Image courtesy — Wikipedia
Vikram Kulkarni
Jun 12, 2017 · 4 min read

Indian automobile sector got a surprise, when minister for Energy Mr. Piyush Goyal announced the plan to get all vehicles on Indian roads, to be electric powered, by 2030. Indeed an ambitious goal, and given the significant oil share in Indian imports, it is a step towards greater good.

Realistically, electric vehicle is not a new concept here in India. I have seen “REVA”, small electric car, on the streets on Bengaluru, during my postgrad (2007–09), eventually electric two wheeler from various manufacturers is common sight in metros.

I earlier summarized my thoughts in the form of Tweet-thread here

and many more tweets to follow

Later I thought of compiling my observations in single medium post.


Issues

Electric vehicles in general has these main issues,

  1. Range — is limiting factor for any vehicle. For petroleum powered vehicles, India have well penetrated network of fuel stations. Electric cars are so far limited to city hoping only.
  2. Lack of charging infrastructure — Unlike petroleum vehicles, Electric vehicles do not enjoy the support of Charging station networks, eventually limiting the operating range of vehicle.
  3. Different specifications & requirements — As many standards (in case of two & three wheeler vehicles) existing, it further complicates the availability of charging station.
  4. Time for charging — Electric vehicles operate on Battery. Recharging time for batteries, had definitely improved over last few years, still it is many-fold compared to refueling in petrol stations, which can be maximum 10–15 minutes, including waiting time.
  5. Availability of Vehicles — Not many models of completely electric vehicles are available. Hybrid models are often in mid-premium to premium segment. Price is also limiting factor in vehicle adaption, given the limited range. According to Bloomberg article, India will need more than 5 times of global EV production, to achieve 2030 target, estimated to be 10 million.
  6. Battery has a limited life. It cannot be considered like Gas Cylinders to be used at 100% efficiency every time. Efficiency reduces over the charging cycles.

Core Problem

Core problem here is fragmentation. Every manufacturer has own standards of batteries, and other engineering components. In the six popular two-wheeler model, hardly any model shares specifications with other. Also, companies are so far interested in selling the vehicles, rather building charging network for it.

New name on-board Ather Energy, got the problem right, and focusing on building a charging network collaborating with cafes & restaurants. But it is in very early stage, and first vehicle is yet to commercially roll-out in the market.

NTPC also announced Electric Chargers in Delhi NCR, with plan to rollout throughout India, a welcome step.

Solution & Way Ahead

Given the time for battery charging makes electric vehicle unsuitable for quick refuel and move type of application, only viable option could be replaceable batteries, and charging booths, where batteries can be replaced. To achieve this, common battery standards are necessary, as one booth cannot really handle multiple battery types. Charging booths could be accommodated in existing fuel stations, also on the lines of STD booths, we have seen popularly during early 2000. There could be prepaid card/card swiping machines, for battery replacement. As a promotion, it could be subsidized as well.

Solar panels (image courtesy — Wikipedia)

Battery Charging Booths can be operating on renewal energy options, as most of India is blessed with sufficient sunshine & wind. Solar panel sets to charge Battery, will be further boost to Renewable Energy push as well as #MakeInIndia, also reducing load on “yet to be Surplus” electricity grid.

Building EV-Friendly highways, like electrified rail-tracks, with guaranteed availability of charging station every minimum threshold (one per 2–5 kms), with toll-waiver for electric vehicles, and if necessary pickup-vehicles to arrange for battery in case a car runs out of battery in between.

Smart Charging Map, to mark nearest battery replacement booth, and charging status of batteries available there, in real-time, could further help accelerating adoption of Electric vehicles.

Batteries have limited life and there is need for R&D, to create more charging cycle battery, and its safe disposal, without polluting environment, and keeping cost in check.

Priorities for the getting traction of electric vehicles could be as follows

  1. Like I suggested above, Common Replaceable Battery Standard for electric vehicles to be sold in India.
  2. EV Charging infrastructure as unified as petrol stations. Network of Battery charging stations and a map application to navigate and know the status of battery charging.
  3. Solar powered charging booths, can help reducing stress on Electricity grid. This also can boost solar panel manufacturing making panels affordable for other installations as well.
  4. Smart Map for Charging Stations to know the distance, and current status of Battery charging.
  5. Cost of Electric Vehicles is still considerably high. Mahindra E2O, one of the (rarely) available completely electric vehicle, costs more than 7,00,000 Rs. which is unjustifiable given the size and range of the car.
  6. More focus on R&D based on standardized infrastructure to avoid further fragmentation in the Electric vehicle market, could help realizing the planning for 2030.
  7. Safe Battery disposal mechanism, at the end of usable battery life, to keep pollution in control.

Let me know the views, suggestions and I will be happy to update it here, with due credit.

Vikram Kulkarni

Written by

Entrepreneur, Photographer, Blogger, WordPress, Cloud, IoT, Agriculture & Renewable Energy.

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