The central government is preparing to roll out a “grand challenge” for developing electric vehicle charging systems for India as it looks to intensify the promotion of such vehicles in the country.
“Proposals are invited from industry, academia groups or consortia to design, develop, prototype and validate an Electric Vehicle Charging System for India,” said a draft document that CNBC-TV18 has exclusively reviewed.
The Department of Science and Technology is expected to fund 50 percent of the project cost.
The Narendra Modi government has set a goal to ensure all new vehicles sold in the country are electric by 2030. But as it has happened with several countries, the biggest impediment to pushing electric vehicles on the roads is costly charging systems. Batteries on which these vehicles run are imported carry high costs, which makes the vehicles expensive.
Globally, electronic vehicle (EV) charging systems follow standards laid down by the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC, of which India is also a member. European carmakers use the Combined Charging System, or CCS, while their Japanese counterparts prefer the CHAdeMO technology both of which are approved by IEC.
In India, carmakers have generally opposed the idea of India having its own charging system as that would mean that companies would have to come up with India specific modifications for electric cars. Sources say their fears are unfounded as the charging protocol finalised by Bureau of Indian standards would allow the use of CCS, CHAdeMO even after the Indian charging system is rolled out.
Senior officials closely involved with this exercise say the rationale behind this grand challenge is to have a system more suited to Indian requirements. As per the bid document, “There are specific use cases in India for EV that are different from advanced countries, hence the IEC defined international charging standards are not able to meet all requirements. Small EVs currently being produced in India do not fall in the scope of IEC standard yet. Large number of urban EV buses expected to be deployed will also need specific solutions”.
The draft proposal emphasised that the Indian automobile market has a distinct character. “Up to 75 percent of it comprises two and three wheelers and in the passenger car segment, small cars comprise 75 percent of the sales and therefore we would eventually need an India specific charger,” it said.
The ultimate objective of the exercise is to reduce costs of charging EVs and make them more attractive to the customer. “We hope that if the cost of the Indian charging system is low then that would force other companies using CCS and CHAdEMO to reduce costs as well,” said a government official involved with the exercise.
This official emphasised that the government is not urging the industry to develop a standard different from that of the IEC. “We are making our preference clear, we want to remain in and be faithful to the IEC but at the same time the charging devices should be manufactured in India and the assembly would be Indian,” he said. He also did not want to be named.
Open to Foreign Companies Too
Even foreign carmakers can participate in the process, according to officials familiar with the matter. Applications have to be from a group that would comprise vehicle manufacturers, component makers, connector makers, testing agencies and academia, they said.
The Ministry of Science and Technology would also appoint a project manager to oversee the entire program. Earlier this year, the government said it will give incentives to battery makers of electric vehicles to set up more manufacturing units in India.
However, industry sources were skeptical about the overall objective. A senior executive who has been consulted by the government said laying down an Indian standard through a grand challenge is a good idea, but there needs to be a bigger focus on reducing costs.An indigenous charging device would lower costs only if electric vehicles are sold on a mass scale, said experts. But the problem is that the sector is in nascent stages in India.