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Roundtable for EV battery swapping roadmap

India Energy Storage Alliance on May 21 initiated a discussion on EV Battery Swapping Roadmap for India with industry and businesses operating in e-mobility, battery manufacturing and e-charging space.

The virtual roundtable, which began in May, will be held in four sessions over the course of three months. It is intended to create a policy advocacy paper on swapping which will be later submitted to the Department of Heavy Industries, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Power, Department of Science and Technology and NITI Aayog.

The theme for discussion for Roundtable 1 was viability and ecosystem and business models. It was attended by over 45 organizations from industries ranging from automobile manufacturing, energy, transportation and distribution to consultancy, utilities, and government bodies.

The takeaway from Roundtable 1: 

While discussing the way forward to proliferate electric car chargers, both fast and slow and centralized or decentralized, a few industry players vouched for battery swapping business model. The battery of an EV makes up for nearly 30-50 percent of the total cost of the EV and therefore separating the battery would reduce the upfront cost of the vehicle, making it competitive with or below ICE counterparts. Attendees deliberated that the battery swapping business model not only provides a price advantage but also reduces charging wait time and increases run-time.

Keeping in view the above-mentioned encouraging aspects of battery swapping, the industry players deliberated on finding a viable customer segment and evolving business case.

As for customer segments, the majority industry players believe in starting with the 2Ws and 3Ws. The idea behind this is considering the fleets to be smaller in size, covering less distance per day, and having minimal operational complexity to swap batteries; swapping makes an economical choice, more so in shared mobility.

As a majority of EV sales in India come from 2W section, there is industry consensus on beginning the electrification of mobility through 2Ws and 3Ws. Bounce, Sun Mobility, Ola Electric, Hop Bike are already implementing this and a policy discussion can be initiated to encourage the industry's growth.

As for e-4Ws, industry players believe the customer segment can utilize battery swapping services and it would require collaboration with OEMs and formulation of indigenous technical standards. Over time, this looks like a plausible segment but would warrant further interventions for service providers to divulge their resources into it fully.

In terms of e-buses and commercial vehicles, it was discussed that the fixed packs are more suitable for a commercial vehicle since batteries are sophisticated, massive, and require liquid cooling. Further, among the competing technologies, fast charging and flash charging are much more market acceptable for commercial vehicles, and lastly for long-distance intercity buses, there are other technologies like hydrogen fuel cells. There is an alternative to hybrid swapping model, but it is a costly affair.

Therefore, it was discussed that battery swapping for buses and commercial vehicles at the moment seems to be not much of a commercially viable segment. The option of hybrid swapping was too expensive for now and hence this segment would require a few more years of technology advancement to make the battery swapping commercially possible with automated swapping technology.

On the business model, it was agreed that IESA may hold discussions with the financial institutions, both NBFCs and PSEs, to understand their apprehensions and design indices, which can quantify the salvage value/resale value of such vehicles. Such an activity would help in building confidence as well as a resale roadmap for the sector.

The takeaway from Roundtable 2: 

The 2nd Roundtable was held on June 3 and covered technology and aspects of standardization and interoperability. Having deliberated the advantages of the battery swapping business model in Roundtable 1, the second session, industry players deliberated on finding a viable customer segment and evolving business case.

They also discussed various technical aspects that had to be addressed over time such as standardization, interoperability, and testing, manual vs automated swapping, cybersecurity, grid connection requirements, vehicle-to-grid (V2G), centralized vs. decentralized charging, second-life and recycling.

As for standardization, interoperability, and testing, it was agreed upon that since battery swapping is at a very nascent stage, standards should be there only for safety purposes. For example, EVs having swappable batteries need to be tested as per AIS-038 for M&N category and AIS-156 for L-category vehicles as all these vehicles are tested along with the battery, irrespective of having swapping battery.

It was also agreed upon that standardizing the sliding mechanism and connector installation could be considered once there is mass adoption, as multiple players are experimenting with their own technologies. Since a growing market would eventually correct and adopt an efficient technology, in due course standardization on the same can be done.

In terms of chemistry, size, and voltage, standardizing the battery packs would hamper the developing market. For different applications, different chemistry and size of batteries is required – portable applications focus on higher energy density, batteries for commercial EV focus on the higher number of miles per swap, while batteries for personal EVs focus on certain limited things. Hence, a one-size-fits-all approach would be a significant barrier in customizing batteries for different use-cases.

In the case of interoperability, some technical standards need to be devised specifying voltage and communication protocols for diverse categories. Also, it will give an OEM flexibility to switch services from one service provider to another. Besides, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency may take upon the task of devising an energy rating system for battery swapping stations based on their operating efficiency, rating of chargers, or roundtrip efficiency of their charged battery packs.

On the point of manual vs automated swapping, as cost parameter becomes paramount for e-2Ws and e-3Ws, manual swapping becomes a favorable choice for consumers as long as the safety aspect is well addressed. However, automatic swapping is preferred for larger EVs like e-buses because of their heavy battery (650Kg) and needs robotic support. Although the timing for overall operation for automatic swapping is two-and-a-half minutes with high system cost, it nevertheless makes a feasible case for a fleet of buses in comparison to a network of fast charging station.

For the grid-connection requirement, there are many challenges on the distribution-front like grid inter-connection upgradation, which is an additional cost for a service provider; every state has a different bifurcation for HT and LT lines which creates a problem for service providers. Therefore, consistent frameworks need to be formulated for EV charging from LT and HT cables. Due to nascent years of swapping industry, post 8 PM demand is very low and does not overlap with the evening peak. However, if the peak comes during the daytime, then the problem arises for the service providers. Clarification on the tariff for charging batteries at the swapping station needs to be examined.

For EVs, it was discussed that batteries get fully charged in 90 minutes at a swapping station, and therefore for feeding back to the grid, swapping station should have a specific inventory of charged batteries in the station. Although, it is too early to estimate a customer pattern of retrieving and submitting the in-use batteries. Also, to make V2G/SS2G feasible, Discoms should incentivize the swapping stations.

It was agreed upon that a centralized model is preferred over a distributed model due to safety concern and having lesser per battery charging cost.

As for second life and recycling, it was agreed that for second-life applications some projects in the field of energy storage application and RE development are undertaken. For recycling, although the government has laid down regulation that they would require robust recollecting infrastructure and incentive for end-users. Also, formulating a Scraping Value Index (SVI) for such batteries would provide a clearer picture of the approximate value of batteries.

Author : Padmini
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