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Thu, May

Solar Energy: The Perfect Match For EVs

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EVs and Solar as a supporting source of power.

Recently there has been much hype around EVs what with the Indian government pledging to replace petrol and diesel cars with EVs by 2030.

Though it is an ambitious plan, getting the supporting infrastructure up and running will be a major challenge. Besides, one more aspect and that too a very important one is whether the switch over to EVs is really serving the purpose for which they were basically put on the roads? Whether the switch over to EVs will actually make a difference in emissions; whether it will help in reducing air pollution?

It will definitely help in reducing India’s oil import bill to a great extent but is an electric vehicle as green as it is supposed to be? Well, the answer lies in the fact that an EV will only be as green as the electricity it runs on.

For instance, let’s take the example of a country like Norway. It’s EVs are the cleanest in the world, as 98% of its electricity is sourced from hydropower, a form of renewable energy.

64% of India’s electricity is produced by means of conventional sources like coal, diesel etc., 2% from nuclear and 34% from renewable sources. Out of 34% of renewables, the share of solar consists of 6.9%. Large- and small-scale hydro, wind and biomass make up for the rest.

With only a small share of power sourcing coming from renewables, and electrification of mobility gathering steam in the near future, the potential impact of EVs on electricity cannot be ruled out. What will happen when the share of EVs gradually increases in the future? Will it serve the purpose of a clean energy revolution if the EVs will be charged by electricity generated through conventional forms?

Solar is the only answer which will justify the zero-emission purpose of embracing EVs. Why particularly solar and not wind or other renewables?

Solar PV technology is the only form of renewable which can be heavily decentralized or dispersed by way of installing small scale solar power plants. A dispersed energy system consisting of a small-scale power plant will put the power source closer to the end user, reducing transmission and distribution inefficiencies and most importantly relieving the impact of extra loading on the grid. It will offer dual benefits of reducing emissions by adopting EVs as a means of transport and reducing fossil fuel use, thereby increasing eco-efficiency.

With the gradually decreasing prices of solar and new break-throughs in PV technology coupled with better and more effective storage systems with improved efficiencies and decreasing costs, we will be witnessing a huge disruption in the automobile industry. Solar will be the perfect matching partner for EVs and the future is bright for an EV market integrated with Solar PV.

A brief about EVs.

There are mainly three types of EVs classified by the amount of electricity they use for their power source. They are: Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).

Hybrid Electric Vehicles: HEVs are powered by a combination of electricity and petrol. While the electricity is generated by the car’s braking system to recharge the battery, also called ‘regenerative braking’, this powers the electric motor which helps in the initial start off and then the petrol engine takes over as the speed or load increases. Hybrids are designed to ensure the best economy in various driving conditions by controlling both the motors (petrol and electric) by an internal computer.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles: Also called Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs), they are also powered by both electricity and petrol. A PHEV’s battery can be charged by ‘regenerative braking’ as well as by plugging in an external power charging outlet. The petrol engine also acts as an extension by recharging the battery as it gets low. Thus, unlike conventional hybrids, PHEVS can be plugged-in and recharged from an outlet, allowing them to drive extended distances using just electricity. In these kinds of hybrids, the choice of the primary source of energy lies with the end user as some car makers favour petrol and some favour electricity.

Battery Electric Vehicles: Unlike any of the above two hybrids, a Battery Electric Vehicle is exclusively powered by electricity which is sourced from a rechargeable battery. An EV is solely powered by an electric motor instead of an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). It gets power from a controller which regulates the amount of power based on the use of the accelerator pedal by the driver. EVs have minimum parts, have no fuel tank, or a petrol engine or an exhaust pipe and are totally emission free. EVs can also charge their batteries through ‘regenerative braking’ like hybrids.

When an EV’s batteries are depleted, they can be charged either at your home or at a dedicated ‘EV charging station’. It is very much similar to charging your mobile phone.

Due to their sustainability and cheap running costs, EVs are the way to the future and they are set to make an entry into the market with a stealth which is going to catch every one unawares.

Now let’s discuss the potential of EVs to replace ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines), their benefits, implementation challenges and solutions.

Many countries around the world, along with India, have pledged to totally scrap out all vehicles running on fossil fuels to be replaced with EVs in a course of a few years.

The first step in realizing this dream would be to educate the masses and create an awareness about the financial and social benefits of using an EV. Along with the same, the 

government should build confidence in the general public by framing favourable policies and encouraging investment in the supporting infrastructure which is an essential back- bone of EVs.

Financial and Social benefits

An EV is very much economical compared to an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). On an average, an EV can save up to seven times on fuel costs. An EV practically has no maintenance costs as it has minimal parts compared to an ICE. No clutch, no gears and no petrol or diesel engine.

