Electric Vehicles: Future Roadmap for India

Electric Cars Roadmap India

The International Conference on “Electric Vehicles: Future Roadmap for India” was jam packed with industry experts sharing their thoughts on India’s readiness and adoption of electro-mobility, and also on procedural troubles in realizing the ultimate vision of the auto industry going emission-free.

As the entire globe is moving towards electric mobility in a big way, with technological push by the industry and incentives provided by governments for their faster adoption, the Indian automotive industry is at the cross-roads now. Electric mobility is not just a technological shift, but warrants a comprehensive introspection of how mobility is being perceived by the industry and society, and kindles whole new imaginations and possibilities on its entire supply chain and business models altogether. It is expected to be disruptive like never before. To ride this transformative wave in a smooth and sustainable fashion, Indian auto industry and governments must embrace an innovative and pragmatic approach based on our own market scenario, per-capita income, purchasing power, and strategic social development goals.

In this regard, three key documents (or rather approaches) that outline India’s agenda and policy needs to adopt electric mobility constitute the baseline for any discussions and debates on the matter for now. First one is the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (2013), which aims to usher in 7 million EVs on Indian roads by 2020. The second document is the NITI Aayog’s transformative mobility report (2017) that sets out shared-connected-electric mobility approach, by which 100% public transport vehicles and 40% of private vehicles are to become all-electric by 2030. Lastly, the SIAM’s white paper on electric vehicles (December 2017) that aims to achieve new vehicle sales in the country to be 100 percent pure electric vehicles (BEV and FCV) on the 100th anniversary of India’s independence, i.e. 2047.

Also Read: Sustainable Mobility: A Global Vision In Indian Context

In a bid to elicit more clarity on India’s blueprint for adoption of EVs, ASSOCHAM recently organized a one-day International Conference on “Electric Vehicles: Future Roadmap for India” on 19th December, 2017 at New Delhi. It offered all important stakeholders a common platform to deliberate around EVs in India, and debated on what is the right way or approach to EV adoption in the country. Speaking at the inaugural session, Mr. R S Kalsi, Chairman of ASSOCHAM National Council on Auto and Auto Ancillaries, observed that the EV transformation in the auto industry is a global certainty and is already happening, but “Indian industry cannot afford to watch the trend and assimilate as we did in previous technology revolutions, but be an active player to gain strategic leverage.

Chicken or Egg Conundrum

Speakers at the conference agreed that India being one of the largest producer ICE vehicles should take lead in EV vehicle and component manufacturing. Yet, to gain through the EV revolution, most of them consented that the industry and government should be ‘technology-agnostic’ as pure-electrics are not the only and cost-effective means to cut fuel imports and vehicular emissions in the country. Both the customers and the automakers should have enough leeway to make logical choices that is affordable, practical, and sustainable.

Reflecting a similar tone, Mr. Rahul Bharti, Senior Vice President, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, vouched for Hydrogen Fuel cell technology along with battery-electrics as a practical answer to zero-emission mobility debates. On local manufacturing of EVs, he argued for a ‘360-degree approach’ that is “consumer-centric and environmentally sustainable, by taking into account safety and recycling aspects of battery technologies, and also involving economies of scale by taking-up cell-level manufacturing to sustain the business”.

EVs in India

However, what is going to be the stakeholders opening move? Which should come first – EV manufacturing or the charging infrastructure? Will more and more EVs on road push for its charging ecosystem, or should the automakers wait for the EV infrastructure to mature enough to sustain their new products? “Creating an infrastructure that is future-proof is the key to this conundrum” said Dr. K.N. Sreevatsa, Vice President, ABB Limited. “It’s safe to follow global standards while making essential learnings and tweaking to local requirements, wherein some standardization and consolidation will help industry to brisk up EV production” he added.

“The catch-22 situation on EVs and infrastructure demands proper problem definition” observed Dr. K. Balasubramanian, Director, NFTDC. Technology is ‘knowledge integration’ he said, adding that affordable and efficient EV technologies can be locally developed and pooled together to overcome capital expenditure and initial ownership costs. Adding to the discussion, Mr. Debi Prasad Dash, Director of India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) stressed on high-levels of localization as vital for EV boom in the Indian market, more so in the battery technologies, wherein certain local alternatives to Li-ion that are affordable and capable yet to be tried-out by the industry.

