How India's EV push will impact existing grids

As India’s EV push continues, Autocar Professional looks at how legacy players and startups are looking at building infrastructure for EVs, and what this will mean for the electricity grids in the medium to long term.

By Radhika Dave calendar 23 Jun 2023 Views icon9573 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

India’s decade-old EV journey has been steadily positive so far despite the occasional hiccup. Indian consumers have taken to the electric vehicle with gusto with EV sales in India hitting 1.17 million units in FY23 and charging past 1,00,000 for six months in a row, but there are worries about India’s EV charging infrastructure and the impact it will have on electricity grids in the medium term and beyond, especially if demand exceeds supply.

Amidst this backdrop, Tata Power, one of the largest private power companies in India’s financial capital maintains a cheerful disposition. Company officials have stated that the impact of electric vehicles on grids is ‘minuscule in terms of kilowatt units’ and that the company does not foresee any grid challenges at
the moment.

Virendra Goyal, Head-Business Development-EV Charging at Tata Power says that distribution companies (DISCOMS) are already working on this front and the MOP circular dated Feb 10, 2022 states that “DISCOMs may leverage on funding from the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) under ‘Part A – Distribution Infrastructure’ for the general upstream network augmentation necessitated due to the upcoming charging infrastructure in various areas. The cost of such works carried out by the DISCOMs with financial assistance from Government of India under Revamped Scheme shall not be charged from the consumers for Public Charging Stations for EVs.”

Expanding the network
Describing how increased road connectivity and infrastructure have bolstered the cause of EV charging, Goyal explains that Tata Power plans to build EV charging infrastructure in key catchment areas across the country. Countries with higher EV penetration indicate that EV consumers look forward to EV charging infra at shopping malls, departmental stores, hotels, food Courts etc. and on highways. “We are working on similar lines and have deployed chargers across Highways and various premium locations in cities. As EV adoption and utilisation increases, we add more chargers to create capacity. We are also deploying chargers in residential societies which cater to the occupants of the residential complexes,” he added. Charging Infrastructure solutions deployed in 40 cities by Tata Power include Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kolkata, and Visakhapatnam.

Till now, Tata Power has energised 3,778 public and captive EV charging points across 350 towns and cities, along with 39,000+ home chargers and 234 bus charging points, as per the information shared by the company.

Need to standardise power output lines
Dr Prabhjot Kaur, Co-founder and Director of battery swapping firm Esmito prefers taking the more cautious approach while broaching the subject and believes that it is not the grid but the distribution that will be a problem area as we scale up. “When we talk about electricity generation, almost all our plants in the country are running at 50 percent to 60 percent utilisation and not more. So, here the production capacity potential is huge, but the utilisation of the plants is low. So this capacity is going to serve the entire automotive load of the country with the given capacity in hand. So, (electricity) generation is not
a problem.”

Talking of distribution, she goes on to explain that the power output lines are not standardised across the nation, which can prove tricky, as for each state, the three-phase or single-phase connection for that matter is very different. “In Chandigarh, they allow about three-kilowatt power, in Telangana, they allow about 15 kilowatt, which is five times higher on a single phase and it's about 10 kilowatt that is allowed on a single phase in Maharashtra. There is no uniformity across the nation, regarding one policy on the distribution side. Hence provisioning of the infrastructure cannot be done at the national level. So, that is one problem that we need to understand if we have to go with the existing infrastructure.”

According to her, standardisation is the first piece that should be focused on, adding that “though this is not a hurdle, it is a dire need,” she says, referring to uniformity on the distribution side. “So, the problem is not on the generation, the problem is on creating that infrastructure for the readiness needed to serve the demand that is coming up.” She further goes on to explain that EVs are a good source of revenue for DISCOMS in addition to offering a way for better load balancing with the adoption of smart load management systems. She further adds that load imbalance happens on the grid because at the peak hours, there is a very high load and in the middle of the night there is minimal load. So, then the grid has to dynamically keep regulating the electricity generation to map the changing loads. If peak demands are too high to manage the generation of electricity, it can lead to a major issue, and to flatten this also, swapping can help, she adds.

Safety matters
Dinesh Arjun the Co-founder and CEO at EV firm Raptee concurs, saying that balancing out the grid has ‘always been a nightmare for energy production companies,’ as overgeneration can cause damage to the grid, and turning down or shutting down non-renewable power plants are expensive and inefficient.

Fortunately, this is when EVs get charged. Unlike tanking up at a fuel station, EVs are charged outside of working hours, either at night while parked at home or during the day while parked at work. Both these are times of low electricity demand and generally times of high renewable electricity generation.

"EVs can be the solution to this very problem by helping to balance our power demand," he says. Explaining that V2G (Vehicle 2 Grid) is becoming more and more common across vehicles, soon, there will be a standard interface that can help use the battery on an EV to be a buffer storing energy during times of low demand and discharging to the grid during times of high demand. And when this happens at scale, which it will, it’ll help solve issues for the grid and EVs, he says. Looking at this, it is perhaps easy to infer why Goyal states that he gets his confidence from consumers. Explaining his optimism, he states that 90 percent of people charge cars at their homes, so that is taken care of, and the rest of the public infrastructure chargers deployed by them are also mainly CCS2, which is compliant with all cars, so consumers don’t need to worry.

Gurugram-based EV charging firm Statiq is also working towards improving the accessibility and reliability of charging stations. “We are creating an aggregated network of EV chargers, where at any charge point, the operator can list his/her chargers on the statiq platform, which can be accessed by thousands of users,” says Akshit Bansal, Founder and CEO of Statiq. He goes on to add that the company is currently focussing on metro cities and highways, and in the next one year, it will begin reaching tier two and tier three cities..

This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's June 15, 2023 issue.

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