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Best ways to establish EV charging infrastructure in India

Our electric vehicle charging infrastructure will require innovative solutions to be set up on highways and densely populated cities.

BHPian NG_EV recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Good public charging infrastructure is a necessity if the government wants to actually increase EV adoption and, change the perception of people that an EV may leave them stranded. Some car companies are introducing new EVs but many major companies have avoided launching their EVs in India citing low demand but low demand is due to the range anxiety among people. I do not feel that this is a chicken and egg situation where the car companies can cite non-availability of infrastructure as a reason to not launch an EV while the government can say that until demand is there charging infrastructure cannot be established. Easily accessible public charging on highways, malls, transit stations etc. is required if the government really wants to change the perception of the public towards EVs and reduce range anxiety. I felt this as my father is currently looking to buy a new car but I cannot suggest him an EV as there are not many options yet (budget is around 10L) and the availability of public charging is not good enough. Private companies and some government departments have started working in this direction but due to a lack of clear direction from the ministry itself (bio-fuel, no set time limit to phase out fossil fuel vehicles etc.), they are not able to do enough. I know I am not alone in this scenario as many of my friends are excited by EVs but lack of options and charging infrastructure lets them down.

If the government actually wants to build proper charging infrastructure in India, then decisions need to be taken regarding what kind of chargers need to be installed. With newer cars that are being launched internationally, the DC fast charging rate has gone up significantly. As time and technology progress, more and more of these cars will be launched even in the cheaper price segment and a 50 KW charger will not be enough. Our charging infrastructure needs to be ready and will require innovative solutions for our highways and densely populated cities. There are many options which many experts and companies have thought of but as we are building a new infrastructure which one would be best for us?

  1. Go all in and invest a lot of money to build a good charging network as Tesla has done. Remove old chargers and install new high capacity ones (150 KW or higher) and a few very high capacity ones (350 KW or higher) (like GAC Aion or ABB). This requires a lot of investment as higher capacity will require civil work, installation of sub-stations etc. But as the technology is evolving, who knows what will be enough in future, so there may be resistance as the amount of money involved in a project like this would be quite high.
  2. Install modular chargers like the company Osprey is doing in the UK using Kempower technology. They have modular chargers with scalability and have a variable output depending upon the types of vehicles being charged. For example, if there is a 300 KW charger and two cars come, one of which can take 50 KW and the other can take 250 KW. A fixed output charger will give the 2nd car only 150 KW (if evenly split) but a variable output charger can adjust the output from itself to allow increased output where required. Currently, the scalability is up to 480 KW for their car chargers so it makes this a good option.
  3. Add new infrastructure but instead of removing old ones, convert them to high capacity ones using a storage capacity system (E.ON + VW fast charger with storage capacity). This system has a storage battery and can convert existing 50 KW chargers to dual 150 KW chargers using a storage battery. The storage battery will charge using the 50 KW supply and when a car plugs in, it will be able to provide an actual fast charging experience for the cars that have the ability to use this. This does not require civil work and is a plug and play solution.
  4. For densely populated areas, chargers can be installed in lamp posts/street lights (London) or can go the battery swapping way as has been done by Neo.

I know EVs are all about charging at home/office/destination but until we have a sufficient and reliable charging network, there will always be the issue of range anxiety and an excuse for the manufactures to not launch EVs making the demand artificially low.

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Here's what BHPian Shresth_EV had to say on the matter:

Chargers on the tune of >50kW are only required on highways.

Inside the city, the focus should be on providing a ubiquitous experience:

  • Parking at a mall to shop at Big Bazaar? Charge.
  • Going to a vaccination centre? Charge.
  • Parking outside a relative’s house? Charge from a lamppost.

In all these cases, even a meagre 3kW charger is enough because you’d shop for at least an hour or so, which is enough for getting a 10% charge on Nexon EV for example.

The highway ones, though, need to be more future proof. Just because today’s EVs support 50kW, doesn’t mean that should be the upper limit. It won’t take even 5y to have 100kW charging support on EVs costing the same as today’s ZS and Kona and 50kW for Nexon pricing.

The ubiquity is important because it makes the point of “faster chargers” moot. (Inside city) because where the person is parking for longer periods where a “top-up” is alone enough.

Here's what BHPian gvarma9989 had to say on the matter:

We need 50KW+ inside city limits as well.

There should be a fallback mechanism in place.

I have a charger at home, Inside city limits, I rarely use a Super Charger.

Unplanned drives? I rely on a supercharger, even inside city limits.

A quick 5 minutes Super Charging session to juice up to 75 miles, gives me peace of mind.

One of the major selling points for a Tesla is the Super Charging network.

I wouldn't touch another EV unless they build a reliable charging network.

Future proof?

We need 350KW chargers both in city/highway limits.

Here's what BHPian Early_Adopter had to say on the matter:

There are quite a few challenges that require innovative solutions. For example, on a highway, it takes about 3 to 5 minutes for the petrol station to fill the tank of an ICE vehicle and they get a revenue of almost Rs. 2k-3k. Compare that with an EV which would occupy the parking slot for 30 to 60 min and the corresponding revenue would be around Rs. 300 - Rs. 500. The balance is unevenly tilted in favour of ICE vehicles as far as revenue generation potential is concerned.

The next issue is the existing petrol stations on highways cannot install high powered chargers due to safety regulations. So, even though we have many petrol stations dotting the highways, they cannot easily install high power chargers.

The commercial viability of a standalone EV charging station on highways is questionable at this point in time for a for-profit organisation, given the low numbers of EVs and then there are issues like land price (along the highways it is always higher), need for installing HV substation, power backup capability in case of power failure etc.

Even if we combine a highway restaurant or an entertainment spot and mandate them to install EV charging infra, they would possibly give the least importance to this activity - because of lower revenue/ROI potential.

My intention is not to paint a gloomy scenario. I am an EV owner and I would love to see everything I said above is proven wrong soon enough.

Here's what BHPian mohanphadnis had to say on the matter:

I have some counter-arguments.

How much out of the Rs 2k that the petrol pump dispenses does the petrol pump operator get? I think it is 1.2/litre of petrol and 1.8/litre of diesel, that means when you pump in 40-litres of petrol in 4 minutes, the pump gets Rs 45, so that comes to Rs 10/minute. Now let us take a case of 50 kW charger dispensing at what Tata power is charging (18/kWh). I believe the DISCOM gives the electricity at 6-8/kWh, so the margin is about Rs 10/kWh.

So that 50kW charger will dispense 20kWh in 30 minutes, and the person gets Rs 200 in 30 minutes. So about Rs 6 / minute.

What I am getting at is that for the operator the amount of money is not that much lesser, plus you get loiter time from the customer and may be able to upsell other services(food, drinks and entertainment). The economics are not so horrible for the provider of this service.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

 
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