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E-mobility Needs Smart Charging To Take Hold

India already holds a strong position in the global heavy vehicles market.Withal, the overall automotive industry is expected to be the world’s third largest in terms of volume by 2026.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

An EV is only as smart and green as the grid it is plugged into.

The Indian transport sector is transforming. With much vigor, the government has been striving to embed an electric vehicle (EV) revolution, or EVolution as many like to call it, incentivizing EV manufacturing through various schemes and initiatives. That indeed is paying off as we had a 20 percent jump in EV adoption in 2019-20 from 1.3 lakh units in 2018-19. Majority of this, however, comprised two-wheelers, with just about 600 being electric buses. To decarbonize and decongest our cities, this will clearly not be enough. 

In India, the general growth rate of private vehicles has been higher than our population. The share of public transport continues to dwindle. The pandemic has further skewed the balance away from public transport, which has a relatively smaller carbon footprint per passenger load, toward personal vehicles that, no doubt, offer higher safety against the virus. India will need to increase the number of buses in its public transport fleet significantly more than it needs for people to follow social distancing norms.

That said, as we work toward post-pandemic normalcy, we must aim to build build back better. Our transition to clean mobility should have us readjust our transport mix and prepare for a higher share of public road transport. And that, for beginners, will necessitate creating the right charging infrastructure.

Sustaining e-mobility

India already holds a strong position in the global heavy vehicles market.Withal, the overall automotive industry is expected to be the world’s third largest in terms of volume by 2026. Commercial and passenger vehicles together, notwithstanding, hold just 0.5 percent share in the total global EV sales. If the country is to achieve its 30 percent EV adoption target by the end of the decade, it will have to operationalize a nationwide network of accessible charging infrastructure. 

Reaffirming this, in an interaction soon after the budget, the government spoke about making public transport more efficient so it can someday substitute private mobility.  That can only happen if in our shift to clean mobility, we are also empathetic to the challenges faced by transport operators, who are working on razor-thin margins, and often wondering whether to roll out EVs or wait for the charging systems to come. However, launching anything without a functional support system is like putting the cart before the horse.

We must aggressively tap into faster, more flexible and large-scale fleet chargers that can cater to many an e-bus to support high-capacity and high frequency routes. Economically and environmentally sustainable transport technologies can help us address concerns around range anxiety and achieving break-even, lending speed to EV adoption by public transport operators. 

Modernizing the grid

The second step will be greening the power grid to support the evolving EV ecosystem. An EV is only as smart and green as the grid it is plugged into. According to industry estimates, growth in EV adoption could drive a 300-fold increase in global electricity consumption by 2040. Ergo, our national grid will need to evolve simultaneously to accommodate the growth in demand through cleaner energy alternatives. 

To meet the future power demand and its climate commitments, India is running the world’s largest renewable energy program. It plans to achieve 175 gigawatt (GW) renewable energy capacity by 2022 and over 500 GW by 2030. That is a herculean task to accomplish. Integration of distributed energy resources such as solar photovoltaic panels, small wind farms and microgrids poses a challenge for aging grids, making them susceptible to instability and damage; meaning a power outage could be much more crippling and lasting. 

For managing the evolving hybrid demand and consumption patterns, we will have to make the fourth industrial revolution our ally. Grid modernization through intelligent digital solutions will help us handle and sustain our energy revolution with much more confidence and ease. 

In many parts of the country, power companies are efficiently managing their assets through smart energy management solutions that ensure higher grid stability and power reliability while minimizing CO2 emissions. A shift to automation helps monitor and control distributed energy resources, forecast trends, optimize performance, and increase revenue streams for power operators. 

In a nutshell, a smart grid is vital for a sustainable EV charging infrastructure which is indispensable for the largescale adoption of EVs in the country. To create the right framework for our transition, we must expedite efforts in localization of available technology, creating a stronger push for the mass production and adoption of EVs and smart grid subsystems in the country. Partnerships between organizations in e-mobility and those bringing experience in grid modernization technology will go a long way in this pursuit. Also, policy-based support from the government to channel public investments, support infrastructure and drive market-based solutions will be of utmost importance.

India is in a unique position to leverage electric mobility and find synergy with strategic imperatives for urban decongestion and renewable production. The two industries – power and auto – can entwine in the post-pandemic India to enable a faster transition to clean mobility, create new jobs and make the country a leader in an emerging area of economic and environmental importance.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
E-Mobility EV manufacturing

Venu Nuguri

The author is Managing Director, Hitachi ABB Power Grids India

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