Infrastructural challenges in adapting to electric vehiclesUPDATED DEC 04, 2021 - 15 MIN READ
Topic of Contents
- Charging infrastructure as a barrier in EV adoption
- Key elements of charging infrastructure
- Charging infrastructure and protocols
- Types of electric vehicle charging
- Initiatives for improving the charging infrastructure
Over the last few years, the electric vehicle industry in India is emerging as one of the most promising and high growth sectors. The electrification of the transport system is vital to control the increasing pollution on the roads. The other factors which is driving this change is increasing fuel prices due to the cost involved in importing these fossil fuels from other countries. To overcome these challenges, the private and public organizations are ramping up efforts to create an environmental friendly EV ecosystem for the country.
Electric vehicles are becoming the first choice for the automobile consumers. They are preferred over conventional ICE vehicles because of zero greenhouse gas emissions, lucrative subsidy and incentive schemes, exemption from road tax, light in weight, etc. and these benefits results into an increasing demand of EVs across the globe. To meet these emerging demands, the battery industry, charging infrastructure, research organizations and local supply chains need to be developed appropriately. For the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, the government of different countries are promoting battery manufacturing businesses , set up of charging infrastructure and adoption of new innovative models in the EV industry.
Charging infrastructure as a barrier in EV adoption
The global sales of EVs are increasing year by year and all the countries are focussed to achieve their targets for a sustainable environment. However, there is still a long way for the automotive industry to significantly shift from traditional to electric vehicles. The factors that restrict the expansion of EV industry are its upfront cost, lack of charging infrastructure, range anxiety and long charging time.
The challenge of range anxiety can be handled if sufficient number of public and private charging facilities are developed for EV charging. The present scenario is completely different as the charging infrastructure is limited to accommodate the charging needs of electric vehicle. In India, presently there are only 1800 charging stations as of March 2021 (source: Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles). The government is targeting electric vehicle sales to achieve certain proportion of new sales by 2030 – at least 30% for private cars, 70% for commercial cars, 40% for buses and 80% for two wheelers and three wheelers. This would need approximately four lakh charging stations to be installed by 2030. This means an aggressive scale-up of charging infrastructure is required to achieve this targeted EV sales.
Key elements of charging infrastructure
Charging infrastructure comprises hardware and software components and its function is to supply electrical power from the grid to charge the EV batteries. The charging stations are also known as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The control system performs user authentication, charging agreement, data privacy and updating database. There are four main key elements of a charging infrastructure:
- Electric vehicle – An electric vehicle is driven by an electric motor in which power is supplied by the battery. There are different types of electric vehicles such as BEV, HEV and PHEV vehicles. Each type of electric vehicle has a different working operation, fuel requirement, battery needs and the charging infrastructure.
- Batteries –The batteries provide power to all the component in an electric vehicle. The function of a battery pack is to store the energy for the working of electric vehicle. The battery pack also has a battery management system for the active management of charge and discharge of the battery. Batteries have different charging requirements and charging time and therefore, the charging infrastructure depends on the specifications of battery used in the electric vehicle.
Chargers- The charger is used to recharge the EV battery pack from the electric grid. The main functions of the charger include the conversion of grid AC voltage to DC voltage, controlling the battery pack current for safe charging methodologies and communicating with the vehicle. There are a variety of chargers and protocols available for the effective charging mechanism. The type of charger used at the charging station is another important component of the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
The chargers are classified as AC chargers and DC chargers. The AC chargers need on-board charger for AC to DC voltage conversion and DC chargers are off-board chargers. They supply DC voltage directly to the vehicle.
- Other actors, users, drivers and operators- The other key components in a charging infrastructure include power conversion system comprising of an inverter and thermal management system for batteries, safety protocols, electric vehicle charging software for managing the charge point operators and e-mobility service providers.
