Auto majors such as Tata Motors, Hyundai and Mahindra & Mahindra are taking a leap of faith, and the reward is the electric vehicle ecosystem in India. Companies such as steelmaker JSW Steel, power generator National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and power distributor Power Grid Corporation of India are eyeing the market for EV charging stations in the country. This is promising not only for startups engaged in the charging of electric vehicles but also for the manufacturers of related connectors. The expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure is expected to drive the market for these connectors in the country.
Till 2018, automakers such as Maruti Suzuki India were hesitant to launch electric vehicles in the country citing lack of charging infrastructure as their biggest challenge. India had 222 charging stations with 353 charging points as of May 2018, according to an EY report.
But since then, the government has taken a range of measures to improve the charging infrastructure in the country. In July 2019, authorities lowered the GST rate applicable to electric vehicle chargers and charging stations was brought down to 5% from 18%. A sum of INR 1,000 Cr was earmarked for the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME)-II scheme to incentivise the setting up of 2,700 charging stations. The Centre set a goal of providing one charging station every three kilometres in metropolitans and smart cities, and every 50 kilometres on highways. It allocated around INR 14 Cr for the project, more than one-tenth of the total budget.
India has set the ball rolling. But to assess where the country’s EV charging infrastructure has reached so far, one needs to look at some basics.
What Is An EV Connector?
As the name indicates, connectors are a class of hardware that enables EVs to draw power from an electric source to charge the batteries. It engages the physical contact between the vehicle and the power source and enables the transmission of electricity into the vehicle.
Now, the type of connector to be used varies for different types of electric vehicles, based on factors such as the power rating of the charge point. And with various types of charging standards deployed, connectors also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
India’s Unique Need For EV Charging Infrastructure
Globally, electric vehicle charging technologies are categorised on the basis of speed of charging – rapid, slow and fast – and location – private and public. In India, however, the classification for public charging is between low-voltage and high-voltage electric vehicles, and there is no set standard for private charging since the electricity is consumed based on home-metering. It usually takes three hours to charge an electric two-wheeler and seven hours to charge a car at home. Home chargers are mostly AC-powered capable of producing up to 2.5 kilowatts (KW) of electricity.
This is why India’s EV journey is unique. Authorities and currently focused on the establishment of public EV charging stations.
Here’s how India’s public charging infrastructure is classified:
Market Forecast For Charging Connectors In India
Focus on charging infrastructure to drive market: Globally, the market for connectors for EV charging is projected to expand at a CAGR of 18.44% to $98 Mn by 2025. In India, the development of charging infrastructure will be a decisive factor in determining the market demand for electric vehicles and charging equipment over the next few years.
Mahindra Electric Mobility, a unit of Mahindra & Mahindra, has provided more than 100 charging stations in Bengaluru, exclusively for Mahindra e20 customers. These charging points enable the customers to access at least one charging station every 5 Km. Tata Power and Ola Electric have invested over $100 Mn to develop optimum charging infrastructure in Nagpur and Delhi. Along with the government’s ambitious plan of taking the total number of electric vehicles plying on the road to at least 6-7 Mn by 2020 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP), these steps are expected to boost the demand for EV charging equipment in the country, which is projected to grow significantly by 2023.
“The growing sales of electric vehicles will prove to be a significant factor in exponentially increasing the demand for electric vehicle charging equipment in India. Currently, electric vehicles charging stations in India are installed chiefly in homes, workplaces and at public places such as shopping malls, petrol pumps, public parking and mass transit stations. The Indian EV charger ecosystem is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 25.0 per cent during the forecast period 2019-2025,” says Akhil Aryan, CEO and co-founder, ION Energy.
According to DataLabs by Inc42 estimates, India will need a mix of 2 Mn fast and slow charging stations to sustain every 1 Mn of electric vehicles on the road in each city or region.
Electric connectors are an indispensable component of the charging infrastructure as any charging station needs to be compatible with multiple vehicles: Assuming that a fast-charging station can charge up to eight vehicles at a time, each station requires 2-16 connectors. This translates to 8 Mn connectors for 0.5 Mn charging stations. And, each slow charging station will need one connector, meaning 1.5 Mn connectors for 1.5 Mn charging stations, considering India currently has a larger number of slow charging stations.
According to various studies, the EV charging market in India is bound to grow 54% by 2026, says Maxson Lewis, co-founder and managing director, Magenta Power, an integrated EV charging solutions provider. “But there is a lot more. This is a new ecosystem and the total size of the infra play is much higher and connectors are an important part of it,” he adds.
The EV industry sees the market for charging connectors to be disruptive in the future.
“Of course this ecosystem will develop constantly and options like wireless charging etc. will come through as well. But the basic business of dispensing power for mobility via conductive charging, swapping or wireless charging will continue to grow,” added Magenta Power’s Lewis.
