Even as sales of conventionally fueled vehicles scale new highs in India, mass-scale adoption of electric mobility in India remains a distant reality. A close look at sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in India shows 124 percent growth to 56,000 units in FY2018, albeit on a very low base. And, these sales were led by electric two-wheelers which went home to 54,800 consumers (+138%), while only 1,200 electric four-wheelers were sold (-40%).
While this may create a sense of disappointment among carmakers, who are already making heavy investments and placing their bet on introducing EVs, other stakeholders in the EV ecosystem are optimistic about the future of electric mobility. Among such players is the Gurgaon-based Exicom Tele-Systems, which claims to be among the leading EV charging solutions providers in India. Till date the company says it has bagged several orders for setting up charging stations from leading PSUs including Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), Rajasthan Electronics & Instruments Ltd (REIL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and PGCIL (Power Grid Corporation of India). Elaborating on the company's footprint, Anant Nahata, managing director, Exicom, says, "This scale is the largest in India with 500 chargers already deployed in over 10 states. We have got empanelled with leading auto OEMs (across the passenger car and bus segments) and are working with them closely to deploy tailor-made solutions for India."
According to Nahata, the company aims to be a full-range EV facilitator. On October 24, 2018, the company inaugurated its new 'Battery R&D Centre' along with the launch of the Harmony multi-standard charger' for EVs in Bangalore. The company says the R&D Centre is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure for comprehensive evaluation of cell quality, battery pack design, rapid prototyping and reliability/environmental testing.
Investing in R&D
The R&D facility is said to adhere to all international safety standards specific to lithium-ion battery packs and will facilitate development of battery packs using any cell chemistries and form factor. Nahata says, "The centre has a dedicated team having substantial experience of working with EVs and auto OEMs, and will enable us to design and develop automotive battery packs upto 500V across all two-wheeler, three-wheeler, passenger vehicle and CV applications." Thus, the facility will help strengthen Exicom's ability to produce and deploy customised products and solutions across various automotive applications.
The all-in-one Harmony EV charging solution has three output connectors complying with CHAdeMO, CCS and Type 2 AC norms
Exicom also has another R&D team in Gurgaon, which is focused on developing EV charging solutions. According to Nahata, the company has multiple teams working on the design, development and testing of these chargers and it is also in the process of continuously augmenting its team to offer best-in-class products.
Nahata explains, "Our focus is to continuously expand our reach and develop innovative and affordable charging solutions to meet emerging EV charging demand. This can be seen from our full range of AC and DC charging solutions ranging from 1 KW – 150 KW supporting all global standards."
The advent of electric mobility presents not just huge opportunities but also numerous challenges. Among the many such challenges that EV charging infrastructure players face is the absence of a common charging standard.
While India has made clear its ambitious vision to see higher adoption of EVs, abject lack of consumer demand for EVs and a uniform EV charging standard also prove to be bugbears. To address this, Exicom says it has introduced the Harmony multi-standard fast DC charger, which has been developed with a specific focus on meeting Indian OEM and market requirements. "We believe features like availability of multiple standards in one charger and the ability to operate all three charging guns simultaneously will help reduce wait time for the EV users, allow PV with any standard to charge and minimise capital investment in land reducing the operating cost of the fleet operators/aggregators," says Nahata.
Chargers deployed for EESL have now been in operation for over six months, supporting both AC and DC fast charging
Exicom’s Harmony multi-standard fast DC charger is claimed to be one of the most advanced in the industry with cutting-edge hardware and futuristic software. The all-in-one EV charging solution has three output connectors complying with CHAdeMO, CCS and Type 2 AC. It can cater to all types of vehicles and charging needs and the single design offers the flexibility to accommodate anywhere between 30KW to 150KW.
The charger comes with connected services that allow integration with payment platforms or smart electrical systems, apart from housekeeping functions such as remote upgrades and diagnostics among others. The company says Harmony can be ideally deployed at highways, in fleet operations and parking lots.
The initial response to the Harmony multi-standard fast DC charger has been good. Nahata says, "The response to our chargers has been positive. Chargers deployed for EESL have now been in operation for more than six months, and support both AC and DC fast charging of the Tata Tigor and Mahindra eVerito cars in line with our expectations. We have also received good feedback on the usability of our chargers. We have built good experience of installing chargers in India and are well equipped to serve any demand both across low- and high-voltage EV charging applications."
Replying to a query if Exicom has evinced interest from OEMs in India, Nahata says, "Certainly. We presently offer a best-in-class product line offering charging solutions across 1KW to 150KW with Central Management System (CMS) integration. In addition, we have strong expertise in lithium-ion battery packs, offer bulk charging solutions with the capability of charging 20 lithium-ion batteries simultaneously (expandable to 60) and home-charging solutions. With this, we understand the EV ecosystem better than anybody in our space which is a clear differentiator for OEMs."
"We are closely working with all leading auto OEMs in India and are in the process of developing customised solutions. We have already installed EV charging stations at auto dealerships and for EESL for Tata and Mahindra EVs," concludes Nahata.
Interview with Anant Nahata, MD, Exicom Tele-Systems
High initial EV cost, mainly due to Li-Ion batteries, has adversely impacted sales of EVs in India. How will the new R&D Centre focus on reducing EV costs and in which areas?
Electric vehicle costs are high due to multiple cost factors. High battery cost is a prominent contributor to the BOM (bill of materials) costs of an EV.
This can be attributed to the significant investment in developing an automotive grade battery pack as it is a technologically complex process and requires comprehensive design, selection of Lithium-ion
cells, BMS and thermal management design.
Through our investment in dedicated and experienced teams, we will deliver products tested and homologated for Indian conditions and with which OEMs can integrate directly with their EVs, enabling mass production and gradual reduction in costs.
Will you enable OEMs and industry to work along with Exicom in the R&D Centre?
Yes, we are open to the idea of co-development with OEMs and work on specific projects pertaining to Li-ion battery packs. We believe it is the need of the hour for automobile and battery OEMs to come together and solve challenges to make EVs a reality on Indian roads.
Is there any low-cost charger and/or contactless charger under development?
Exicom makes good-quality, durable EV chargers at price points which are significantly lower than its competitors. This has enabled fleet operators and corporates to set up cost effective charging networks. We are constantly working on new technologies and believe the announcement of a global EV standard for India will define our future development roadmap.
(This article was first featured in the November 15, 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)