Electric Mobility Ecosystem

Key issues and solutions in the EV charging space

The growth of green mobility is dependent largely on infrastructure development. As a market, India demands a unique strategy for building an electric mobility ecosystem, customised as per the needs of the Indian industry and consumers. The sector is multifaceted and demands a well-integrated system, with coordination among all key stakeholders. At present, the country is facing several challenges in achieving its targeted growth in the electric vehicle (EV) space. The key requirements for the growth of the industry are a robust charging infrastructure, automated swapping, effective monitoring and consistent software support. At a recent conference on “EV Charging Infrastructure in India”, organised by Renewable Watch, industry stakeholders discussed the current demand for EV charging infrastructure and management software platforms for charging infrastructure, as well as the best practices for rolling out an efficient charging network. Excerpts…

 

Sumit Ahuja

Electric mobility is at the centre of the green mobility pursuits in India. Today, the EV ecosystem in India faces numerous challenges. These primarily include the operation and management of the charging infrastructure, scarcity of EV charging points and battery swap stations, lack of smart charging with grid connectivity and poor accessibility for the end user. These limitations contribute to range and time anxiety among potential consumers, discouraging them from adopting EVs. The presence of multiple charging point operators (CPOs) also creates the need for interoperability in the sector.

Further, state policies require charging infrastructure to be connected to a utility backend, which is missing at present. There are also multiple key players across the e-mobility spectrum such as vehicle OEMs, charger OEMs, battery OEMs, CPOs, fleet operators and utilities. At present, there is no established system for collaboration between different players. Thus, transition to electric mobility requires a central system, connecting various stakeholders among disparate systems to provide interoperability in the system. A well-established load management system must also exist in the electricity grid to manage the exponential growth in EV charging and swapping load.

Charge point management solutions (CPMS) are at the forefront, driving the adoption of EVs. These solutions connect each one of the stakeholders in a streamlined manner. For charging infrastructure providers, they provide services such as asset management and servicing, pricing management, charging station management, integration of parking systems, corporate management, integration with fleet operators, data reporting and analytics. Meanwhile, for end users, they allow finding and viewing of live availability status, navigation to EV charging stations, reserving charging slots, customer feedback, digital payments, dissemination of charging transactions history and invoices, trip planning, premium subscriptions, remote charging and multilingual systems with extensive preferences.

Building a robust and sustainable CPMS would require continuous adaptation and upgradation as per rising demand and changing consumer preferences. The e-roaming facility is one such segment. The presence of multiple CPOs calls for the development of a common interface that gives consumers access to all charging stations. Managed charging can also be adopted, including local load management and grid load management, so that the grid is able to sustain the load of charging stations. It is a combination of charging infrastructure and communication signals sent directly to a vehicle or via a charger to control a charging transaction. Using communications signals, a utility or third party can reduce the rate of charge or curtail it entirely, such as during a high load event on the grid. Managed charging can thus improve grid economics by achieving higher utilisation rates and capacity factor of generation assets. It can also curtail emissions by aligning charging with surplus renewable generation. There is a need to focus on reducing grid stress, maintaining grid stability by minimising charging ramp rates and reducing the strain on distribution transformers. Reducing new peak generation due to EV charging during peak hours should also be encouraged.

As the sector progresses, the energy stored in batteries could be used to provide energy back to the grid and integrated with home energy systems to create a smart and integrated energy platform. At present, peer-to-peer charging is commercial but in the future, individuals may also set up personal chargers, which can be extended to other users. All ecosystem players must come together on a single tech platform and collaborate to provide a hassle-free experience to the ultimate consumer.

“Electric mobility is at the centre of the green mobility pursuits in India.” – Sumit Ahuja

 

Ravikiran Annaswamy

The perspective on the EV segment suggests that software could be the growth engine for EVs. The EV ecosystem is an intersection of multiple industries, such as automobile, software and IoT, utilities, oil and gas, fleets and transportation. The intersection further extends to government agencies and consumers. Due to the presence of multiple players with varying systems, the interface and data points differ for each player. The issues of connectivity, communication and integration are also pertinent. Therefore, for mass adoption of EVs, a synchronous software system and control mechanism must be established, which allows all key players to function in tandem with each other.

The functions of software in the EV ecosystem are manyfold. For charging infrastructure, software enables the identification of available charging points and updates  end consumers on the charging status. This function is essential in the early stages of EV adoption. The smooth delivery of information can build consumer confidence and reduce potential user anxiety in the beginning. Ultimately, consumers may become familiarised with the charging points in their vicinity. User experience can then be enhanced once the charging infrastructure is well established and well known to the public.

Software support is also essential to enable the digital user experience and aid self-service. Furthermore, back-end software is crucial to support the energy delivery mechanism. Fast chargers, which reduce the time taken to charge, and swappable batteries, which allow quick range extension, both depend on such backend systems. A cloud-based central management system can also be established to provide integrated service delivery. Once the EV network grows, it will be crucial to have a network management system in place along with a robust monitoring mechanism that ensures greater system security. Growth in the sector should also coincide with rapid advancement in software systems with continuous upgradation.

