By Sarthak Takyar
The Indian electric vehicle (EV) sector seems to have a stronger foothold now, given that a majority of states have released their EV policies, providing considerable incentives, and the central government is releasing supportive policies as well in this space. EV charging infrastructure is an important part of the sector. This infrastructure is being strengthened with supportive policies, technology advancements and initiatives by private and public companies. Renewable Watch provides a brief overview of the sector…
Draft battery swapping policy
During the Union Budget 2022-23, the government announced its intent to launch a battery swapping policy. Subsequently, NITI Aayog drafted a battery swapping policy on April 20, 2022. As per the policy, battery swapping would fall under the battery-as-a-service model, wherein customers can pay a regular subscription fee at fixed intervals to service providers for battery services throughout the vehicle lifetime. Only batteries using advanced chemistry cells, with performance equivalent or superior to EV batteries supported under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric vehicles (FAME)-II scheme, would be considered under the policy. The policy also seeks to provide incentives for greater adoption of swappable batteries in EVs. It has recommended that the GST Council should consider reducing the differential across the tax rates on lithium-ion batteries and EV supply equipment. The incentives available to EVs that come pre-equipped with fixed batteries will also be available to EVs with swappable batteries. The state governments are also required to ensure that public battery charging stations are eligible for EV power connections with concessional tariffs. Such stations have been proposed to be brought under existing or future time-of-day tariff regimes, to allow swappable batteries to be charged during off-peak periods when electricity tariffs are low.
As data sharing will play a crucial role in ensuring interoperability, major battery providers will be encouraged to sign data-sharing agreements to provide information on battery health and performance, and to enable more flexibility for consumers through peer-to-peer roaming networks. Furthermore, to ensure seamless and streamlined tracking and monitoring of swappable batteries throughout their lifecycles, the policy proposes to assign a unique identification number (UIN) to each battery at the manufacturing stage. A UIN number will also be assigned to each battery swapping station.
Battery swapping stations have been proposed to be set up at multiple, diverse locations such as malls, retail fuel outlets, public parking areas and local general stores. Moreover, to ensure battery safety, swappable batteries will be equipped with advanced features such as internet of things-based battery monitoring systems, and remote monitoring and immobilisation capabilities. A rigorous testing protocol will also be adopted to avoid any unwanted temperature rise at the electrical interface. Further, the policy covers steps for recycling of batteries at the end of their life cycles. Once finalised, the policy will be implemented for the development of battery swapping networks in all metropolitan cities with a population of more than 4 million under the first phase; and major cities, such as state capitals, with a population more than 0.5 million under the second phase. According to JMK Research & Analytics, in the first quarter of 2022, key players and partnerships in the battery swapping pace included Amazon India and Sun Mobility, as well as Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited and Battery Smart.
Revised guidelines for EV charging infrastructure
The Ministry of Power released the “Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles – Revised Consolidated Guidelines and Standards” on January 14, 2022.
The key provision in the guidelines is that EV owners can now charge their vehicles at their residence/workplace using their existing electricity connections. In addition, any individual/entity is free to set up public charging stations (PCS) without requiring a licence, provided the stations meet the technical, safety and performance standards and protocols.
In addition, land available with the government/public entities will be provided for the installation of PCSs to other government/public entities on a revenue-sharing basis at a fixed rate of Re 1 per kWh. The rate will be paid to the owner of the land on a quarterly basis. Such agreements may be initially entered into by parties for a period of 10 years. The same model may also be adopted by a public agency for providing land to a private entity. In this case, the PCS will be allotted on a bidding basis, at a floor price of Re 1 per kWh. PCSs will be required to tie up with at least one online network service provider to enable advance remote/online booking of charging slots. Online information provided to EV owners should include the PCS’ location, types and number of chargers installed/available, and service charges for EV charging. Obtaining electricity via the open access route is allowed, and any PCS/chain of charging stations may obtain electricity from any generation company through this route.
