Use of on-board chargers in EVs: Enhancing consumer experience

The incorporation of an On-Board Charger in Electric Vehicles offers a range of compelling benefits for users, says Dinesh Arjun of Raptee Energy.

By Dinesh Arjun, CEO and Co-founder, Raptee Energy calendar 22 Jun 2024 Views icon2409 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Use of on-board chargers in EVs: Enhancing consumer experience

In recent years, the global automotive landscape has witnessed a significant surge in the adoption of EVs, indicating a growing confidence among consumers in this eco-friendly mode of transportation. This trend underscores the informed decision-making process of individuals who recognise EVs as a practical and sustainable choice for achieving optimal performance and eco-conscious commuting.

One key technological advancement enhancing the EV experience is the advent of On-Board Chargers (OBCs). To comprehend how OBCs contribute to a smoother and more hassle-free daily commute, it's essential to first understand what OBCs are and how they operate.

What is an OBC?

An onboard charger, also known as an OBC, is a built-in device in electric vehicles (EVs) that converts alternating current (AC) power from an external source, like a Level 2 charging station or even a home outlet, into direct current (DC) power to charge the vehicle's battery.

Essentially, it acts like a translator, taking the language of the grid (AC) and turning it into the language of the EV battery (DC). This is crucial because EV batteries can only be charged with DC power.

On board chargers come in various capacities, typically ranging from 3.3 kW to 22 kW. The higher the capacity, the faster the charging speed.

Advantages of using OBC

The convenience factor is paramount as it allows EV owners to recharge their vehicles at home or any location with access to an AC power outlet. This significantly reduces dependency on public charging stations, providing users the flexibility to manage their charging needs at their convenience. Moreover, OBCs empower vehicles to tailor their charging experience by selecting the optimal speed based on available power sources and individual time constraints. Additionally, the cost-effectiveness of charging at home further underscores the economic advantage of OBCs, as it generally proves to be more economical compared to utilising public charging infrastructure.

Heavy chargers versus OBC

The drawbacks associated with bulky chargers in Electric Vehicles (EVs) extend beyond mere spatial concerns, impacting both functionality and efficiency. These sizable chargers pose a dual threat by occupying valuable space within the vehicle, potentially encroaching upon cargo capacity and compromising passenger comfort. Furthermore, the added weight of these chargers can detrimentally affect overall performance, a critical consideration for smaller EVs where space optimisation and efficiency are paramount.

Beyond the physical constraints, the increased weight of these chargers introduces complexities in their systems and components, leading to potential escalations in maintenance costs and repair intricacies over the vehicle's lifespan. While heavier chargers may offer faster charging speeds, this advantage comes with a trade-off – the potential inefficiency arising from increased energy losses during the conversion process. In essence, the quest for swifter charging may be counteracted by the need for more frequent refuels, eroding the anticipated benefits.

Ease of refuelling in EVs

In the ongoing debate between EVs and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, a pivotal aspect under scrutiny is the refuelling (or charging) experience. Comparing the ease of use for each reveals distinct advantages for EVs. The convenience factor is paramount as EV owners can charge their vehicles at home overnight or during the day while parked, eliminating the need for dedicated trips to gas stations. Moreover, EVs offer accessibility by allowing users to plug into any standard outlet for charging.

The familiarity of plugging in, akin to charging other electronic devices, renders the process intuitive for most users. This simplicity is complemented by the flexibility of choosing charging times based on individual schedules and needs. On the contrary, ICE vehicles present inherent limitations. The refueling process involves dedicated trips to gas stations, often causing inconvenience and interrupting daily errands.

The volatility and unpredictability of fuel prices further add to the limitations of traditional internal combustion vehicles. In summary, the advantages of EVs in terms of convenience, accessibility, familiarity, and flexibility underscore their potential to revolutionise the refuelling experience when compared to traditional ICE vehicles.

Onboard charger in electric 4-wheelers

Over the past decade, with the advent of the Onboard Charger, the global landscape of electric 4-wheeler adoption has undergone a remarkable transformation, with sales surging from 17,000 units in 2010 to an astounding over 10 million units in 2022, representing a staggering 588-fold increase. The market share of electric vehicles in the global passenger car segment has witnessed a notable ascent, evolving from negligible figures in 2010 to over 14% in 2022, signifying substantial progress and a paradigm shift in the automotive industry.

In contrast, India, commencing from a smaller initial base, has displayed promising growth potential in the electric vehicle domain. While sales were negligible in 2010, 2022 saw over 4,25,000 electric 4-wheelers sold in the country, marking a significant milestone. The market share of electric cars in India, though still in the early stages of adoption, has reached around 1.5% of total car sales in 2022, reflecting a gradual but noteworthy shift towards sustainable mobility in the Indian automotive market.

The future of onboard chargers

The future of onboard chargers (OBCs) in the electric vehicle (EV) realm is poised for a transformative trajectory, mirroring the rapid advancements in EV technology. One of the key focal points is the quest for faster charging, with the anticipation of ultra-fast charging systems, including 800V and beyond, becoming mainstream. This evolution promises charging times that can rival traditional gasoline vehicles, envisioning the addition of hundreds of kilometres of range in mere minutes.

Advanced OBCs are expected to introduce dynamic power allocation, intelligently managing power distribution between battery charging and auxiliary functions to optimise both speed and efficiency. The integration of bi-directional charging, commonly known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G), will empower EVs to contribute power back to the grid, balancing demand and potentially generating income for vehicle owners. Furthermore, OBCs will seamlessly connect with smart grids and home energy management systems, embracing vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity to optimise charging based on electricity rates and grid needs.

Personalisation will also play a significant role, allowing users to define charging profiles based on preferences for speed, time, and energy sources. Beyond charging, OBCs are set to evolve into comprehensive systems, monitoring battery health and performance in real-time, providing valuable insights and potentially extending battery life. Predictive maintenance features will anticipate potential issues with the OBC or battery, enabling proactive interventions and preventing breakdowns. Additionally, over-the-air updates for OBC firmware will ensure that these crucial components stay up-to-date with the latest features and bug fixes, reflecting a dynamic and forward-looking landscape.

The incorporation of On-Board Chargers (OBC) in electric four-wheelers has significantly accelerated the widespread adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs), establishing them as a practical and reliable choice for commuters. The seamless compatibility of OBCs with the widely embraced CCS2 charging standard stations ensures that EV users can embark on longer rides without the anxiety of running out of charge. Building on the proven success of OBCs in electric four-wheelers, their introduction to electric two-wheelers has the potential to revolutionise the automotive market, posing a formidable challenge to traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. This expansion not only strengthens the competitive edge of EVs but also marks a transformative shift in the dynamics of the automobile industry.

Dinesh Arjun is the CEO and Co-founder of Raptee Energy. Views expressed are those of the author. 

This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's June 15, 2024 issue.

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