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EVs – III : Advent of the EVs

EVs - III

We have now very much brushed up our knowledge about EVS. Now let’s discuss the potential of EVs to replace ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines), their benefits, implementation challenges and solutions.

Many countries around the world, along with India, have pledged to totally scrap out all vehicles running on fossil fuels to be replaced with EVs in a course of a few years.

The first step in realizing this dream would be to educate the masses and create an awareness about the financial and social benefits of using an EV. Along with the same, the government should build confidence in the general public by framing favourable policies and encouraging investment in the supporting infrastructure which is an essential back-bone of EVs.

Financial and Social benefits

An EV is very much economical compared to an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). On an average, an EV can save up to seven times on fuel costs. An EV practically has no maintenance costs as it has minimal parts compared to an ICE. No clutch, no gears and no petrol or diesel engine.

Besides, EVs are subsidized by the government’s FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles) scheme under which incentives up to Rs 25,000/- are offered for electric scooters and motorcycles, up to Rs. 61,000/- for three wheelers and up to Rs. 1,38,000/- for electric cars.

Reduced harmful exhaust emissions will lead to better air quality which will lead to less health problems caused by pollution.

In terms of safety, EVs have a lower centre of gravity due to which they are less likely to roll over. EVs also have a lower risk of major fires or explosions.

When you prefer to drive an EV in lieu of an ICE, you are contributing your bit towards the environment, you are supporting the fight against climate change and you are reducing your carbon footprint. Besides, you are also helping in reducing the country’s oil import bill.

Changeover to EVs – A changeover of the mindset

Driving an EV is not the same as driving a petrol or diesel car. In conventional fossil fuel powered cars, when you run out of fuel you go to the gas station for a re-fuel which will take five minutes. In case of an EV, when your car’s batteries are depleted, you have to get your car batteries charged at an EV charging station or at your home or work place. This usually takes from 30 minutes to five hours depending on the type of charger (More on this in the next write up). It is almost the same as charging your mobile phone.

An EV owner will have to plan his schedule accordingly to charge his vehicle, but most EV users usually charge their vehicles at home in the evening after the end of the days work. Generally public charging stations are used when in transit on highways.

Challenges

As people are generally bound to charge their EVs in the evenings when they come back home from work, there is a possibility that this may lead to a significant spike in evening peak loads at the local level. These hot spots will generally be concentrated around residential premises. Are our utility companies ready to take on the extra load? If not, what is the next best alternative?

Another major challenge would be the development of supporting infrastructure by way of installing sufficient charging stations at multiple points in the cities as well as on highways. This will require huge capital investments. Besides, will the government act with agility in giving permissions, doing away with red tape and make this procedure simpler, avoiding cumbersome permissions and paper work?

A major hurdle about an EV is the prohibitive battery replacement costs. Battery costs will have to come down and efficiencies and power capacity will have to increase.

Solutions

EV manufacturers can incentivise EV owners for delaying charging during peak load conditions. For e.g. BMW’s i3 EV owners were signed up for an 18-month program where the participants received alerts through a smart phone app asking them to delay charging of their EV. When accepted, the software allows BMW to halt the charging remotely. Participants were paid incentives based on the number of times they accepted charging delays.

Energy companies can tie up with EV manufacturers to develop a system where EV owners would be allowed to operate as individual ‘energy hubs’ which would enable them to draw, store and return electricity to the grid, thus, balancing grid overloads.

Electricity regulators can even design effective rate structures to shift EV charging times using demand response wherein discoms may offer attractive time-of-day tariff to promote off-peak charging.

Electricity regulators can play a proactive role in promotion of EVs wherein they can mandate Discoms to invest in EV charging infrastructure The ministry of power under the Government of India has laid down guidelines and standards for charging infrastructure to enable faster adoption of EVs in India by ensuring safe, reliable, accessible and affordable charging infrastructure and eco-system.

Setting up of Public Charging Stations (PCS) has been announced as a de-licensed activity and any individual/entity is free to set up public charging stations by following the standards and protocols laid down by the government. Any person wanting to set up a PCS can apply for connectivity and he will be provided with power supply connectivity on a priority basis by the distribution company licensee.

Battery costs have come down drastically since the past few years and are expected to halve due to a growing battery manufacturing industry with significant economies of scale.

With the government sending out the right signals and making ambitious announcements and looking at the future potential of EVs, battery manufacturing companies are readying themselves to meet the coming demand with more enhanced capacities at competitive prices.

EVs are set to bring in a major disruption in the automobile industry and the change is just over the horizon.