Swiss engineering major ABB is bullish on the growth opportunity in India’s electric vehicle charging market. The company is also keen to harness its strong foothold in solar energy generation in India to provide not just EV chargers but a clean charging ecosystem altogether.
“We’re very strong in India on the solar energy side and we can look at an EV charging infrastructure from a complete ecosystem point of view. The strategy is to produce renewable energy that can be consumed without emissions,” Frank Muehlon, MD, EV Charging Infrastructure, ABB Ltd, told Autocar India in an interview. Fifty percent of solar power generated in India passes through ABB’s inverters, according to the company.
While EV adoption in India is still at a nascent phase, studies suggest growth could accelerate on the back of rising consumer awareness and a push from the government, which aims to have over 30 percent of all vehicles electrified by 2030.
ABB’s Indian arm is running pilot projects in EV charging infrastructure with some automakers. This includes an EV charging station at Rohtang (near Manali) and in New Delhi. ABB recently installed a fast-charging station — ABB Terra 53 — at government think-tank NITI Aayog’s office in Delhi, which can fully charge an EV in 30min. Globally, ABB also has advanced EV charging solutions such as flash-charging technology that charges a bus in a remarkable 20sec, and a fast charger for cars that gives a 200km range in eight minutes.
The company has the capability to locally manufacture EV charging equipment at its Bengaluru plant. While it is hopeful about a pick-up in demand for chargers, it is awaiting a formal directive from the government on various aspects of e-mobility, starting with charging standards, to decide its future strategy.
Muehlon believes the CCS (Combined Charging System) format would be ideal for India. “For India, it might be better to align with the CCS standard since it is well accepted by automakers including most Japanese ones,” he said.
Notably, in a global context, Jaguar Land Rover CEO, Ralf Speth, stressed the need to have targets for charging infrastructure. Talking at the ABB Technology Forum in Zurich, Speth said, “One should question why there are no targets for the charging infrastructure programme, especially because they go hand in hand with emission targets. Customers expect charging to be as convenient as refuelling. And that’s not unreasonable.”
ABB says it has the technology to bring electricity from any power plant to any consumption point. “Individual electric mobility is one of the fastest growing phenomena for us from a technology and market perspective. ABB is ideally suited to be the partner of choice for countries, cities and car companies to provide infrastructure solutions to make e-mobility happen,” ABB Group CEO, Ulrich Spiesshofer said.
In fact, the company has partnered with Formula E as it believes the all-electric race series holds many opportunities in testing key electrification technologies which the company can be a part of.
In conversation with Frank Muehlon, MD, Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, ABB
On the key requirements for setting up an efficient charging infrastructure.
One of the absolute core requirements is clarity on the charging standards. There are just too many standards out there such as the CCS, CHAdeMO, Tesla’s Supercharger and GB/T in China. This makes it difficult to have the right infrastructure for the car. So, it wouldn’t be ideal if India comes up with its own standard. One of the key ground rules is to not reinvent the wheel.
The other ground rule is that charging stations need to be accessible. So when you come to charge, not only does the plug work but you are authorised to charge, and the payment and the billing work. The rule is that you don’t fragment it too much.
The third crucial requirement is safety. Charging stations are pieces of equipment with very high power that you give in the hands of the consumer. Safety provisions need to be stipulated for EV charging stations. To have harsh requirements on that is also very important.
Lastly, the whole grid situation needs to be looked at and ensured that the power is really there. It doesn’t help if you have a capable piece of equipment but the grid doesn’t support it. So it’s all about the whole ecosystem.
On the costs and billing for the charging network.
In the end, you pay for the energy you consume and you can do that in two ways: pay by Kwh or in some countries that do not allow non-utilities to sell energy, you pay on the basis of time. The best way of doing it is usually by RFID or QR code. However, automakers are now trying to adopt a more flexible approach called Plug&Charge. You just plug in and the communication between car and charger happens automatically. The user is identified and then it’s billed back because you have the data related to the car, including your payment details.