India close to developing $50 charge point for electric vehicles

The government of India is close to developing a low-cost charging point as an alternative to costly charging stations in its bid to accelerate the adoption of electric 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers in the country. It has set a target price of less than Rs. 3,500 (less than $50) for a smart AC charge point that can be operated with a smartphone. If successful, this initiative could deliver a global breakthrough in affordable EV charging infrastructure.

The share of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) two-wheelers and three-wheelers in India is approximately 84% of the total vehicle sales. By 2025, up to 4 million (40 lakh) 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers are expected to be sold each year in India.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India, along with NITI Aayog, identified this segment as having the potential for fastest adoption of EVs. Based on the needs of this segment, benchmarks were laid down: a charging solution that is affordable, easily accessible, supports inter-operability, and is highly scalable.

A common standard across the country was identified as necessary for rapid scaling up of EV charging infrastructure.

The group set a target price of less than Rs. 3,500 (less than $50) for a smart AC charge point that can be operated with a smartphone.

A committee involving all the key stakeholders, including EV manufacturers, auto and electronic component suppliers, power utilities, and communication service providers, began to develop specifications and prototypes, and undertook testing and validation of proposed standards.

The team came up with a Low-cost AC Chargepoint (LAC) that allows up to 3 kW of power to be drawn for charging e-scooters (2-wheelers) and e-autorickshaws (3-wheelers). The user’s smartphone will communicate with the LAC via low-power Bluetooth and links up to a back-end where payment for the transaction and analytics are enabled. The user’s smartphone can be used for multiple accounts and payment options.

The LAC device is intended to be deployed in any place where a 220V 15A single-phase line is available – mainly targeting parking lots of metro and railway stations, shopping malls, hospitals, office complexes, apartment complexes, and even kirana and other neighbourhood shops.

The draft Indian Standard has been taken up for examination by the Bureau of Indian Standards Committee on Electromobility Standards. The formal release of the standards is expected within the next two months, after completion of field and durability trials of sample products.

The standards are expected to give rise to new manufacturing infrastructure to cater to the high volume, low-cost market for EVs.

Several Indian manufacturers are believed to be interested in making this charge point device with a target price of Rs. 3,500.

Dr V. Sumantran, Chairman, DST-PSAO Group on Charging Infrastructure, said, “When industry and government entities come together to work on national goals, remarkable progress can be achieved with speed. Furthermore, this effort brought out the talent in India for intelligent cost-innovation. Affordability constraints in India demand that we address problems keeping in mind both cost and scalability.”

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog, said, “The emphasis on charging points rather than costly charging stations has led to the accelerated efforts by the team for developing the LAC charging standard for the light electric vehicles segment, as the next logical step.”

The objectives of India’s transformative mobility program for promoting EVs are to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and to reduce the dependence on import of crude oil. Several initiative by the NITI-Aayog (National Mission for Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage) and the launch of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Strong) Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India [FAME-2] incentives are intended to stimulate the production and demand for EVs.

Yet, actual adoption of EVs by consumers will depend on easy availability of charging infrastructure. Potential buyers must be confident of finding chargers for their electric vehicles when they are away from home.

By 2030, annual sales of 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers in India are expected to be close to 10 million (1 crore). Any charging solution to serve this segment of the automobile industry must be affordable, easily accessible, support interoperability and be highly scalable. Most systems developed across the globe address higher levels of power and are very expensive for large-scale deployment.



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