Niti Aayog is driving the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage. Recently they launched a performance-linked incentive scheme and proposed an integrated program to facilitate Advance Chemistry Cells (ACC) and battery storage manufacturing in the country. Even the BIS has been working to create EV Charging standards, including those for Light Electric Vehicles (LEV), parking bay charge points, and battery swapping, where India has a chance to take a global leadership position. BEE’s S&L efforts are also encouraging as energy efficiency can act as an enforcing mechanism for EV adoption. It is an excellent tool that enables one to push and steer people towards EVs, which cannot happen in silos.
CS: The government wouldn’t encourage installation of the Bharat AC and DC chargers at each public charging point. I believe we both agree on this. Can you please elaborate upon the easily controllable EV AC chargers which DST is working on to develop?
SM: I agree. There is no use in installing the Bharat DC chargers because it cannot charge all types of electric vehicles. The Bharat AC 001 charger only addresses light EV and is not useful for cars. We coordinated the development of a simple EV AC charger which has all the required safety features, and is stripped of the additional equipment that are not really needed for scooter and autorickshaw charging.
The principle is to implement a “light” front-end and utilise a sophisticated “backend network” to deliver enhanced value to the consumers, in an immensely scalable model.
The device does not have many sophisticated communication features and instead, incorporates a Low Energy Bluetooth system that connects to a mobile device, and utilises the network capability of the mobile phone. A basic, reliable metering arrangement which will compute its power consumption and other basic protection features like the circuit breaker, residual current, etc. The Indian Standard will specify the functionality and permit manufacturers to implement in suitable ways in a small sized device that can be mounted anywhere – in shopfronts, roadside, parking lots etc. The aesthetics and usability features were showcased through a student design competition at the National Institute of Design
The cost of this charger is estimated to be less than Rs. 4000. This was not possible in the Bharat AC Charger 001 which cost approximately 10 times of this new charger. We are planning to work on a similar project to come up with an EV DC charger. We are also pushing the buy in for the car park charger. By slightly changing its name and calling it the ‘destination charger’, people seem to comprehend better.
CS: Why is charging an electric vehicle considered a challenge? Ideally, as electricity is available at most of the places it shouldn’t be a problem to facilitate charging anywhere in the Indian cities.
SM: The onboard charger of an EV is undersized because of low expectations. The vehicle companies perceive that the car won’t get powered anywhere, hence they provide a 3 kW charger. They might improve to 6 kW but the battery can be quite big in comparison, ranging from 30 kWh to 40 kWh. Therefore, it takes approximately 10 hours to charge because such is the capacity of the onboard charger. This goes for every class of EVs.
Secondly, the DC chargers are not being defined in a usable manner. A 50 kW DC charger cannot charge a two-wheeler. On the other hand, for an electric bus, it will prove to be a slow charger. If you place a DC charger outside, then it gets complicated because the battery needs to be monitored continuously. The solution is quite simple. If an appropriate charger is provided for each vehicle type, there won’t be any issue whether it is an AC or a DC charger.
In 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers, a single-phase power is required. In cities like Delhi, single phase power may give large amounts of power such as 25 kW, but that is an exception. Ideally, a single phase should be 7 kW, double phase 11 kW and the 3-phase connection 22 kW. An electric car requires a 3-phase connection, so one needs that provision in the garage. If 10-20 kW DC or AC power is provided, it leads to fast enough charging. If it is an AC, one needs to have a larger onboard charger.
One should also investigate or find a model to study how the 3-phase power can reach the car park. It should be provided by the utility company. Utility companies intend to provide total connection to a parking lot, which essentially means there have to be stations powered by a transformer but they won’t provide a metered connection. If they will not provide individual car parks with meters, there will be an extra set of loads to be tackled. To make things simpler, one can integrate the electricity meter with the EV AC charger. In this case, the charging point becomes a smart meter and using communication such as the Bluetooth feature, the charging can be controlled from anywhere.
CS: It makes sense to provide metering at every charging points because only then one can really measure the utilisation of electricity. It makes charging data more granular and useful for planning and managing charging.
SM: There should no longer be a problem with installing smart meters at each charging point because firstly, industry have already shifted to IPv6. Shifting to IPv6 means that there is no scarcity of IP addresses even if there are billions of data entries. Secondly, if you look at the policy guidelines of the Ministry of Power, it highlights upon employment generation, promotion of small businesses, preparing the distribution utilities to get into this business and about growing their charging network so that more EV companies get interested in the Indian sector.
In France, there is a policy called ‘Right to a Plug’. In other European countries like Norway, even households are encouraged to install a car charger outside their houses. Taking their example, even India should have the ‘Right to a Plug’. We can even put this under the purview of small entrepreneurs who ask the utility companies for a desired number of connections and then provide it as a service to the public. We are aiming to bring in the telecom companies also on-board. These concepts need to be explored further.
CS: From our interactions with the utility companies, we have gathered that there is enough transformer capacity at the distribution level in cities like New Delhi. If the time of charging can be controlled, there won’t be any issues. Their main concern is what if they have no control over it and it shoots overboard?