Besides, EVs are subsidized by the government’s FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles) scheme under which incentives up to Rs 25,000/- are offered for electric scooters and motorcycles, up to Rs. 61,000/- for three wheelers and up to Rs. 1,38,000/- for electric cars.

Reduced harmful exhaust emissions will lead to better air quality which will lead to less health problems caused by pollution.

In terms of safety, EVs have a lower centre of gravity due to which they are less likely to roll over. EVs also have a lower risk of major fires or explosions.

When you prefer to drive an EV in lieu of an ICE, you are contributing your bit towards the environment, you are supporting the fight against climate change and you are reducing your carbon footprint. Besides, you are also helping in reducing the country’s oil import bill.

Changeover to EVs – A changeover of the mindset

Driving an EV is not the same as driving a petrol or diesel car. In conventional fossil fuel powered cars, when you run out of fuel you go to the gas station for a re-fuel which will take five minutes. In case of an EV, when your car’s batteries are depleted, you have to get your car batteries charged at an EV charging station or at your home or work place. This usually takes from 30 minutes to five hours depending on the type of charger (More on this in the next write up). It is almost the same as charging your mobile phone.

An EV owner will have to plan his schedule accordingly to charge his vehicle, but most EV users usually charge their vehicles at home in the evening after the end of the day’s work. Generally public charging stations are used when in transit on highways.

Challenges

As people are generally bound to charge their EVs in the evenings when they come back home from work, there is a possibility that this may lead to a significant spike in evening peak loads at the local level. These hot spots will generally be concentrated around residential premises. Are our utility companies ready to take on the extra load? If not, what is the next best alternative?

Another major challenge would be the development of supporting infrastructure by way of installing sufficient charging stations at multiple points in the cities as well as on highways. This will require huge capital investments. Besides, will the government act with agility in giving permissions, doing away with red tape and make this procedure simpler, avoiding cumbersome permissions and paperwork?

A major hurdle about an EV is the prohibitive battery replacement costs. Battery costs will have to come down and efficiencies and power capacity will have to increase.

Solutions

>> EV manufacturers can incentivise EV owners for delaying charging during peak load conditions. For e.g. BMW’s i3 EV owners were signed up for an 18-month program where the participants received alerts through a smart phone app asking them to delay charging of their EV. When accepted, the software allows BMW to halt the charging remotely. Participants were paid incentives based on the number of times they accepted charging delays.

Energy companies can tie up with EV manufacturers to develop a system where EV owners would be allowed to operate as individual ‘energy hubs’ which would enable them to draw, store and return electricity to the grid, thus, balancing grid overloads.

Electricity regulators can even design effective rate structures to shift EV charging times using demand response wherein Discoms may offer attractive time-of-day tariff to promote off-peak charging.

>> Electricity regulators can play a proactive role in promotion of EVs wherein they can mandate Discoms to invest in EV charging infrastructure.

The ministry of power under the Government of India has laid down guidelines and standards for charging infrastructure to enable faster adoption of EVs in India by ensuring safe, reliable, accessible and affordable charging infrastructure and eco-system.

Setting up of Public Charging Stations (PCS) has been announced as a de-licensed activity

 

and any individual/entity is free to set up public charging stations by following the standards and protocols laid down by the government.

Any person wanting to set up a PCS can apply for connectivity and he will be provided with power supply connectivity on a priority basis by the distribution company licensee.

>> Battery costs have come down drastically since the past few years and are expected to halve due to a growing battery manufacturing industry with significant economies of scale.

With the government sending out the right signals and making ambitious announcements and looking at the future potential of EVs, battery manufacturing companies are readying themselves to meet the coming demand with more enhanced capacities at competitive prices.

>>The potential of EV charging infrastructure manufacturing in India

  •  Shared electric and connected mobility could help save up to INR 20 lakh crore in oil imports and nearly one giga tonne of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
  • EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Ltd) under the Ministry of Power is committed to fulfilling GOI’s vision by creating an eco-system for manufacturers and suppliers to invest in E-Mobility in India. Aggregating demand through bulk procurement & guaranteed payments to suppliers.
  • Replicating the success of LED revolution which received a mammoth support from public, EESL looks forward to the same type of acceptance to help EVs a success.
  • EV adoption requires an effective charging infrastructure for creating the eco-system for EVs to operate smoothly.
  • Central government has announced that there will be no need for a license to establish EV charging stations in India.
  • EESL has planned to replace the government’s fleet of five lakh conventional ICE cars with electric variants.
  • It aims to establish a charging infrastructure across all states. EVs are set to bring in a major disruption in the automobile industry and the change is just over the horizon.

- Mehul Gogri, DY. Manager - Corp Comms, Goldi Solar Pvt. Ltd.


 

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