India’s transport demand has grown by almost 8 times since 1980 – more than any other Asian economy. Today, our transportation sector accounts for 18 percent of commercial energy consumption and is highly dependent on oil imports.
India imported 80 percent of its oil at a cost of Rs 4.2 lakh crore in 2015. A study released by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) said India could save on crude oil imports worth over Rs one trillion annually if electric vehicles (EV) were to garner a 30 percent share of India’s new vehicle sales by 2030.
This presents an excellent opportunity for EV brands to offer customers relevant and exciting mobility options. This becomes all the more important with rising fuel costs and climate concerns impacting petrol and diesel vehicles.
Not only does the EV segment offer a personalized, more economical, and safe mode of travel, it also ties in well with the country’s agenda of moving to 100 percent electric cars adoption by 2030.
In this context, the need of the hour is to have supportive regulatory policies and well-established infrastructure for the EV segment.
Establishing regulations and infrastructure
Both the central and local Governments have come out with various initiatives to help the sector. To name a few: National Urban Transport Policy, the Auto Fuel and Vision Policy & the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020.
For example, Delhi has announced a plan of switching the existing fleet with EVs in the next 6 months. Additionally, it is establishing 100 vehicle battery charging points across the national capital.
The government in Andhra Pradesh is focusing on supporting research organisations, incubators, and start-ups working on next-generation battery technology, fuel cell technologies, EV powered trains and electronics. They are enabling investment in charging/battery-swapping infrastructure, hydrogen generation, and fuelling station development, among other things.
While there is progress in the right direction, large-scale adoption is still some time away. Plus, the path is paved with quite a few roadblocks.
A major challenge is the lack of appropriate infrastructure in the form of public charging points. These charging points are likely to become a critical resource and their availability and reliability will drive EV sales.
A top concern related to EV adoption is, EVs are expected to be priced higher than conventional counterparts. Majorly because of the higher cost of manufacturing, government policies, and charging infrastructure.
Further, the charging infrastructure is currently limited and will need to be ramped up for EV sales to show traction. Understanding the importance of these stations, the Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) of India approved 2,636 electric vehicle charging stations in 62 cities to promote e-mobility in January 2020.
Further, the EVs also need to attract customer eyeballs and availability, or lack of desirable vehicle size or style will impact the consumer’s buying behaviour over time. But looks are not all; factors like the reliability of the vehicle, after-sales service, ability to navigate various terrains, and ongoing maintenance and operative costs will all play a role in mainstream adoption.
IoT can pave the way forward for accelerated adoption
With the number of EV’s rising, local grids will be affected. All vehicles cannot be charged simultaneously with high power or the capacity of local grids can overload. Charging during low demand periods is much more grid-friendly.
However, this is not the only scenario. We’re moving towards a market where the price of electricity varies hourly. Electric vehicles are a key component in providing stability to the grid, not destabilizing it.
Without managed charging, the costs of providing the power needed to charge rising numbers of EVs could grow dramatically. If the vehicles are charged during times of system peak, the overall peak could even increase twofold.
This is where smart charging comes in. Decision-makers at the national, and local levels are only starting to recognize the importance of smart charging infrastructure. Smart charging is a key element for the environmentally beneficial and cost-efficient integration of electric vehicles into the grid.
Smart charging connects an electric vehicle to a charging device through a data connection. And the charging device to a charging operator through another data connection. It aims to enable power measuring in real-time and adjusting the power without stopping the charging event.
Cost-effective EV grid integration requires holistic planning and the use of advanced and connected technologies. By taking into account power system and user needs, charging infrastructure can be strategically sited to increase the utilization rates of existing power system infrastructure. And to ensure the location is also convenient for meeting EV drivers’ charging and driving patterns.
As of today, electrical vehicles require a charging station similar to current fuel car require a petrol pump. However, unlike the fuelling of a car with petrol/diesel, an EV takes some time to get fully charged to be back on the road, so it is better to charge the car when it is parked.
While most charging can be expected to happen at home or at work, research and industry broadly agree that a small but significant share of (fast- charging with more than 22 kW) charging will occur at publicly accessible sites, depending on the uptake of electric fleets, fleet use and mobility-as-a-service schemes.
Monitoring users’ driving and charging behaviour using the Internet of Things (IoT) will help identify the density of charging equipment required to help consumers drive their vehicle while avoiding stranded investments from underutilized charging infrastructure.
India is at an inflection point in the development of its mobility system. As one of the most populous countries in the world, India has an opportunity to redefine personal mobility.
The real growth in the EV market in the country would be witnessed only with a smooth and seamless smart technology-backed charging infrastructure. We can set an example for other nations by making it 100 percent green and sustainable and build an infrastructure network that solves for all types of connectivity - urban-to-urban, urban-to-rural and rural-to-rural.
—Dr Rishi Bhatnagar is President of Aeris Communications. Views expressed are personal.
(Edited by : Yashi Gupta)