Charging infrastructure and protocols
The electric vehicle operates on electricity and the electrical energy is stored in rechargeable batteries placed inside EVs. Therefore, the electrical supply system, rechargeable batteries and charging station play significant role in the operation of an electric vehicle. EVSE is the basic unit of EV charging infrastructure which accesses power from the grid system to charge an electric vehicle. EVSE has a control system which offers EV driver authentication, charging authorization, updating information, remote monitoring and data privacy. The charging protocol between the electric vehicle and EVSE defines the type of connector used between the EVSE and the vehicle and specifies the maximum power and voltage for the connection and the type of communication link for safe and secure charging mechanism. For the smooth management of charging stations and flow of information between the service providers and customers, the EVSE is connected with the Central Management System (CMS). CMS is an integral part of EV charging infrastructure and is managed by the company that operates the charging stations. The Open Charger Point Protocol (OCPP), provide the information regarding authorised EV users, charger connection, fault detection, billing and rate of charging, etc. and the CMS database is updated accordingly. The electric vehicle charging software supports user friendly apps for the convenience of locating nearest charging stations and online booking of charging slot.
Fig: Charging Infrastructure and Protocols
Types of electric vehicle charging
The electric vehicle charging is segmented into different levels and the specifications of each level varies from one country to another. The three levels of charging infrastructure depends on the type of access and the charging power provided by the charging stations. The three charging levels are as follows:
1. Level 1 Charging (Private charging)
- Level 1 charging is a kind of slow charging technique and can be installed at home.
- This type of charging supports 120 V and charging can be done by simply plugging an electric vehicle into a standard outlet available in your home.
- This charging facility is simple and easy to use but it does not provide any provision for shock protection against DC currents.
- The ownership is with individual EV owners.
- Types of electric vehicle charging
- It takes approximately 15-16 hours to recharge the electric vehicle
- The details for purchasing or installing a residential station can be available from the dealers of electric vehicles.
2. Level 2 Charging (Semi-Public charging)
- This charging methodology is a kind of shared charging facility for a restricted set of electric vehicles or a home mounted wall box for EV charging.
- It supports 240 V AC outlet with a special charging cable that provides shock protection against electric shocks
- This standard involves intelligent software that enables charging station owner to manage their stations efficiently.
- It provides information about the number of EV owners using the charging facility, bills for electricity usage etc.
- Level 2 charging is emerging as a most preferable industry standard for charging electric vehicles when not at home. This charging facility can be created for apartment complex, office campus, shopping malls, hospitals, etc.
- They are under the ownership of property owner, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and charge point operators.
- The charging time is reduced in this type of charging facility and it takes 7-8 hours to charge an electric vehicle
- The cost of installation is high as compared to Level 1.
3. Level 3 Charging (Public charging)
- Level 3 charging method is also known as DC fast charge or fast charge mode.
- This charging mode accommodates complex network of hardware and software components and has high installation cost.
- To meet the charging requirements of the electric vehicles, these facilities can be created at office parking, grocery store, public parking, petrol pumps and garages.
- It also requires extensive electric power facility to handle the recharging of large number of electric vehicles
- These charging stations are owned by government and charging infrastructure providers. Therefore, the clear all the testing procedures and follow complete set of guidelines for the safety of operation.
- This mode allows recharging of an electric vehicle in 30 minutes
Fig: Classification of Charging Level
For the development of large number of charging stations across the country, the leading EV manufacturers should collaborate with the charging infrastructure providers. Adequate charging facilities will enable EV drivers to go on long trips without worrying about the short driving range. Further, different research initiatives should be encouraged in the area of charging infrastructure so that it can go hand-in-hand with the high performance electric vehicles and batteries manufactured. This will help in development of more efficient and reliable charging infrastructure for future EV needs.