Software standardisation in is also crucial for enabling a smooth delivery mechanism. The adoption of standards will bring uniformity in service and interoperability among OEMs, software providers and hardware providers. At present, there is a lack of global standards in the EV segment. With the push for mass adoption of two- and three-wheelers in India, charging infrastructure will be made ubiquitous, increasing the importance of uniformity in connectivity standards and software. Battery swap operations, for instance, include multiple points of interface such as exchange of vehicle data, battery status and charging information. Thus, to provide a seamless customer experience, simplified access, a digital payment mechanism, and use of smart tags and other intelligent agents will be essential. Ensuring consistency in software delivery is necessary to maintain a smooth customer experience. At present, there is a tremendous opportunity for India to streamline connectivity and software standards to become a global leader in this space.

Driving the EV ecosystem in India will also give a big push to India’s renewable energy goals. Solar power can be used for charging batteries, and energy usage can be optimised using swap stations for energy storage. Vehicle-to-grid and  vehicle-to-home energy sharing mechanisms are also expected to take off as the sector expands. EVs will not only provide mobility, but will also cater to societal needs such as lighting and heating in the long run. Electric mobility may also have a positive impact on the reduction of urban pollution. Hence, building the right systems for scale in India and creating a well-connected EV ecosystem would go a long way in meeting India’s green mobility targets.

“For mass adoption of EVs, a synchronous software system and control mechanism must be established.” – Ravikiran Annaswamy

 

Varun Chaturvedi

There are three segments of our business offerings. The first one is commercial EV charging, which provides services to fleet operations, taxi operators and the public charging infrastructure. Second is the capex sale charging solution, a product that is sold to real estate groups and housing societies. It has a small capacity, but for the personal segment it is one of the best ways to charge at home and save money. Since customers can just pay the electricity tariff, they do not have to pay a charge point operator for extra service. The third one is the EV CMS (content management system) aggregator platform. There is a need to identify clients in these segments. For business-to-business (B2B), it is mostly the fleet segment or EV OEMs. They prefer hub or captive charging and have their own models with different expectations. The business-to-consumer (B2C) clients are public charging stations and chargers. The strategic locations for site selection are corporate offices, malls, hotels and public parking areas.

For a B2B operator, corporate premises are a strategic location. For the B2C segment, public charging stations are set up mainly on highways, and EV charging stations in malls, hotels, etc. Site selection plays a crucial role along with the segment being targeted. The selection of charging machines should be done carefully since it is not mandatory to set up fast charging stations everywhere. Most corporates are planning to construct charging stations with slow chargers as their working hours vary between six and eight hours, whereas on highways, consumers require fast chargers.

The EV tariff meter is one of the most important requirements to reach the final tariff. If we are using commercial connections, the end user tariff will always be higher. In that case, we have to go for new connections.. The next important parameter is safety barriers during selection and execution. Approval is not given for EV meters until the parameters are satisfied. Electrical parameters should not be compromised and measurements should be taken properly to avoid accidents.

Network and application connectivity are the backbone of charging operations as they help vehicle owners find the nearest charging point through an app. Volttic’s back office provides complete monitoring and control of all charging stations. Consumers can access it from anywhere, whether at homes or offices. The features of monitoring, billing, and tariff, among others, also help meet business needs.

“Network and application connectivity are the backbone of charging operations as they help vehicle owners find the nearest charging point.” – Varun Chaturvedi

 

Kartikey Hariyani

In the e-mobility space, charging infrastructure is the first thing that comes to mind, whether you are a consumer, rider, prospective customer, entrepreneur or an investor. Much has been talked about the EV charging infrastructure globally as well as in the Indian market. EV charging networks will become interconnected, evolve and gain traction just as the mobile telephonic revolution started 20 years ago.

In terms of EV charging, several questions are yet to be answered about the pace at which EV charging infrastructure will be created, as well as the best practices involved. There are various aspects to consider in the EV charging space, such as electricity supply and real estate issues, including location. Yet another aspect would be the technology involved in EV charging, which encompasses charging technology, protocols, adapters and connectors.

EV charging infrastructure is made up of four layers. The first layer is the power charging infrastructure, the second is EV chargers, the third is the technology that drives it and the cloud-based CMS, and the last would be the delivery process, which could be QR code based, app-based or OTP based. The first two layers are brick and mortar, while the other two layers are technology-driven and based on software. Putting up charging stations will be very similar to the solar rooftop experience for customers.

There are several challenges faced by large and small players in the EV charging space. Timelines for setting up charging stations will differ depending on the type of chargers. There will be certain lead times involved in the manufacturing of chargers. Currently, many EV charging players in our industry are closely working with OEMs to reduce these lead times. Since EV charging also involves a significant share of electronics, the global chip shortage being faced by the automobile industry has also affected the EV charging space. The EV charging industry is also facing very similar supply chain challenges as the Indian market is still dependent on the foreign market for certain components. Moving forward, if planned properly, lead times can be better addressed on a competitive level.

Certain states across India have started coming up with their own policies with different incentives, charging locations and types of chargers. While these policy initiatives are important, having a uniform central policy would have simplified things as compared to the diverse state-level policies. Although still at an early stage, the EV charging space is not nascent any more. There is interest in the EV charging market now, which will soon become scalable.

“While these policy initiatives are important, having a uniform central policy would have simplified things.” – Kartikey Hariyani

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