23 Nov 23

India's first fast chargers: a turning point?

ChargeZone introduces India's first supercharging network. The ground-breaking set of stations, featuring 180 kW and 360 kW peak rates, are slated to go live this month, with the first station to be opened in Mumbai. It's a spark of progress for the nation, which is behind on its ambition of nurturing the energy needs of the envisaged 80 million EVs on its roads by the end of the decade.

ChargeZone, one of India's leading charging companies, has increased its competitive edge by opening the nation's first fastcharging hub in the capital of Mumbai. The initiative is part of the company's broader strategy to establish over 150 superchargers countrywide, as the nation faces the challenge of creating a robust and reliable EV charging infrastructure for the targeted 80 million EVs by 2030.

The superchargers from ChargeZone are equipped with 180 kW dual gun chargers and 360 kW power cabinets. The four guns at the 360 kW stations can deliver 60 kW each at 200 Amps, while one gun stands out by delivering 500 A (DC) current. The latter relies on liquid cooling, a first-of-its-kind technology in India.

Fleet customers can use ChargeZone's dedicated app, with an integrated wallet and finder, to reserve a time slot to avoid downtime. Depending on the battery packs, the vehicle should be able to recharge in 15 to 20 minutes, according to the company. However, that sounds like an optimistic estimate as the speeds depend heavily on the grid performance, which is often poor in India.

New generation of EV buses and trucks

The start-up company's vision is to pinpoint specific cities influenced by high traffic volumes on key routes where prime commercial complexes, among others, demand fast and convenient charging options.

ChargeZone CEO Kartikey Hariyani commented: "We are proactively addressing the escalating need for rapid, efficient charging solutions, both along the highways and within the bustling city hubs as a new generation of EV buses and EV trucks is being launched in the country."

During the inauguration, Operational Director Ravindra Mohan answered fleet managers' questions about the convenience and nature of the new fast-charging pillars: "The EV charging process is seamlessly managed by the vehicle's battery management system, incorporating system health checks and automatic cost deductions."

Driven by fleets and two-wheelers

According to the International Energy Agency IEA, India is overachieving its goal of meeting 40% of its power capacity from non-fossil fuels. ChargeZone tries to align by equipping some stations, but not all, with solar panels.

India's ambition towards a carbon-free fleet is primarily driven by commercial fleets and two-wheelers, which should be electric by 70% and 80%, respectively, in 2030. But charging infrastructure, like anywhere else, is a significant roadblock.

The rollout is becoming a decisive priority because range anxiety is hampering EV adoption despite incentives like the FAME scheme (worth a total incentive budget of 10,000 crores). Meanwhile, the discrepancy between the number of EVs on the road and the available infrastructure keeps growing. In a state like Uttar Pradesh, there's only one charging point per 1,103 EVs.

Falling behind

Much more is needed. To meet the target of its so-called EV 30@30 program, the country must have one (regular) charging point per 20 EVs, but on average, it is currently stuck at one per 135. At the current deployment rate, the country threatens to fall behind its charging point network objective for 2030 by 40%, which will undoubtedly affect customer confidence. The government has ushered privately held companies like ChargeZone to address the shortage with incentives - also under FAME.

On top of the significant expenses of building a charging network, particularly superchargers, private companies like ChargeZone, must cope with a vast country, a very diverse terrain and an unreliable grid.

ChargeZone owns more than 3,200 operational or under-construction charging points across over 1,600 EV charging stations in 37 Indian cities, covering over 10,000 kilometres of highways. It aims to reach one million charging points by 2030. From a symbolic perspective, their first supercharger station is a landmark.

Authored by: Piet Andries