The guidelines state that at least one charging station must be available in a grid of 3 km x 3 km, in a bid to remove range anxiety. Furthermore, one charging station must be installed at every 25 km interval on both sides of highways/roads. For long-range and heavy-duty EVs, there must be at least one fast charging station every 100 km. These should be set up on each side of highways/roads, preferably within or alongside the PCS.
Several technology advancements are being developed in the EV charging space, which are expected to transform the sector, making it more efficient; and increase EV uptake.
Network management software: EV charging companies and third-party players are providing software solutions to enable a good end-user experience. Such network management software detects the location of different EV chargers allows billing for the charging and provides detailed reports and analytics of charging trends, costs, and even reduction in greenhouse gases. Some chargers provide V2G support as well.
An example of an Indian player in this space is ChargeGrid (Magenta Power), whose network management software is an open charging platform. It can find the location of EV chargers in a 500-meter range and allows billing for EV charging. The company has tied up with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Exicom and Delta. Meanwhile, Charge & Drive’s (Fortum) software provides for cloud-based service. Consumers can find chargers and pay for billing via radio frequency identification, a mobile app or SMS. It also provides remote management of chargers. In India, it has tied up with Indian Oil, MG and Hyderabad Metro Rail Corporation. Another company, Volttic, offers an open network for charging stations along with a payment getaway. It has tied up with Delta and Okaya.
Interoperability and roaming: Interoperability makes EV roaming possible, so that EV drivers can access charging stations operated by different providers through a single application or platform. Agreements between market players such as charge point operators, mobility service providers and roaming platforms facilitate such integration. EV roaming makes it easy to cross-publish static and dynamic data in real time, helping consumers access accurate and up-to-date information from a source of their choice.
Smart charging: Smart charging uses passive and active energy management measures to balance charging demand more evenly and minimise the negative impacts of EV charging loads on the distribution system. Smart charging, in coordination with passive management measures, is effective in shifting a substantial share of the EV charging load to off-peak times, while still satisfying customers’ charging needs. Further, managed EV charging can be leveraged to achieve higher renewable energy uptake, by synchronising optimal vehicle charging times with peak renewable energy generation periods.
Wireless charging: To enable longer service hours, smaller battery packs and autonomous solutions, EVs with in-motion (dynamic) wireless charging have emerged as a potential measure. For instance, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. has introduced the Halo™ Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging system, which enables quick charging, supporting wireless power transfers at 3.7 kW, 7.4 kW, 11 kW and 22 kW with a single primary base pad, and a wireless power transfer efficiency of over 90 per cent.
The way forward
In July 2022, the minister of state for heavy industries, Krishan Pal Gurjar, revealed that around 1.3 million EVs have been registered in India, in a written reply to a Lok Sabha question. The total number of registered EVs excludes the registrations from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Lakshadweep. Under Phase I of FAME, the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI) has sanctioned 520 EV charging stations, of which 479 have been installed as of July 1, 2022. Meanwhile, under Phase II, the ministry has sanctioned 2,877 EV charging stations in 68 cities across 25 states/union territories, of which 50 charging stations have been installed as of July 1, 2022. Also, the MHI has sanctioned 1,576 EV charging stations across nine expressways and 16 highways.
According to reports, oil marketing companies have announced the setting up of 22,000 EV charging stations in prominent cities and on national highways across the country. Of the total, Indian Oil Corporation Limited will install 10,000, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited will install 7,000 and the remaining 5,000 will be installed by HPCL. Private companies such as Tata Power, Fortum, ChargeGrid, Volttic, ABB and Delta have also contributed to setting up EV charging infrastructure in India. According to ICRA, around 48,000 additional EV chargers at an investment of around Rs 140 billion will be installed over the next three to four years in India.
Despite the high numbers quoted, the EV chargers currently available in India are not sufficient. According to the Grant Thornton Bharat-FICCI report, India needs about 400,000 charging stations to meet the requirements for the two million EVs that are to come on the roads by 2026. Hence, the recent policy initiatives, technology trends and initiatives by private and public players in setting up EV chargers is commendable, but a greater thrust is needed in the form of incentives and increased EV sales to further promote the EV charging infrastructure space.