standardizing charging infrastructures

Right now, the Indian EV market is at the most interesting phase. The FAME II policy and increasing interest of the public in the EVs has opened up a lot of opportunities for the market. Now, these opportunities are coming up with questions that needed to be addressed.

One of the biggest questions is the infrastructure for EVs. Without proper infrastructure, the electric vehicle market cannot sustain itself. Let’s be logical, if we talk about the ICS engines, we know that we can easily locate a fuel pump for petrol/diesel/CNG anywhere in India. It means our journey will not get a halt due to a lack of fuel. But the same cannot be said about the EV. Due to the lack of sufficient EV-charging stations, the use of EVs is concentrated in a very small portion of India. This problem is going to be the biggest roadblock in the adoption rate of EVs.

So if it’s a problem, then what is the solution. Many people will think that the solution is setting up more and more EV-charging stations but that’s not true. It’s not the true solution, the solution is creating policies that can attract the private sector to set up the EV-charging station and the public to install a home-based EV-charging station.

Now, installing an EV-charging station at home or public place is not a big task. We have many companies providing an EV-charging solution but the issue is we don’t have centralized charging tariffs. It means, anyone can install an EV-charging station and can sell the power at any rate. But there is always an issue of the entire business getting taken over by a competitor who is selling the power at a cheaper tariff.

This is one of the biggest reasons why private companies/communities/individuals are hesitating from venturing into the EV-charging stations.

It means if somehow govt is able to standardize the tariff, people would be much more interested to install their own EV-charging stations.

Now before moving towards exploring how govt can do it, let understand the type of EV-charging station.

Plug and Charge Technology and Battery Swapping are the two most common charging technologies now in use. Both technologies have advantages and disadvantages, but neither has a clear path to standardization or wider accessibility.

However, in the quickly growing EV ecosystem, robust charging infrastructure is an essential criterion for EV adoption in each location, and regions with a robust network of charging facilities, including both public and home charging, have a greater percentage of EV use.

In this article we will examines some of the roadblocks to the proper implementation of such charging infrastructures, focusing on the two main charging methods for electric vehicles.

Roadblocks in Standardizing Plug and Charge 

The method of connecting an EV to a charge point via a charging cable, with the car being automatically charged, is known as plug and charge. One issue with this strategy is design parameters between charger and car manufacturer. This also means that the charging source differs (AC vs. DC source). Furthermore, while some nations, such as China and the European Union, have suggested severe nationwide charging port uniformity, the issue is still being disputed in other areas of the world.

We can observe 3 issues/roadblocks with the Plug and Charging infrastructure.

  • Among the most noteworthy roadblocks, we observe that pioneer automotive manufacturers have invested heavily in creating charging solutions in order to build IP on charging technology and gain a competitive market edge.
  • Second, carmakers devised their charging solutions in ways that distinguish unique brands. Unique charging parameters, such as voltage and current, are set with their own charging port design and dependent on the battery chemistry in order to extend the life of the batteries.
  • Third, new charging strategies such as fast charging and inductive charging solutions are constantly viewed as market-drawing factors by the vehicle sectors.
Global charger ports design

With the above-mentioned constraints in mind, a preferred strategy for increasing uniformity is needed to be to focus on implementing change on a country-by-country basis. Given the obstacles to universal plug and charge standardization, some suggest that a country-wide standardization would be easier to implement from a policy standpoint. Third-party players will be encouraged to participate in charging infrastructure development as a result of country-wide uniformity since EV customers would be able to charge their vehicles with their preferred charging solution provider without any brand-specific restrictions.

It means before standardizing and centralizing the tariff of the charging, govt needs to standardize the design parameters for the charging ports both on EVs and charging stations.

Road-blocks to Standardizing Battery Swapping Technology

There are a few standardization standards throughout the world for Battery Swapping technology, which involves charging electric vehicles by swapping the drained battery with a charged one via a charging station. Automobile manufacturers utilize a variety of battery switching models, each with its own design and chemistry, thus the technology still has some restrictions.

Major barriers affecting the standardization of battery swapping technology also include: 

  1. In most cases, the design of battery swapping packs is dictated by the dimensions of the automobile, making it difficult to standardize battery swapping processes.
  2. Different chemistries are used by battery manufacturers, and battery thermal management systems (BTMS) are created based on the EV’s total electric load. As a result, the same battery switching pack cannot be used for different EV brands because the load would change, affecting the battery swapping pack’s BTMS.

Given the aforementioned roadblocks, some believe that standardization of battery switching can only be achieved with the help and cooperation of automotive manufacturers, as well as a move toward a standardized battery pack design. Furthermore, using sophisticated technologies to overcome the load-specific battery thermal management system may progress the adoption of a single battery pack that can be utilized across numerous automotive brands.

In China, the government has issued precise instructions on the design of battery swapping models, including safety standards, testing procedures, and inspection rules for battery swapping models. This is a perfect example of a successful implementation of the battery swapping standardization process.

What conclusion we can propose?

Neither of the current charging solutions appears to be capable of standardizing the EV charging ecosystem. Nonetheless, with the help and cooperation of the e-mobility industry, particularly at the country level, some level of standardization can be established. The effective collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including automakers, utility providers, and policymakers, is a vital aspect of the effective implementation of EV charging infrastructures.