Challenges for battery charging & swapping - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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by Narasimhan Santhanam

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The two key avenues to replenish an EV battery are: directly charge the battery or swap an empty battery with a replenished battery.

While there are significant technology and process developments and innovations taking place in swapping and charging, there are also critical challenges both these avenues face. This post provides an overview for battery charging and battery swapping.

Key challenges expected for battery charging

Technical challenges

  • The power from the unit has to be monitored as the power fluctuation can affect the equipment as well as the battery
  • Batteries Must Be Specifically Designed to Withstand Fast Charging. As many factors can damage the battery: temperature, sudden discharging/charging, too many charging cycles, etc.
  • Fast chargers require high-power electrical infrastructure
  • Fast-charging batteries must be able to absorb a high amount of energy in a short period of time. If they draw current from the grid at peak times, there will be a shortage of power creating a problem for Discoms. 
  • Environment conditions are important for fast charging
  • Ultra-fast chargers must have a high output power, 120kW for example. This requires electrical infrastructure adapted for high power, and these chargers are quite expensive. The fastest EV charger in the world today is 350kW. However, this charger is not yet useful because most commercial EVs are not capable of absorbing energy at such a high rate.

Marketing/administrative challenges

  • Demand charges: An important hurdle to fast charging public stations is demand charges (as in a set fee). A commercial business owner or charging station owner has to pay a fixed monthly fee for large amounts of available energy, and then those charges go up for drivers, too. In the near future, they’ll have to work with regulators and local utilities to find ways around high demand charges in order to make the system more efficient, because no one wants to pay demand charges that are comparable to gasoline prices. That defeats the purpose of this technology.
  •  To minimize peak load charging, smart chargers have to cut off power to particular vehicles once it reaches a 70%-80% of charging and divert the same to other cars. Most of the offices in India are small and distributed. So we can have a common parking tower for all the offices at a particular zone where smart charging can be implemented, which will otherwise minimize the individual implementation cost. 
  • Convincing utility providers: As we move toward a renewable energy-powered world, convincing utility providers to change their business models will be a challenge. In the case of EVs, the electricity load of charging stations is problematic for utility providers, who don’t want to have to contact every automaker who uses the charging station and tell them to scale back their electricity usage. 
  • According to Ford research, 95% of EV charging is done at home. It makes sense, of course — charging at night when the car is in the garage, or while you’re at home for a few hours, is the easiest and most effective way. Figuring out the best way to generate and store power in the home will catalyze the growth of workplace and public charging stations.
  • The government is planning on many installations of EV charging stations. Location of public charging stations many were deployed in areas that were not necessarily the most optimum.

Challenges yet to fix for EV battery swapping are as follows

  • Standardization of EV Lithium-Ion Battery Packs has not happened globally. The probability of this happening in India is questionable. This is so because the majority of the auto OEMs prefer to control their design strategies for battery packs as their core technology.
  • Commercially Viable Business Models, since the Indian government is eschewing subsidies to create a viable non-subsidized commercially sound model is extremely important.
  • Reliability of Leased/Rented Battery Packs gets accentuated in India. In quest of achieving profitability, if battery providers short change the customer and therefore causing a potential breach may lead to a serious disaster of swapping business and can create larger controversies as well.

Technical challenges

  • Battery Degradation:- Battery performance degrades over time and as a result the range attainable with each charge. In a battery swap scenario, considering that all cars will be using the same battery pack format and power, we will find batteries with different energy storage capacities in the swapping station, mainly due to degradation. 
  • Logically, most people will opt for newer battery packs when swapping, as they give greater range and reduce the number of trips required to the swapping station. Lower capacity packs mean that range with EVs will not be the same as with new packs, so users will not be happy when their new battery pack is swapped with a lower performance pack, as they will get less mileage from their vehicle. 
  • Infrastructure:- The infrastructure required for the battery packs is more complex and expensive than charging.

Marketing/administrative challenges

  • Interchangeability:- For technology to succeed and become a dominant trend, one feature is absolutely essential: Cross-Platform / Brand Compatibility.
  • OEMs should join hands with battery manufacturers and swapping service providers to come up with commonality in batteries for different types of vehicles so that it will lead to easy operation of EVs.

Know more on the EV charging ecosystem in India from: Components of EVSE | Bharath DC001 | Bharat AC001 | EVSE Growth Trends | Battery Swapping Growth Trends | EVSE Cost components | EVSE installation costs | Battery swapping in India | Indian EVSE Stakeholders | Charger Standards | Current Indian EVSE status | EVSE ChallengesEVSE during 2020-2030 |

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About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.


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