As per VAHAN data 1.98% of all 4W registered in India for June 23 were all-electric, with central & state government subsidy initiatives paired with lower running costs the number of EV's in India is poised to be going anywhere but higher.
This brings us to the ever-burning question regarding the fast charging stations & it's uptime. After being behind the "green" steering for more than 35,000 kms and counting, I have a few thoughts on the fast charging experience & it's functionality.
Going to a fuel pump what do you expect?
Drive in - Fuel up - Pay - Drive out. Not much thought nor stressing the brain is required. This process has been working out just fine for decades now although not much innovation has happened in this space. But now with ref̶u̶e̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ charging an electric vehicle on the public fast charger we have a newer problem on our hands... From a higher level the process of recharging stays familiar to the refueling counterpart... Ummm... with a addition of never-before seen problems and whatnots.
You see, the number of fast chargers to charge isn't a main bottleneck, The number has been steadily increasing & most of the highways and main roads in India already have if not plan to have a charger, Yes, more are needed to be installed & it is still a work in progress but the number has shown some good progress day after day.
A snapshot from Plugshare showing fast & slow chargers in India (July 23)
Much less thought has been given to upkeeping the charger & simplifying the charging process. The whole process isn't much streamlined and I think is a mess as of now... Let me explain, The process isn't as simple as refueling your gas car, before going to a charger because your EV is at a low state-of-charge on a highway( some range anxiety kicks in) you need to keep your fingers crossed or you'll arrive at a dead charger or it showing some ⚠️ error on it's screen because something somewhere in the charger isn't working for now and needs assistance. For most of the chargers this isn't a problem but I noticed this to be a case with TataPower chargers a few times and a few others. There are multiple reasons why this can happen-
Imagine your EV being at ~10% SoC you get this error on the fast charger
The charger having a power cut
Someone before you pressed the emergency stop button and needs to be reset
The charger having network issues connecting to it's server.
Now if everything is working till this stage you can get stuck in the next step of starting to charge your vehicle-
After plugging in the car with the charger before starting the flow of current you come to the "App" part. In most cases you'll need to download the charging point operators (CPO) own app & top-up your account before starting to charge the vehicle but before topping up you'll need to Signup/Login the app too, This all happens when you're are standing at a unknown location and want to start charging as quickly as possible but sometimes the OTP doesn't arrive on time or email verification takes a few tries or the signup page is way too long, This keeps on adding to the frustration & waste of time. Here the process isn't same for all the CPO's, each one has their own app and a different UX to guide through.
Some of the apps are really well-designed and easy to understand(which usually is not the case) and some are just horrible.
Look, I don't mind this process, But when someone like my parents(no that tech savvy) visit the charging station they have no clue of how to start the process & then again I've to explain the whole process on the phone over a video call and whatnot. But even after doing all this process there no guarantee it will work in the first try to start charging, Sometime it takes 2-3 tries by plugging & unplugging the car & other than being sorry for them I don't have any other choice. Sigh!
As the number of EV's increase over the time this whole "App" saga might just be too much for the general public.
In a few rare cases you just might need skip the charger & find another "working" charger on your way! Good luck with that 😏
My whole point of this post is that there should be an easier solution to replace whatever nightmare this current system is. There a good chargers too, I've liked the charging experience of Jio-bp pulse, Fortum India & Statiq to name a few.
What Fortum Charge & Drive India charging does different is that they'll start charging your car as soon as you plug in and will send a invoice to your app after finishing up charging. That way it becomes a bit easier for the general public to charge. Or why can't the auto OEM's follow Tesla in this case, Their chargers are totally plug & charge. Even a 6 year old can start charging the car & the billing part is taken care by the backend system.
Recently in the USA all the legacy OEM's like Ford, GM, Volvo as well as Mercedes-Benz had announced that going ahead they all will use Tesla's NACS charging standard replacing CCS1. Btw non-Tesla cars in USA also have a similar charging experience as what we get in India.
Something needs to be done as Indian OEM's are just busy pushing out more EV's on the road and they don't sit down & "talk" with the CPO's. Tesla's chargers have more than 99% uptime and as of now only these guys provide a almost flawless charging experience in the industry, All because they sell their cars and the fuel(through their own supercharging network) and it all works together seamlessly.
The OEM's & CPO's need to optimize for a better charging experience for the average user. Throwing money at the problem or outsourcing a solution will not work here or else the EV adoption will show some plateauing going forward.
So yeah, that's what I had to say about this matter. Now tell me in the comments about your thoughts.
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