India is steadily transitioning to EVs as more companies offer vehicles and charging infrastructure. But one issue that continues to remain a challenge is the lack of standardized charging protocol, according to EV Cosmos, a company that is rapidly expanding to offer EV chargers across the country.
Speaking to Digitimes Asia recently, Amitabh Shivpuri, director of marketing at EV Cosmos, pointed out that several protocols are now used in India, including CHAdeMO, GB/T, and the CCS (Combined Charging System).
"As far as the Indian market is concerned, we have been witnessing a mix of all these protocols," Shivpuri said. "On the one hand, we have GB/T vehicles coming in, and while on the other hand, other vehicles using other protocols are also being introduced. However, now I think we are largely moving towards CCS protocol."
Of course, this is not the only challenge that EV users and companies in India face. Weak infrastructure, unreliable power grids, and extreme heat, especially in the summers, are all concerns that these businesses have to overcome.
Expanding footprint across the country
Providing charging stations in every nook and corner is difficult for a country like India, which is large, diverse, and does not necessarily have similar infrastructure everywhere. Realizing this, many charging infra startups now focus on certain areas, to begin with, while slowly and strategically making plans to expand to other parts.
EV Cosmos, for instance, has a strong presence in the western and central parts of the country, in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. The company has tied up with entities like corporates to offer services to customers and is planning to soon offer charging stations in other parts of the country as well
But unlike some other companies that have tied up with gas stations to offer EV charging services, Shivpuri explained that their strategy has taken up a broader approach to identify areas where customers would want to charge their vehicles and the most convenient places where they can get it.
"We have a very varied business model as far as the charging infra is concerned," Shivpuri said. "We are not just particularly following the volumes of the charging stations, but we are more interested in making sure that each charging station is able to cater to the larger EV population. So strategically moving, we identify those places – it could be a residential complex, a commercial complex, a part of the wayside community on the highways, a standalone installation, an airport, or even a railway station. These are the places we have already put in. In short, we are considering a wide spectrum of venues where charging infrastructure can be provided."
Operation and maintenance concerns persist
Although many companies have already set up charging stations across cities and highways, EV customers continue to struggle as many of these infrastructures are not maintained or serviced adequately. Many forums and discussion boards catering to EV repeatedly show customers complaining about chargers that don't function.
"This is actually a very unfortunate situation," Shivpuri agreed. "Those charging stations pop up on Google maps, but when you reach there, it may not be working. Basically, we should realize that the charging infrastructure business is a combination of two things. On the one hand, it's a complex technology, while on the other, it's a highly service-oriented operation. If there is an issue, it may not be just a concern regarding the component that is providing the charging facility to the vehicles. There is a complete system that includes software, the internet of things, etc., which works as a package to make a charging solution. So any issues to any of these different aspects, if not addressed on a real-time basis, can affect the charger. Without a hundred percent communication between the vehicle and the charger, they cannot start charging."
There are other issues as well. If a distributor offers the charging station, they depend on the OEM for spare parts, which could delay repair or services when required.
"So the OEMs have to support them in such situations," Shivpuri pointed out. "Our charging stations are connected to our central server 24/7, and we have been lucky enough and prompt enough to be able to address any issues. You must realize that EV technology differs from the charging infrastructure technology but needs to match. Only if you can remotely identify concerns and deal with them on a real-time basis can you provide the best service to the customer."
Open to partnerships to add more value
Partnerships are necessary for the EV industry. EV Cosmos had begun their operations in partnership with UK-based ChargeNET, although now they provide in-house solutions to customers. Shivpuri said they are always open to partnerships if any business proposes something that would offer mutual benefit.
As with everything related to EVs, the industry and technology are changing rapidly. For India, this would mean standardization of protocols and the introduction of new technology. With companies like EV Cosmos going aggressive in this sphere, the country may soon see more EV customers.