Demand to start after two years: The demand for EV chargers is seen growing in tandem with the ask for EVs, leading to greater demand for charging connectors since they are among the most important related components. “A connector is needed to connect the EV to the charger and for communication between charger to BMS or onboard charger, so these will be always in demand. With an increase in charging stations, the connector market will also see the same exponential growth,” says Varun Chaturvedi, managing director and CEO of Volttic, a charging solutions provider.
Slow AC charging is expected to remain the fastest-growing segment within the EV connector space in terms of volumes. Till a time when electric vehicles will be able to absorb huge amounts of power quickly, AC charging is expected to defend its position as the dominant area within the space, say industry experts.
In other words, fast charging EV connectors will not be the fastest-growing segment!
“Essentially because fast charging is majorly applicable for four-wheelers which are currently not the fastest growing segment in India and will pick up pace after the adoption of all-electric two- and three-wheelers, and public transport,” tells Akhil Aryan, founder and CEO of ION Energy, a battery management and intelligence platform.
While two and three-wheelers are expected to lead the adoption of electric vehicles in India. But as far as charging connectors are concerned, there are no set standards governing the speed of charging for the two- and three-wheeler electric vehicle segment currently. “We believe going forward, lower energy vehicles i.e. the two-wheeler and three-wheeler vehicles will also need fast charging to meet the increase in demand for public and goods transportation over short-to-medium distances and this will lead to an increase in demand for charging connectors in India,” according to Saurav Kumar, founder and CEO of automotive tech startup Euler Motors.
Once standards are set, fast charging DC connectors will pip their slower counterparts in the EV connector space. These connectors require frequent replacements since they are more prone to damage, running on high voltage supply to power electric vehicles. “AC is slow and the connectors are less likely to deteriorate fast with time,” says Chaturvedi.
Major Players And The Question Of Cost
The Asia Pacific region was the largest EV charging connector market in 2018, mainly due to the improving charging infrastructure in Japan and China. Global players in the space include Japan’s Yazaki, Fujikura and Sumitomo, Switzerland’s TE Connectivity, US-based Tesla and Germany’sBosch.
In India, major players in the charging industry are spread across segments, including hardware manufacturers, software developers, distribution companies, charging point operators and installers. In each of these segments, there are many startups as well as credible domestic and global companies.
Within the charging industry, connectors remain a niche segment, and majorly imported from China. Other than imports, Exicom, Delta, Okaya, Magenta Power and Phoenix are some of the dominant domestic suppliers of connectors ranging from INR 20K to INR 3 lakh. While AC chargers cost around INR 38K per piece, DC chargers (15 KW) are priced to the north of INR 2.5 lakh. Phoenix offers charging connection systems suitable for international use for Type 1, Type 2 and GB/T standards.
“The AC and DC charging cables and AC infrastructure charging sockets are safe, reliable, and user-friendly. We also offer corresponding accessories, such as protective covers, holders, and repair kits,” Phoenix Contact mentions on its website.
Though priced around the same levels, imports involve additional charges. In Union Budget 2020, the Indian government increased the customs duty applicable to import of electric vehicles by 10-40 per cent across categories, mainly to bring down the dependence on Chinese manufacturers and counter low-quality imports.
Hurdles And Need For Effective R&D
India faces unique challenges like heat, humidity, harmonics and human mindset, and that’s why international solutions for charging electric vehicles cannot be “copy-pasted” to the country, according to Magenta Power’s Lewis.
When it comes to charging connectors in particular, manufacturing the right, a good quality product can be a challenge. “Connectors are the most important functionality for dispensing the power to EVs. So, proper R&D and testing labs should be available to test these connectors in different temperature and environment conditions,” says Volttic’s Chaturvedi.
Moreover, a charger with a rating above 100 KW necessitates liquid-cooled connectors equipped with quality components.
In the case of the DC001, while it kick-started the ecosystem in the country, it also brought the electric vehicle infrastructure to a standstill given the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) ran on a different protocol. According to industry experts, subsidizing the wrong technology keeps the correct technology from taking roots.
Most importantly, the government could help with regulations such as mandatory charging at new buildings. While the draft model guidelines have been put in place by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), a regulation in this area needs to be brought in as soon as possible.
Standardisation of charging stations for two and three-wheeler electric vehicles is also crucial for the industry, in order to tap the market for charging connectors. While the AC 001 standard can work for all two- and three-wheeler EVs, the current DC001 standard works much better for bigger vehicles such as cars. “It would be great if a fast charging standard DC-001 is introduced for the two- and three-wheeler segments as well,” says Euler Motors’ Kumar.
The industry wants the government to provide a proper R&D base in order to promote local manufacturing of quality charging connectors, and it is paramount to ensure that the EV charging stations do not face problems such as overheating and damage frequently.