Buses and Masses

“Electric mobility should become the technology of the masses to be sustainable” opined Ms. Akshima Ghate, Associate Director – Transport and Urban Governance, TERI. Asserting that buses are critical to every energy and emission debates, she added that any roadmap on EV adoption in India must look at the institutional capacities of the STUs that run public transport in majority. Ms. Ghate also brought into discussion the importance of urban freight in EV debates, as an integral aspect of e-mobility vision.

Mr. Nishant Arya, Executive Director of JBM Group, from a bus maker point-of-view, underscored the product viability gap of electric buses as key deterrent to market adoption. Yet, he was positive that both the industry and government is moving in the right direction towards promotion of e-buses. He stressed on the need for stable fiscal incentives for buyers and export incentives for bus makers to make India a manufacturing hub.

Electric buses

Nevertheless, speakers concurred that India’s EV roadmap has to be pragmatic and realistic. Commenting on the ‘pure-electrics-only’ model that is dominating the future mobility discourses, Mr. Ashok Taneja, MD and CEO of Shriram Pistons and Rings Limited, said that the industry and government has to take into account a multitude of factors including per-capita costs of electrics, their efficiency, and access to masses. “None of us are opposed to EV shift, but the transition has to be a well-thought out, organic and practical”, he asserted, while asking the industry and governments to rationally view alternative fuels and hybrids in the Indian context.

Also Read: Electric Buses: Local and Affordable Solutions using Lead-Acid Batteries?

In a similar view, Mr. Vikram Gulati, Vice President, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, observed that no ‘one-fits-all’ approach can help the Indian case, and highlighted the need for a ‘family of EV technologies’ to realize the zero-emission vision in the upcoming decades. Mr. Vishvajit Sahay, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, advocated a ‘calibrated approach’ for the auto industry to make the EV transition a successful endeavor.

On the whole, the international conference called for a ‘paradigmatic shift’ in the way industry and governments consider mobility solutions. At the same time, the experts agreed that Indian has to act cautiously with a rational and technology-agnostic approach, so as to sustainably serve the mobility needs of Indian society during the transition.


*An edited version of this article has been published in the January 2018 edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

Electric Buses: Local and Affordable Solutions using Lead-Acid Batteries?

Why can’t we engineer a low-cost electric bus platform using Lead Acid batteries, along with charging and mechanized swapping infrastructure tailor-made for specific local needs?

Electric buses are the serious talk of the ‘auto’ town these days, so it may appear as if the era of silent, zero-emission urban transport is finally here. But is it? Any such claims actually amounts to stretching the truth somewhat, perhaps, by over a century! The history of electric buses is as old as the history of buses itself, that the application of electric propulsion and battery technologies in buses precedes that of diesel or even IC engine. For instance, the city of London reports demonstration of electric buses as early as 1893, while the London Electrobus Company introduced the battery-electric double-deckers in 1907. Infrastructure for recharging and swapping of depleted batteries were set up too – a century ago!

Then how did the electro-mobility disappear from the automotive scene you may wonder. Failure of technology? Practicality or affordability issues? Not really, the interest in battery buses waned in the light of improved reliability of motor buses and other urban transports. Historians of technology opine that the booming oil industry and war economy oriented industry’s focus towards internal combustion engines. Further, for a technology to succeed, it has to be commercially bankable for businesses in a capitalist world, its sustainability or humanistic potentials always take a back seat. The IC technology, with the business potentiality of bombastic components industry and ever paying oil base, must have definitely won the case against the impeccant battery-electric technology.

Think about it, what if the industry and governments at the beginning of the last century were smart and humane enough to consider some big-picture thinking on the sustainability of mobility systems? Things would have been very different by now – electro-mobility must have become the norm of the industry; battery-electric technologies may have attained greater heights of efficiency; clean energy may have got greater push, etc. – you can add all those future mobility visions that we are mulling over a century later now. We are reaping all those falls that our previous generation of industry and society sowed long back. We are right at the start point, rethinking the entire construct of urban mobility, once again! It´s a missed opportunity, I would say.

