The global automotive industry is at the cusp of a paradigm shift from internal combustion engine vehicles to zero emission vehicles, owing to the rising problem of depleting air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. India, too, is actively exploring cost-effective and viable solutions to resolve the problem of poor air quality, as well the increased dependence on oil imports.
“The country’s vision to electrify Indian roads is underpinned by environmental, economic and health-related aspects. Implementing an all-electric transport system will lower fossil fuel consumption and emission levels of harmful pollutants, thus reducing climate impact, decreasing India’s dependence on imported energy and improving public health,” shared Awadhesh Kumar Jha – Vice President, Charge & Drive & Sustainability, Fortum India, with The Blue Circle.
The Indian government’s aggressive push towards all electric has necessitated attention from all stakeholders – automakers, suppliers, dealers and utility players alike, and is a step in the right direction. But the shift is incomplete without the deployment of futuristic technologies that will deliver disruptive breakthroughs for an all-electric future.
Electric mobility is increasingly augmented and interconnected by technologies, and it is this aspect that is likely to drive new customer relationships and service opportunities. No wonder, there is rising interest amongst new players from multiple sectors who are looking to enter the EV value chain and make a difference in segments such as charging infrastructure, battery technology, urban mobility and telematics, among others.
The biggest dampener for those interested in buying EVs is the range anxiety, and more than that, it is the time taken to refuel the electric car’s battery, which is far longer than what is experienced with an ICE vehicle. The Indian government envisions building a network of fast and slow charging infrastructure throughout the country, and at least one charging station every 25 km on both sides of the country’s highways and roads.
Private automotive companies are also stepping up their game. In 2019, MG Motor set up its first EV fast-charging station at Gurugram. The launch of the station came just a few weeks ahead of the planned launch of the company’s first EV in India — the MG ZS.
The company also has a partnership with Delta Electronics for installing charging points at its showrooms and workshops, as well as private vehicle parking locations such as homes and offices.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), an arm of Indian automotive giant Tata Motors, inked a deal with utility giant Tata Power for setting up and providing EV charging solutions at 27 outlets of JLR and at its customers’ residences in India. There’s also Fortum that is looking to expand its horizon by building an extensive network of charging points for EVs.
Similarly, Volttic provides all types of AC & DC EV charging stations for private and public charging. The company also offers a public charging app replete with advanced features, including information about the closest charging stations, as well as payment and transaction details, for EV drivers.
According to Surendra Pratap Singh, Co-founder, Volttic EV Charging Solutions, the need of the hour is to make customers aware of the new technology.
“If they do not know about the benefits, they will be unable to move forward. In our country, people are focusing on the price, that’s it. The idea is to make them aware of benefits – if the volumes will increase, the demand will rise, and the upfront cost will decrease. We have to tell them how beneficial it is. For EV charging, batteries will play a dominant role. Once battery manufacturing begins in our country, then the cost will also reduce. In parallel, charging infrastructure companies like us are developing awareness and the infrastructure at our own level. Within the next 3-4 years, the whole ecosystem will be completed,” he shared with The Blue Circle.
While users may be receptive to switching to EV, they may not want to face the hurdles in refueling. While CNG vehicles take about 10-20 minutes to refuel, EV charging takes about 10 times this duration. This is where battery swapping plays an important role. Not only will it cut down the unnecessary waiting time, it will also help with better land use, reduce the size of batteries in vehicles, and ensure an increased run time.
Cab aggregator and shared mobility giant Ola’s policy research and social innovation unit — Ola Mobility Institute (OMI) has strongly pitched for promoting battery swapping technology to realise the country’s electric vehicle goals, especially for 2-wheeler and 3-wheeler segments.
A leader in diverse and innovative technology solutions, Panasonic recently launched Nymbus – a smart EV charging service in India.
“As charging infrastructure continues to remain a challenge, I firmly believe battery swapping technology presents a leapfrogging opportunity that could catalyse the uptake of electric vehicles in India. Nymbus is a futuristic and potent solution that combines physical components like charging stations, swap stations and advanced tools like cloud service, analytics, and artificial intelligence, delivering one stop solution for the industry,” shared Atul Arya, Head – Energy System Division, Panasonic India, with TBC.
According to research, battery swapping is dependent on predicting, managing and extending the battery life. It is the battery life that determines the commercial viability and success of a model.
“The Indian EV sector is currently a two-wheeler and a three-wheeler market, and one of the major technologies that is going to be really important is battery swapping. It is very critical and will help reduce range anxiety. We are working towards that as an OEM. Strom has identified this area and we are the only passenger vehicle segment that supports battery swapping. Everywhere else in the world, batteries are so big that they are buried in the base of the car, while our batteries are in the front. So you just open the bonnet and swap batteries in 5 minutes,” told Pratik Gupta, Founder – Strom Motors, to TBC.
Smart Vehicles and Apps Steering EV Mobility
There are several smart vehicles available in the market today that are making EV mobility more cost-effective and convenient.
Founded in 2017, EV startup Zypp has launched an e-scooter sharing app that provides last-mile connectivity to both B2B and B2C customers. The electric scooter is Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled and can be tracked anytime and anywhere in its journey. The app also allows the user to monitor the battery life, and lock and unlock the scooter.
The company has tied-up with a few OEMs for supply of electric scooters. Its consumers in the B2C segment stand at around 300,000 apart from 25-30 B2B clients.
Likewise, Strom Motors has an app that utilises a Machine Learning algorithm to predict the driving range.
“Extended use of data is another trend, and it will help in tracking your vehicle, traffic and road conditions. Although it was there earlier, it is going to accelerate further. This helps especially if your EV gets stuck on the road, and is out of charge. With ICE vehicles, you can find a petrol pump around if that happens, with EV this is a critical point,” added Pratik.
Batt:RE also has a smart e-scooter, gps:ie, launched in May 2020, which uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect with a smartphone app to store all vehicle-related data. Using the app, a customer can locate the nearest charging station, and also predict maintenance-related requirements. This SIM-card based internet-connected scooter offers the rider greater convenience, comfort, and confidence at reasonable cost.
Future is Bright
India is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, and with rapid urbanisation and growing per capita incomes, the demand for clean mobility is likely to be accelerated. This is especially in the wake of Covid-19 when people have tasted enhanced air quality and a clean environment.
Technology adoption has kickstarted in a huge way. We now have to wait and watch how all the stakeholders come together and increase the adoption of technology to establish a smooth, effective infrastructure for the future, and lay the groundwork for a truly smart country.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)