Plug-n-Play Part – 4: How Fast I need to Charge my xEV & DC Fast Charging Global Battle

 

India being Glocal Market (global quality & local price) and so is Super Value Conscious Indian consumer, when it comes to Electric Vehicle’s, quickest questions comes to one’s mind are high initial of vehicle followed by inadequate availability of charging infra followed by time to recharge xEVs & etc and so on....

Considering initial cost not much of a concern at this moment, infact the biggest hurdle for mass adoption of is “Consumer Sentiments”, the fear among xEVs users of being running out of fuel before reaching the destination or the precious time which gets wasted while re-charging their xEV batteries. The phrase“Infrastructure precedes innovation” hold true everywhere, charging infra and within that choices for technologies like “AC Level -1 & Level -2 Charging,“DC Fast Charging” or “Battery Swapping” will definitely drive the future of India’s critical mission of 100% electric by 2030.

What exactly is charger & how fast one need to charge?

All batteries use DC Current for charging & discharging, however we have only AC coming from grid & power utilities, this AC from grid first needs to be converted to DC to charge the batteries, for which we need AC/DC converter. This AC/DC converter along with associated electronics is primarily what’s known as “Charger”

Chargers can either be integrated into the cars known as “On-board Charger (OBC)” or they can be external to the xEV predominantly known as “Fast Chargers”. Most xEVs have a small OBC which enables typical level-1 or Level -2 charging at home which normally adds 3-5 miles & 10-20 range per/hr, respectively. An external charger that does the AC/DC conversion is a lot bigger, heavier, more complex and expensive than an OBC, but it is also a lot faster. That is why they are usually referred to as ‘DC Fast Chargers’ or just ‘Fast Chargers’, at times people do call DCFC as “Level -3 Chargers” also but it’s a wrong terminology.

When it comes to charging duration, one should always think of “acceptable waiting times” in any possible scenario and nevertheless in India we should definitely consider theoverall cost economics and keeping it in mind, it’s quite imperative that we should understand, what are the suitable re-charging times under any such scenarios?

  • Home Base Charging - ~ 10 hours or more
  • Office – ~8 hours
  • Temple/Gurudwara/Church - ~ 2 Hours
  • Shopping Malls – 2 to 3 hours (or less)
  • Cinema Halls – 3-4 Hours
  • Hospitals/Doctor Visit – 1 Hour
  • Parking Garages – trip dependent , could be all day, several days (ex. airport, railway station parking)
  • Highways Drive – Quick as fast as possible (Hour or so if highways side restaurant )

Several analysis shows that majority of xEVs get charged overnight at home followed by offices, where a typical AC Level-2 Charging is enough ( 3.5 hrs for 80 mile charge & 8 hrs for 200 miles charge).

There are many “Running Errands” scenarios which don’t allow longer waiting times, we have places or office to reach on time, meetings to attend & people to see. Typically few use cases where long xEV charging times are deterrent for its mass adoption are depicted hereunder.

  1. Fleet operators, public transport vehicles (3 wheeler, ricks etc) definitely cannot afford to wait such long times, model being heavily dependent upon covering maximum miles over specified time schedule.
  2. Longer trips where charging time, limits the effective speed of the trip, the recharging time for ICE cars is so fast that we don’t notice its cost on effective speed, but xEVs ( ex. level -2) charging time was so slow that long trips would be excruciatingly slow.

This is where the necessity of solutions like DC fast charging & battery swapping got generated. At the outset, globally “battery swapping” didn’t proved to be of great techno-commercial attraction and has got very few installation base. Well! We are in market where ’s which didn’t worked globally works.

Fast Charging makes xEVs more attractive because it primarily addresses the most important consumer sentiments of “Range Anxiety” and globally DCFC is seen as pivotal for mass adoption of xEVs. A typical DCFC that is predominately available in the global market delivers 50 Kw, which charges about 5-15 times faster compared to an OBC. A quick EV charging reckoner is given hereunder.

Remember! the case of multiple smartphone chargers tangled with each other, that you need to untangle to use one. Its common with new technologies and the young & reborn xEVs market globally, is also large enough to have multiple DC Fast Charging Standards on top of several AC charging standards, battling with each other, further fragmenting already struggling . Today we have FOUR globally known DCFC Standards

I have tried and summarised all four competing standards in the quick to remember/understand reckoner table as given hereunder

SAE CCS Details Specifications

Summary & Way Forward

There are several elements & stakeholders to xEV as a whole and in India what we primarily need to address are below mentioned two key aspects

-      High initial xEVs acquisition cost.

-      Adequate & standardised availability of charging infra solutions.

What we have globally is “DCFC Standards Battle” & not so successful “Battery Swapping” model with several known players shutting down battery swapping stations.

Battery storage prices are dropping much faster than expected, mainly due to ever growing portable electronic devices industry (PED) and huge demand globally from xEV industry making several applications/product commercially viable even today. Lot of innovation is also happening on the charging infra front with industry now leapfrogging to “Ultra-Fast DC Charging” bench-marking ICE cars where a typical 300 miles refuelling takes 5-10 min only and to help get consumers over that hump and prepare for an expected jump in the widespread adoption of xEVs

Govt of India’s push to scale up xEVs as fast as possible and that too without any subsidy seems a distant dream given current price level of batteries and the contrary “Battery Swapping” makes a very compelling story for offsetting high initial cost, but global realities questions this dream, complimented with several global experiences with battery swapping giving lessons to learn.

  1. Assumes that battery prices remains expensive
  2. Battery swapping stations (Semi & Fully Automatic) are far more expensive than charging stations
  3. Reliability for leased battery pack – likely to be controversial issues
  4. Interoperability and standardisation battle (few private players had already started putting up swapping stations)

Irrespective of choosing any specific viz battery swapping, AC charging or DCFC, we need to understand all the nuances purely from Indian use cases, opportunities, limitations, driving habits, charging scenarios and come up with ubiquitous infrastructure with unified standards/protocols supported with appropriate Govt policy framework, else, we are surely risking audacious plan to turn every vehicle to 100% electric by 2030

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