Expert Interviews

Interview about E-Mobility Concepts in India | Yuvraj Sarda, Head of Strategy, SUN Mobility Pvt Ltd

ees International interviewed Yuvraj Sarda, Head of Strategy at SUN Mobility about innovative solutions for Electric Vehicles (EV) and clean energy concepts in India. SUN Mobility is a 50:50 joint venture between Virya Mobility 5.0 and SUN New Energy Systems, pioneers in areas of electric mobility and clean energy in India.

ees International: Talking about innovative solutions for Electric Vehicles (EV) and clean energy in India, what are the main political, economic and social challenges at the moment?

Government of India (GoI) has displayed a clear intent to promote electric mobility by launching a 1.5 billion USD incentive scheme – FAME 2 in April 2019. The scheme largely focuses on promoting electrification of shared mobility vehicles such as 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, taxis and public transport buses. Over last two years, several states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, etc have launched their respective state level EV manufacturing and adoption policies to support the GoI’s vision.

Despite these high-level initiatives, there are a few initial hiccups around implementation of these policies by the bureaucrats which are being addressed gradually. Some of the challenges include bringing clarity around the method of implementing free permits for usage of commercial EVs, conclusion on standards to be adopted for charging infrastructure, getting regulatory clearances in installing charging infrastructure at fuel stations, getting access to electricity infrastructure in a timely basis for setting up charging stations, time required to get power connections, meters, etc.

The challenges around electric vehicles include 

  • High upfront cost: India is a very price sensitive market so the high upfront cost of acquiring an EV poses a significant challenge for the consumers. EVs are, on average, twice as expensive as ICE vehicles, largely due to the high cost of batteries which contribute up to 40-60% of the vehicle cost.
  • Range Concerns: As a consequence of how established the refueling infrastructure is for ICE vehicles, there is no range concern associated with them. However, the same is not the case for EVs. The limited range of EVs, combined with the inadequate charging infrastructure, prevents consumers from opting to go electric.
  • Long Refueling Time: Consumers are used to spending no more than 5 minutes on refueling their vehicles. Charging times ranging from 90 min to as high as 7 hours result in psychological barriers to adoption, which has been a key challenge in bringing EVs to the masses.

ees International: What is the charging infrastructure for EVs in India like and what are the differences between rural and urban landscapes?

India has diverse transportation needs and no one solution can fit all. Different applications require different EV solutions, which leads to the coexistence of both-fixed battery charging & battery swapping solutions. The shift to EVs in India, though, is quicker in two- and three-wheelers. But the catch is that fast-charging technology does not make economic sense right now for them. Fast chargers for two- and three-wheelers are too expensive and the vehicles currently plying in India do not conform to them. The electric two and three-wheelers in India, at present use their standard (slow) chargers. This approach is cheaper and widely adopted throughout the regions where two and three-wheeler EVs proliferate. Consumers are used to refueling within 5 minutes, which makes a fuel stop (e.g. on the way to the airport) acceptable. Considering that, even a 60-minute fast charge is completely unacceptable. This is where battery swapping technology steps in and makes the most sense. Swapping a depleted battery with a fully charged one, a solution that is standard across all 2- & 3-wheelers, in under a minute is SUN Mobility’s value proposition. This open architecture energy infrastructure solution can be easily integrated by OEMs across various categories. Government’s focus on electrification of transport is currently only for urban centres (Metro cities and top 15 cities by population) due to high utilization scenario. Rural areas will be focused once the proliferation is high in the urban areas and economies of scale are being achieved. Charging infrastructure requirement will be similar to what it would be for vehicles in urban areas.

ees International: What are the so called “Made in India” solutions?

In a bid to lead the race of solar-power-based energy generation, India could not create an ecosystem for solar panel manufacturing which led to high imports. Today, we import 90% of our solar cell and module requirements from China, Taiwan and Malaysia. Now, we are creating barriers by applying high import duties which is impacting the growth.

In electrification of transport, Govt. wants to ensure that we do not repeat these mistakes and hence focus of in-house R&D, domestic manufacturing and local supply chain. The central EV policy FAME II also mandates certain percentage of locally produced content to be able to get the benefits of financial incentives mentioned in the policy. There are several states which have come forward and offered generous incentives to setup manufacturing facilities for electric vehicles, components and charging infrastructure. Large business houses have committed to invest in domestic R&D and manufacturing to create an ecosystem for electric vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure deployment.

The dominant mode of urban mobility in India is shared mobility. Around 85% of urban commutes in India are via 2 & 3 wheelers or Bus. Despite the growth of the Indian auto market, car ownership rates in India remain extremely low (India ranks 133rd in the world in terms of vehicle ownership). Based on the Indian driving cycle and the actual driving conditions in India, the vehicles cover shorter average distances (especially during urban commutes), face more stop/ start traffic due to heterogeneous road traffic, travel at lower average & peak speeds, due to congested roads, and do not need to accelerate as quickly as vehicles in other markets. Hence, these vehicles need a cost-effective and efficient electrification solution which can still meet the diversity that this country has to offer in terms of climate, terrains and usage. Hence, by driving the ‘Made in India’ solution way, we are trying to create more locally relevant and highly efficient systems through frugal innovation.

ees International: How does your quick interchange station (QIS) work and what are the (planned) dimensions of your charging stations’ network?

