What comes first, Electric car or Infrastructure for powering Electric Cars?
Off-Course finding an answer won’t be easy. That’s one question which most likely needs to be answered either by car makers if they expect to put their xEV fleets on roads, or policy & standards makers, who own the responsibility of ensuring uniformity and scale-ability. Perhaps the biggest question related to xEV is of infrastructure. How & where the users will re-charge there EV batteries if they are far from their home? It essentially means, need of charging stations specially when one will be driving far than the range of one full charge cycle of the batteries inside.
Definitely “Inadequate Infrastructure” will not only make people think about issue like driving range anxiety, but will also delay the widespread adoption of xEVs in the country In my previous article, I had tried and covered fundamental outline about Indian Automotive Regulatory System "Who Own' What" primarily from regulatory policies, approvals & Industry standards view point. Before we deep dive in various aspects of 100% Electric Mobility In India by 2030, its quite pertinent to capture some of the key learning from our own past experiences and some of the best practices across globe.
The CNG Era of India
Not so long back, in 1993 during the English Cricket Tour of India, when the visitor team lost the game, they attributed partial loss to air pollution in Delhi – The Capital city of the Country, Apparently pollution levels actually were being alarmingly high for us to be listed amongst world’s most polluted cities and subsequently a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer Mr. M.C Mehta in The Supreme Court of India in the year 1995 concerning health risk's caused from air pollution, emitted primarily from road vehicles, which was kind of turning point for alternative fuel era. Ever since then, this whole movement of alternative fuel adoption has started initially with the Court's decision to put all cars in circulation after 1995 on unleaded fuel and by 1998 Delhi was converted to 100% to the unleaded fuel. Further in 1996 CSE’s report on urban air pollution “Slow Murder – The Deadly Story of Vehicular Pollution in India” which estimated 64% contribution from vehicular emissions (Power Production 17%, Industry for 10%), also pressed for clean fuels and rapid introduction of EURO II standards.
Three (3) years after the PIL, in 1998, court published a directive that specified the date of April 2001 as deadline to replace & convert all the buses, three wheeler's and taxis to single fuel of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) and thus in-turn invited the so called “Technology Politics” between CNG vs Euro II standards followed by every stakeholder part to it. Surprisingly on the other side Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) introduced CNG network in India even earlier in 1992, but it failed to kick off as envisioned, primarily, because of limited private vehicles switching over to CNG and off- course the other school of thought also raised a question mark on the feasibility of changing all commercial vehicle to a single fuel  while highlighting some critical issues like
- Any disruption in GAIL CNG pipeline will bring Delhi to standstill situation
- Huge CNG Station infrastructure is required in a very short span of time (huge risk of budget deficit)
- A dedicated CNG vehicle can be stranded on the way for gas due to limited number of CNG stations, resulting in driving range anxiety among users
Later court also clarified and allowed taxis and three wheeler's with 4 stroke engine to run on dual fuel (low benzene petrol and CNG). India therefore took almost ~10 years’ time and finally by 1st Dec 2002 diesel buses disappeared from Delhi Roads. Subsequently Delhi also won the US Department of Energy (DoE) first “Clean Cities International Partner of the Year Award” in 2003 to control air pollution and support alternative fuel initiatives. It is evident from the challenges during CNG programme implementation, that a needlework for a “Comprehensive Transport Policy” stitching all steps of the value chain is a must to make a successful & widespread adoption or change
In last 10 Years, CNG “Clean Air” Advantage seems Lost
Since early 2000, when Delhi’s air was dramatically clean after the launch of CNG in public transport, it has once again turned into a deadly cocktail of various pollutants and this time high particulate matter (PM) is not the only problem, increasing levels of OZONE is also a serious concern. NOx, Ozone and PM2.5 are essentially products of vehicular emissions and are alarmingly increasing mainly because of sharp increase in total vehicles in the city (Diesel & Petrol) In January 2013, Govt of India (GoI) announced “National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP)” to bring transformational paradigm shift in the Indian Automobile Industry.
NEMMP is a culmination of a comprehensive collaborative planning for promotion of Hybrid and Electric Mobility in India ensuring 6-7 million electric/hybrid vehicle population in India by 2020, followed by ambitious plans for 100% electric mobility by 2030. Currently xEVs penetrations is quite low in India and few estimates shows that xEVs share is at mere level of ~0.3% of the total automobile sales in year 2015-16 in spite of several policy initiatives like FAME (Faster Adoption & Manufacturing of (Hybrid & Electric) Vehicles in India) with an estimated investments of USD 123 million between FY15 and FY17.
Since xEV in India is gradually evolving and we are at a critical stage to take decisions about “Charging Infrastructure” (Draft standards EVSE DC Standards & EVSE AC Standards - Rev 3 were already released by ARAI), the choices made will definitely affect the market drivers for years to come. Unlike CNG movement, a multidimensional approach covering all the aspects (listed below) is must.
- Business Models – Role of stakeholders in the charging infra value chain (DISCOM or EV Co. Led & Battery Swap etc).
- Standardisation – Some aspects for charging Infra standards specific to Indian Conditions (Grid Infra Stability etc)
- Interoperability – Challenges and opportunities to make universal acceptability & Open Protocol solutions etc.
An article recently published in national daily stating that the Government's Think Tank is drawing up the comprehensive plan in about next 6 months, wherein “Battery Swapping”for two wheeler, there wheeler and non-air conditioned buses & "Role of Aggregators"is likely to be the key, both for faster adoption of xEVs and slashing their acquisition cost as well by way of leasing options. As we navigate further inside xEVs industry, there is lot more to it, one such case may be for “Battery Swapping Model” itself requiring ample batteries and more critical is that, all these batteries need to fit into variety of vehicles which ultimately means “UNITY” and as witnessed in past the bringing all stakeholders together is a nightmare from ever increasing “Technology Politics” which is the biggest enemy of "Uniformity"
Globally, almost 100 Years back in 1910, a news article stated “8000 GE Chargers were in use for home charging also known as Wattstation” and it's still evolving……with complicated terminologies and proliferating standards .
Nevertheless, it’s always a “Chicken and Egg” story when it comes to implementing such complex technology paradigm shifts and there is no “The Solution” however keeping in mid the lessons learnt from CNG Implementation (Dual Fuel), Plug-in-Hybrids can be a foundation stone to the whole xEV adoption in India since they cut heavy fuel consumption without need for extensive charging infrastructure and will also allow time for the country to gradually evolve and built more sophisticated infrastructure to fully transform to 100% xEVs