Electric Buses

Okay, even if we take pride in the way the battery-electric technologies (especially Lithium-ion) have improved in our times, how efficacious are they in producing the intended results? Keep aside the range anxiety associated with them, are they affordable in the first place? That too for a developing society like ours, where we still fight several battles on various social indicators that the Western world has already won, how can we expect ourselves to adopt EVs in the same pace as they can? Nor our energy infrastructure is cleaner enough to make a difference.

Having said that, we must try to be the part of solutions to our limitations as well. Discovering local and affordable electro-mobility solutions is crucial for our society to ward-off the ills of present-day urban mobility and embrace EVs. In this regard, we met Mr. H.K. Agarwal of Sympar Associates, Delhi who is currently assisting the development of technology at technical institutes for mass conversion of pre-owned cars and buses to battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). With over 65 years of academic and technical experience in the fields of electric traction and electronics, he has a very different take on the scenario of electro-mobility in India, battery-operated buses in particular.

Local and Affordable Solutions

Notably, Mr. Agarwal was involved in a BEV project led by Late Prof. (Emeritus) R. Arockiasamy of IIT-Delhi some 15 years ago. It involved conversion of a standard Tata chassis bus into a hybrid battery vehicle featuring a battery bank with a tiny diesel generator. The project let to an operational working model successfully tried within the IIT Delhi campus. “It was an indigenous, cost effective and short gestation solution for intra-city needs, but we were well-ahead of times that the project was left in limbo” he says. The electric propulsion system of the project used DC Traction motor from Crompton and the controller was designed by Prof. Arockiasamy´s team. The battery pack consisted of 20 Lead-Acid (LA) batteries, recharged by a small generator.

Taking stock of new technological developments, Mr. Agarwal admits that the DC Traction motors are no longer used in EVs, and the AC Traction Permanent magnet (brushless) motors are best suited for e-buses. By why give up LA Batteries for the expensive and much-hyped Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries, when its claimed benefits and reliability are often disputed, he asks. Although LA batteries have relatively low energy-to-weight ratio, they are highly reliable and proven, locally available at affordable costs, easily replaceable, and recyclable. On the contrary, the Li-ion batteries are thrice more expensive and imported, pushing up the cost of the entire EV, while the recyclability know-how is still immature even in developed markets, he adds.

Also Read: Sustainable Mobility: A Global Vision In Indian Context

But doesn’t weight and compactness of battery pack matter in electric buses? Let´s consider the conundrum this way. We are taking about intra-city bus applications having pre-defined routes and trips, with speeds not more than 50 kmph, along with limited passenger payload. Thus, the veteran says, the battery pack can be tailor-made to suit local route requirements by either increasing or decreasing the battery units. Even if the extra weight of LA batteries result in limited travel range, this can be managed by trip and charging time management, he affirms.

Moreover, won’t LA batteries in e-bus applications face challenges in power delivery and charge/ discharge cycles? City buses involve frequent stop and sudden acceleration, for which the battery architecture should be robust enough to supply ample energy for disposal. Mr. Agarwal replies that sound battery management is essential for any EV, may it be Li-ion or LA batteries. There is a heavy drain of energy while starting from idle, climbing up a steep, or during sudden acceleration, whereas while braking or moving down the hill, the energy released can be recuperated. Therefore, he suggests engaging super capacitors as short-term energy repository in the architecture, from which power can be discharged for starting or acceleration needs, and can be replenished out of regenerative braking. This can eliminate the short-term energy demands of an e-bus.

For longer range and quicker charging cycles, he proposes low power gensets of 10-15 kW rating to supplement the battery architecture. They can run on relatively cleaner fuels like LPG, CNG, Biogas, or Biodiesel only on demand with start / stop feature, and maintain constant rpm. Air-conditioning needs can also be taken care, while the size of the battery and its load weight can be reduced as well. An another alternative is replaceable battery pack, where a charging and mechanized swapping infrastructure can be set up at each terminals to avert the charging periods during peak hours. He adds that the fast charging technologies popular in the West may prove fatal in the tropical weather of our country, may even damage the batteries.

STARBUS-CITY-BEST
Cost effective battery or hybrid-electric powertrains for buses can be locally devised to address our immediate, specific local needs. 