A Quick Interchange Station (QIS) is basically a “refueling“ station for EVs, where depleted batteries can be replaced with fully charged ones in a matter of minutes. The function of QIS to charge the batteries and cool them simultaneously so that they are conditioned for long life and high performance. The QIS is easy to install (takes a day to install), modular, has edge computing, advanced thermal management system and is always connected to our cloud servers. It automatically runs diagnostics and cooling (if required) when the battery is placed back for charging.  Since SUN Mobility offers Battery As A Service, the consumer pays only for the consumed energy. This is done through an RFID enabled key fob that authenticates the user and displays information regarding the vehicle, energy consumed and the credits deducted for the same, making the entire process hassle free.

SUN Mobility has developed 2 kinds of QIS‘- one for electric 2- & 3-wheelers and one for electric buses. Theysupport all small factor vehicles ranging from 2-wheelers all the way up to a sub-one-ton micro truck. The automated Quick Interchange Station for eBuses supports multiple bus formats – 9m, 11m, 12m, low-floor high-floor, AC, Non-AC, etc., where compared to 4-8 hours of conventional charging time, each Smart Battery can be swapped in under 3 minutes!

They are also very compact and take up just a third of the real estate space to be set up, compared to conventional refueling stations.

Each QIS for 2- & 3- wheelers can do more than 200 battery swaps per day while a QIS for eBuses can do more than 300 swaps per day, which ensures an optimized use of the real estate used for their deployment.

Currently we have several 2-& 3-wheeler QIS up and running in the cities of Gurugram (National Capital Region) supporting a large electric 3-wheeler fleet and an ebus QIS running in Ahmedabad (state capital of Gujarat) supporting a fleet of 18 ebuses from Ashok Leyland. We plan to deploy around 60 QIS for electric 2-&3-wheelers across two cities by December 2019.

ees International: What differentiates your solutions from others in the market?

The SUN Mobility open architecture energy infrastructure solution offers a Battery As A Solution, i.e., (“BAAS”) model which comprises of Smart Batteries, Quick Interchange Stations, Plug-n-Play Vehicle Integration Kit and Smart Network

The batteries are ‘Smart’ as they exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Swappable – allowing quick refueling to the user
  • Modular – allowing flexibility in vehicle range (1, 2 or 3 battery packs can be packaged in the same vehicle basis the requirement)
  • Robust – tamper-proof, water resistant and made for Indian operating conditions
  • Long-life – Curated battery technology allowing 3 times the life of a regular Lithium ion battery
  • Compact & Lighter – 1/3rd – 1/5th the size and weight of a standard battery in a typical electric vehicle
  • Interoperable – Compatible with multiple vehicle categories (2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, and micro trucks) and different vehicle platforms in that category (eRickshaws and eAutos)
  • Connected – Has an onboard GPRS sim card to send all the telemetry data
  • Intelligent – Onboard custom Battery Management System for remote diagnostics
  • Future-proof – Due to modular architecture, batteries can be upgraded as the battery cell technology evolves 

The Quick Interchange Stations adds value to the customer in the following ways:

  • Quick Refueling – Both the stations (automated and manual) enable batteries to be swapped in few (~3) mins
  • Quick (& easy) to Install – Station is a plug-and-play equipment, takes one day to be fully installed (To share a perspective, it would take just 30 days to create sufficient EV ‘refueling’ infrastructure for a city)
  • Modular – As demand increases, multiple modules can be added to the station to cater more vehicles
  • Temperature-controlled – By managing the right temperature during charging of batteries, their long life (hence lower cost) can be ensured
  • Smart and Connected – Uses Edge Computing to perform its daily functions but remains connected to the IoT cloud for updates and data sharing
  • Multi-platform compatibility – Common station caters to 2-wheelers (eScooters and eBikes), 3-wheelers (eRickshaw and eAuto) and electric micro trucks and common station caters to all kinds of buses.

Our Smart Network that monitors everything in real time and drives higher utilization, lower cost and has features like

  • Asset Monitoring: Remote tracking of Smart Batteries and QIS provides real time updates regarding performance.
  • Energy Management: Optimal usage of energy for charging based on demand, availability and tariff, and predicting energy requirements based on consumption trends.
  • Driver App: The Android application displays live information like battery’s state of charge, distance to empty for the driver; allows discovery of nearest QIS, and tracking of usage and managing payments.
  • Network Planning: Geospatial network planning to deploy QIS’ optimally driving lower capex & better asset utilization.
  • Fleet Management: Customers can easily track and manage their fleets via real-time updates and also receive vehicle maintenance alerts and predictive maintenance services.
  • Data Analytics: Telemetry Data is collected every second from every battery and QIS deployed in the field. This massive data is processed and analysed to measure energy usage, battery health, QIS utilization.

Yuvraj Sarda
Head of Strategy

SUN Mobility Pvt Ltd

The ees International Magazine is specialized on the future-oriented market of electrical energy storage systems, not only from a technological-, but also a financial and application-oriented point-of-view. In cooperation with ees Global, the ees International Magazine informs the energy industry about current progress and the latest market innovations.
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