SM: DST has been trying to address this point as well. Smart charging in its extended capability is currently not being practised widely anywhere around the world, not even in Germany and Japan. When we have a DC charger, it is required to have substantial digital communication with the vehicle. Every communication equipment required for smart charging is already on board. But when the same vehicle parks at an AC point, the digital communication doesn’t work and it is considered just like a plug point. This is the reason the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) doesn’t have any definition for EV AC charger or AC charging standards.
For India, we want to extend the DC version and propagate how to put it in a parking lot, whether through standards or city guidelines. We are using the IEC guidelines and compiling a manual on charging standards specific to India. There needs to be this reference document which specifies what needs to be done in terms of putting together a contract or tender document for the charging stations, space required for each car park, the location of charging points in a parking lot, length of the charging cable, provisions for an underground parking space, and other technical specifications. The United Kingdom has these guidelines in place along with some cities in the US.
There is no need for one parking lot to communicate with another. Each parking lot can directly connect with the telecom company’s cloud database. Telecom companies are already working on this idea in the form of an IoT enabled sim which lets equipment talk to each other. There are standards developed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan (METI) in this aspect where it has potential to be developed into a business. The sim connects one machine to another. This feature can be incorporated in a smart meter and then we could rename it to ‘Intelligent meter’ or ‘EV meter’ to make it easier to understand for the public because smart meters are generally household meters. Telecom companies such as Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance, already have IoT divisions in place. They are envisioning that when the EV sector opens up further, they will be able to grab the opportunity of the smart meter business. Dialogues can be initiated with these telecom operators and it can be conveyed that since they have already set up IoT divisions, they can collaborate with us to set the parking lot systems in place.
To facilitate both AC and DC charging in a car park, we are planning to do away with a cable and provide a Type 2 reconfigured socket which will provide both. It can be used for all kinds of vehicles. To abide by Charge de Move (CHAdeMO) and Combined Charging System (CCS), they will be provided at the other end of the wire.
CS: The CHAdeMO and CCS authorities have initiated an argument regarding safety of these chargers? What are your thoughts?
SM: We are trying to make both ends of the wire safe. The socket can have the same lock as the inlet connector. Secondly, it’s not necessary to always pull the wire out. The idea is that across India, there will be one charging box with the same aesthetics and features. The same plug can also be made for two-wheelers. This unique plug can then be named ‘India plug’ and it can give a desired output in the form of an AC, DC or a combination of both.
There is a practical problem that no one is talking about. None of the charging stations in India today are going to support FAME vehicles. FAME is supporting two wheelers and we don’t have a charger for two or three wheelers, not even an AC charging point. The DC charger which has 50 kW power, doesn’t serve any of the FAME vehicles, not even the buses.
CS: At AEEE, we are very keen on working on the demand response and effective use of smart metering. Across the globe, there are interesting examples of smart meter installations that help in demand response. It’s a simple signal that goes from the smart meter that controls the load, negating the need for a battery. What are your thoughts?
SM: We need to retain electricity distribution companies as the primary enabler and beneficiary from EV charging. It’s not the vehicle company’s business to provide charging service. Electricity is available at most places, and the idea is that the electricity distribution network reaches out to enable charging the car parks of malls, office complexes, apartment buildings, etc, which is not happening currently. AEEE and DST can collectively talk to MoP and Niti Aayog regarding this issue.
CS: We interacted with the progressive utilities recently to understand their plans for the EV charging load. According to them, EVs adaption will take 5 years and their strategy is to bring in passive control mechanisms like time of use rates. Delhi Government feels that it is going to be a problem at residences and there is a need for at least a Start-Stop control for charging. Your thoughts?
SM: Think about enabling smart charging as a version of the smart meter that may not be the smart metering as we understand it now it. It might be a lower cost and capability version. However, something compatible with Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) would probably work best. A pilot project can be initiated by AEEE along with a relevant Department in the Ministry, to test and prove that this is possible.
CS: Could you please elaborate on Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) and why India needs them?
SM: LEVs is our ambition. Every year approx. 20 million scooters and motorbikes are targeted for the Indian market. The 5-year projection is that this number will grow 4-fold. If that’s the case, an entire AC/DC charging programme can run for 2-wheelers alone. The other advantage of 2-wheelers is that the battery can be removed and charged/swapped. The 2-wheeler battery could weigh up to 5 kg and for a 3-wheeler, it can go up to 15 kg. But, the issue is that if the battery is not well-designed, the 2-wheeler cannot cool it down. We need to find a good battery management system to address this problem. Once that is addressed, electric 2-wheelers will be a big success.
They can be charged anywhere and don’t really need a parking spot. So, we are looking at the possibility of devising a low-cost equipment to charge it anywhere. The booking model for the charging slot will be similar to booking an Ola and Uber. An economical front-end system with a robust backend system would be needed to be put into place. We are in talks with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and if they come on board, we will have good backend software support.
CS: What is the status of the Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) chargers that the students of NID were attempting to design?
SM: We are in the process of providing a grant so that 150 chargers could be put up in selected places. The prototyping will be done by three companies initially. In the coming two months, the prototypes should be tested and approved. We would prefer electric equipment manufacturers in India like, Havells, Anchor and similar companies to take it up for production instead of any conventional charger manufacturing companies. Once the BIS standards are in place, any company will be able to manufacture it. It’s a humble beginning, but if done right, it can shake the Indian EV market.
Compiled by Shruti Saraf, with inputs from Chandana Sasidharan and Nitin Kesar