In fact, the concept of swappable batteries has caught the attention of Indian government in place of conventional charging infrastructure as in the developed markets. It is learnt that EV policies may favour such cost-effective battery ecosystem, as the government is aiming towards bringing 10,000 electric buses on road in the years to come. Further, private investments in this regard is also expected to pick up, with firms like SUN Mobility, Exide Batteries, Amara Raja Batteries, and Electrotherm reported as working on swappable batteries.

“We have to think local to find answers to our own problems” says Mr. H.K. Agarwal, adding that cost effective battery/ hybrid-electric powertrains for buses can be locally devised to address our immediate needs. Apart from building e-buses on new chassis, it is very much economically feasible to convert standard diesel buses into BEVs, he claims. For instance, there are over 1.6 million buses running on Indian roads, a huge chunk of those are city buses. With new scrappage regulations like that of NGT on culling vehicles over 10 years in Delhi NCR, they can be easily converted into eco-friendly vehicles. That way, tax payers’ money can be saved, he claims. Mr. Agarwal is approaching various technical institutes, auto components makers, and EV entrepreneurs across the country in search of partners to bring out an operation model of low-cost electric buses for commercial viability.

Also Read: Electric Bus Race: Indian OEM Trio Moving Ahead

Although the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 aims to usher in 7 million EVs on Indian roads by 2020, there exists a huge void in actual number so far since its launch in 2013. The only successful display of EVs on our roads are the e- rickshaws, which again is a local and cost-effective solution. I think it’s time to jump into action with affordable technologies and local ideas, rather than wait forever for a one-stop solution to e-mobility. There isn’t any yet!

Next, would you like to read more on Electric Buses?


*An edited version of this article has been published in the November & December 2017 (combined) edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

Alstom Aptis Electric Urban Mobility – 2017 Busworld Europe

Alstom Aptis_Busworld_WagenClub(11)

Aptis, an unique urban e-mobility product, has received “Innovation Label” at Busworld Awards this year. 

At the 2017 Busworld exhibition in Kortrijk, Belgium, French rail and passenger transport firm Alstom displayed its unique electro-mobility solution for city applications. Inspired from the design and working of trams, the `Aptis´ is an electric city bus-like product, with unconventionality as its basic trait! It has been developed in partnership with NTL.

Also Read: BYD Midibus Battery Electric 8.7m – 2017 Busworld Europe

On the face of it, the Alstom Aptis renders a futuristic low-floor bus concept, but the fully-steerable wheels situated at both the ends of the vehicle with no overhangs makes you look awestruck! This functionality is perhaps the important character that Alstom feels necessary for all city buses in future. The vehicle occupies 25 percent less surface area in curves, can have ridiculously short turning radius in city traffic and BRTS systems, and what not?

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Alstom Aptis occupies 25 percent less surface area in curves, thanks to fully-steerable wheels on both the ends.

The double doors, again derived from tram design, offer easier passenger flows inside and out, quite friendly for wheelchairs and strollers as well. There are panoramic windows at both ends, offering 20 percent more window surface than regular buses. The cabin also experiences low noise levels, claims the company. The passenger compartment can be easily customized to suit unique needs. A lounge at the rear, two or three twin-doors, or customized seating layout – anything is possible with the flexible interior design says Alstom.

Also Read: Sustainable Mobility: A Global Vision In Indian Context

Where are the batteries and power systems located then? Fully low-floor layout must hint you that they are placed up over the roof, with the axle-mounted drive motors powering the wheels. Alstom has also previewed ground-based static charging system `SRS´ for electric vehicles like Aptis, something again inspired from the tramways infrastructure.

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Alstom Aptis: Driver console and Dashboard

The Aptis is presently on trial runs on the Ile de France network, while similar experimentations in other French and European cities are planned in near future. It is manufactured at NTL’s plant in Duppigheim, with key components sourced from Alstom’s facilities in France.

Next, would you like to read more on 2017 Busworld Europe, or Sustainable Mobility?


Alstom Aptis – Image Gallery

BYD Midibus Battery Electric 8.7m – 2017 Busworld Europe

BYD Midibus 8.7m Electric_WagenClub(1)

BYD´s all-new low-floor midibus targeted at European markets. 