Initiatives for improving charging infrastructure
The EV sales in India are still limited to two and three, wheeler segments despite the continuous support and encouragement from government to promote electric vehicle sales. Experts believe that this is because the EV charging infrastructure is not up to the level to meet the growing demands of electric vehicles across the country. Since a lot of research is still undergoing in the EV sector, especially in the battery and charging technology, there is a deep uncertainty among the automobile consumers, stakeholders and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). The consumers are not confident about the availability of nearby charging facility, best charging methodology, expenses and
The stakeholders and OEMs are still reluctant in investing into EV charging infrastructure business. The major reasons for this are unpredictable response from government policies and strategies, high installation and maintenance cost, lack of standardization of private and public charging infrastructure, etc. Besides the incentives available from present government subsidy schemes, the charging infrastructure owners manage to earn only small profit margins due to high expenses involved.
Therefore, lack of appropriate charging infrastructure is a major challenge in present scenario. While the last year sale trends clearly shows the expansion of EV industry, the lack of charging infrastructure is still creating more challenges for further adoption of electric vehicles. Therefore, collaborative efforts from the government, public and private stakeholders, original equipment manufacturers, etc. are required to expedite the installation of adequate charging infrastructure across different locations.
For the development of strong network of charging infrastructure, the government at the centre and state level are working rigorously to bring favourable policies for developing charging infrastructure. These schemes and policies provide resource and finance assistance to support the expansion of charging infrastructure business in the country. In addition, these charging stations will require extensive electricity supply to fulfil the needs of charging electric vehicles. This requires a systematic planning, authorization and execution of EV charging infrastructure.
There are various parameters which are important in deciding the type and location of the charging infrastructure such as availability of power sources, the architecture of the city, type of electric vehicles in the area, and government policy. A thorough study of these parameters will help in selecting the appropriate type and location of the charging infrastructure, thereby satisfying maximum demand of charging for electric vehicle.
Since the current charging infrastructure is still inadequate, alternative ways are emerging for recharging the batteries in electric vehicles. The battery swapping technique and inductive charging method are the two innovative technologies which resolve the charging issue.
Battery Swapping is emerging as an excellent alternative to the battery charging infrastructure in the e-mobility industry. One of the major reasons for the wide acceptance of this technology is the significant reduction in the ownership cost of electric vehicles. The battery swapping mechanism allows the sale and registration of EVs without any batteries. In this method, the battery is considered as a separate entity from the electric vehicle and the complete liability of these batteries is with energy service providers. Battery swapping technology also helps address the other major concerns associated with the conventional charging methods. These concerns are the long charging time for electric vehicles and lack of charging infrastructure. Battery swapping allows an easy exchange of discharged batteries with the fully charged ones. Therefore, this procedure takes only a few minutes for the EV driver to switch the discharged batteries with the charged ones at any swapping station. Moreover, this method is more pocket friendly for the consumers as they have to pay on a per swap basis.
Inductive charging allows a wireless charging of an electric vehicle. This type of charging mechanism is cost effective and more compatible with autonomous vehicles. The other name for Inductive charging is dynamic charging as t has the potential to deliver power wirelessly from the roadway to the running vehicle. This allows electric vehicle to cover longer distances without the need to stop for recharging. The batteries used in inductive charging are small in size therefore the cost of battery is low and light in weight. This technology makes use of sensors and additional circuit for the proper alignment of the vehicle with the charging pad. For a safe and efficient results from this charging method few challenges need to be addressed.
The government can encourage the mass installation of charging infrastructure by framing policies that provide financial support, low interest rates, subsidy on the land cost and loan opportunities for service providers to set up charging stations in different localities.
In the end, the importance of building infrastructure needs to be recognized by all the stakeholders in the EV ecosystem. Once an accessible, affordable and sustainable solution is built, consumers can rapidly adopt electric vehicle in their daily usage.
EV - Electric Vehicle
ICE - Internal Combustion Engine
BEV - Battery Electric Vehicle
HEV - Hybrid Electric Vehicle
PHEV - Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
EVSE - Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment
CMS - Central Management System
OCPP - Open Charger Pont Protocol
OEMs - Original Equipment Manufacturers