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EV Charger Manufacturing in India – Challenges & Opportunities

Pune-based Electrical and Electronics manufacturer Ador Digatron makes ARAI-approved EV fast chargers (60KW and 120KW) and plans to launch a 30KW single gun variant and a 180KW hyper charger product line this year. Team EVreporter interacted with Ravin Mirchandani to better understand the EV charger manufacturing space.

What is your analysis of the current EV charger market in India?

Many sectors are evolving within this market – AC chargers, DC chargers, government tenders and the growing Charge Point Operator (CPO) market. It would be fair to say that all of these sectors are growing rapidly.

  • AC chargers serve destination, office and home charge markets and will proliferate in millions soon in India.
  • DC fast chargers typically address the fleet and long-distance drive market. This segment will grow over time as cities electrify public transport and more options become available for buyers of electric cars for long-distance driving.
Please tell us about Ador Digatron’s approach to manufacturing chargers.

In 2018 when we first set out to make fast chargers in India, we tried to license overseas technology from Europe and experienced severe reticence to license to an Indian company. However, today we consider that these European companies did us a big favour as we went ahead and instead designed India’s first truly atmanirbhar fast charger.

Our analysis demonstrated that the growth of the electric mobility sector in India is being hampered by not just the lack of charging infrastructure – but the fact that many of the chargers installed often do not work. Our focus has been to build a line of relentlessly reliable products, offering our customers a guarantee to bring chargers back in service within 24 hours should they experience any service issues.

Very early in the life of Quench Chargers, we were clear that we would never be a Charge Point Operator; our “one thing” is to provide relentlessly reliable chargers to charge point operators who care for quality, resilience, and charger availability. Our role is to facilitate the growth of electric mobility service providers and charge point operators.

Can you share what is your current scale of production and sales?

Our manufacturing capacity is 1,000 fast chargers per month (60/120/180KW) at the moment, which is adequate for the markets we are addressing in 2022.

What kind of safety mechanisms need to be built in to manufacture reliable chargers?

We designed our chargers on the philosophy of what we call the “4 Fries”:

  • the charger should not fry the car
  • the car should not fry the charger
  • neither the car nor the charger should end up frying the user/human, and finally
  • the charger should not fry the grid.

Electricity can hurt someone when the design of power electronics equipment is inherently careless or unsafe. Adequate measures have to be taken for human, EV & EV charger safety by providing safety for earth leakage, Overload and Short circuit protections, Input under & over voltage protections, Insulation Monitoring, GND fault, Over temperature, Smoke detectors etc.

Apart from these, the charger needs to be certified as per IEC 61851 /IS 17017 relevant clauses from a certified agency like ARAI/TUV.

Can you share what are the main constituent parts of an EVSE unit?

The heart of the DC Fast charger constitutes the software controller and the DC power converter (rectifier). Besides this, there are heavy due electrical components, and safe street furniture design that is not adversely impacted by severe dust or weather conditions such as flooding.

As charger capacities go beyond 180KW, one must also consider thermal management of the housing and liquid cooling of cables, where things start to get interesting.

For making the EV chargers in India, what are your current import dependencies?

Certain parts of the EV value chain just do not exist in India today. For example, even fast charging cables and CCS2 connectors presently need to be imported until local supply partners can be developed to provide adequate quality supplies.

What are the other frequently encountered manufacturing challenges?

Manufacturing was always a complex endeavour, given the many moving parts within a design BoM that need to be managed for a product to be ready for delivery. The present dynamic or collapsing supply chain environment has seen many companies sleepwalk into a supply chain crisis. Today, our challenges include ensuring the availability of all the constituents of our fast chargers (which is increasingly starting to prove difficult) whilst also ensuring the quality of supplies. Our intent is to source 100% of our components from India, and this entails facilitating the building of the entire EVSE ecosystem in India.

Please tell us about your export capabilities and focus.

We have already exported the first Quench units to the UAE and southern Europe. We are excited to be exporting reliable EVSE products from India rather than importing for trade sales into India, as usually is the case. Our intent has been to provide European quality at a price point that creates value for our customers; consequently, we don’t envisage our exports to be limited to any regions in particular.

You mentioned that sub-standard products in the EV charging space could ruin the market. What are your recommendations to ensure we do not go the solar route?

China will always be able to provide cheaper electrical and power electronics products than India because of the sheer scale of manufacturing that exists there. Most Chinese plants can make in a week what plants in India will manufacture in a year – so the economies of scale they have over India are significant. Then there is the higher cost of inefficiencies in India that result from us not being so high up on the scale of ease of doing business. We are forced to accept many costs in India that are just not levied on Chinese exporters. So a level playing field does not exist. At the same time, we don’t want to go back to being a protected licence raj, which will inevitably facilitate poor local production. Instead, we have to have a more nuanced approach that rewards the products which are reliable, support the local economy and are built for the local conditions.

To build a sustainable ecosystem from EVSE design and manufacturing in India, the buying policies of both government and private buyers cannot continue to be a digital zero/one game based on price. We have to collectively evolve the maturity in the buying process, and recognise whole of life cost, MTBF (mean time between failures) rates, charger design resilience and operating reliability. I am not advocating quotas to “buy Indian”, but a procurement grading system that recognises quality and rewards performance.

Can you comment on the need for building advanced features such as load balancing capabilities in the EVSEs at this point?

Load balancing or dynamic allocation of power to various EVs at a charger/or charging station as vehicles turn up to charge, has just started its evolution in Europe. It is a more recent innovation that allows a charger to allocate power to 2 or 3 vehicles and works very well in environments where there is a sizeable population of EVs. Essentially, the charger controller splits power dynamically between guns on one charger. As the demand for power from the first car’s BMS starts to reduce, the charger gradually increases the power supply to the other waiting vehicle/s.

There is a cost for such features. The question for infrastructure service providers, CPOs and EMSPs (electric mobility service providers) is – when the right time is to include such a feature on charging networks in India? Eventually, all charging stations globally will have to be capable of dynamically allocating power to vehicles.

EVSE utilization is a concern, specifically for the personal vehicle segment. In your opinion, how can the profitability of running an EV charging business be improved?

Some CPOs/EMSPs prefer to wait for the demand base to build before investing in charging infrastructure, whilst other companies prefer to facilitate the demand by investing ahead of actual demand. The latter will experience low daily utilisation likely until 2024 when the first Giga factories will come on stream in India, greatly impacting the economics of E-Mobility in India. 2024 is also the year we will witness a plethora of EV launches in the country at affordable price points.

Consequently, the utilisation of chargers will increase over a 3 year period exponentially. CPOs aggressively investing in charging infra today will likely have a head start resulting in greater premiums during the early years and a more loyal & sticky customer base as competition in the sector heats up.

So there is a trade-off to consider here. Invest aggressively early and absorb low utilisation in the early years, so that you have loyal customers when the competition heats up OR wait for demand to be evident and invest then in a more crowded market where differentiation is hard to achieve and most companies will rely on pricing as their advantage.

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