At the international Busworld exhibition this year at Kortrijk, Belgium, Chinese electric bus maker BYD has unveiled its all-new 8.7-metre battery-powered `Midibus´. This new European-spec e-bus augments the brand´s wide range of electric bus portfolio that already covers 10.2, 10.8 and 12m single deckers, an 18m articulated, double deckers and an inter-city electric coach.

Also Read: BYD-Goldstone Electric 12m City Bus: This Is It!

This is the fourth appearance of the electric auto maker at Busworld event, and the company is continuing to prove its expertise as the most important player of electric buses and battery technology, that too in a tech-savvy European market! The company also unveiled its 12-metre low-floor electric bus built 100 percent in Europe for the first time, at its newly established assembly at Komarom in Hungary.

BYD Midibus 8.7m Electric_WagenClub(4)
BYD will promote the Midibus in those niche and tricky segments of e-bus space in Europe where its larger models cannot penetrate.

Coming back to the BYD Midibus, the e-bus measures 8,750 mm long, 2,455 mm wide, and 3,225 mm high, with a wheelbase of 4,350 mm. The bus´s floor height is 370 mm, while its turning radius is pegged at 16 metres. BYD claims that the unique frontal design of the Midibus previewing its future family styling sets new standards amid the competition. The all-new aluminium body construction is also superior, it adds. The Midibus can seat up to 58 passengers, along with room for 36 standees. The bus is fully air-conditioned as well.

Also Read: BYD-Goldstone eBuzz K7 Electric Bus Commercially Launched in India

The battery-operated bus shares BYD´s Iron Phosphate battery technology, which is paired to a 90 x 2 kW electric propulsion. Charging source is twin AC 40 kW units, with a minimum charging time of two hours. BYD claims that the Midibus can clock 200 km range on single charge. The company is hoping to promote this bus in new sectors of the European market, especially on those niche and tricky segments where BYD’s larger models cannot penetrate.

Next, would you like to read more on 2017 Busworld Europe, or BYD?


BYD Midibus Battery Electric 8.7m – Image Gallery

Scania Citywide LF Battery Electric – 2017 Busworld Europe

Scania Citywide LF Electric_WagenClub(8)

The all-electric city bus is scheduled to go on sale by next year.

Commercial bus maker Scania´s product range on display at the 2017 Busworld Kortrijk show also includes the battery-run low-floor city bus Scania Citywide. The Citywide LF Electric, which was on initial trials in Sweden, has received first-ever public premiere at the bus expo in Belgium.

Also Read: Scania Interlink Low Decker Hybrid – 2017 Busworld Europe

Although the company has not revealed any technical specifications and performance ratings of the electric drivetrain, it is understood that the battery-electric technology has been developed in-house after rigorous testing. Typical Combined Charging System (CCS) via cable sourcing of power from the main grid is available in these buses.

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Scania Citywide LF Battery Electric city bus with Wireless Inductive Charging system

In addition, Scania´s innovative wireless inductive charging is worth mentioning. This under body charging units built exclusively at the bus stops, so that the battery gets replenished while waiting for passengers. Sources say that a 7-minute charging can extend the driving range of the city buses by 14 kms.

Also Read: Volvo 7900 Electric: Extended Range, More Charging Options

Scania claims that this method of opportunity charging is designed specifically for high-capacity urban routes. The system is already on test in the Swedish city of Södertälje for the brand´s electric-hybrid buses. Volvo Buses, on the other hand, is banking more on the open-source “OppCharge” opportunity charging infrastructure in Europe for its pure-electric and e-hybrid buses.

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Scania Citywide LF Electric: Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis rendition on the roof inside the cabin!

The Scania Citywide LF Electric on display at the show is more than just a mobility product, but a work of art too! The designers have made exotic lighting impressions inside the cabin, with the use of unique and novel materials of Scandinavia. The roof brings wondrous rendition of the `Northern Lights´phenomenon, that is popular in the region of northern Sweden where the e-bus is soon to be inducted into service.

Apart from the Citywide LF Battery-Electric, Scania´s buses portfolio at the 2017 Busworld Europe event includes Scania Touring, Scania Interlink HD, Scania Interlink MD, and Scania Interlink LD Hybrid.

Next, would you like to read more on Scania, or 2017 Busworld Europe?


Scania Citywide LF Battery Electric – Image Gallery

Photo Credits: Scania