Context: I was recently asked to share thoughts on this question posed by my friend Pratik Kundu, who tracks the Energy Space for Traxn. Here is a link to the post on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, my answer exceeds the maximum character limit on LinkedIn's comments. Hence this post.
There are 3 very different problems to address here.
The first and foremost is that of our perception. Fast-Charging/Super Chargers as terms have found common place in today’s EV related conversations, but its more complicated than simply setting up charging stations that can charge a vehicle in “less than one hour”. Charging at greater than 1C in high ambient temperatures of India is not a trivial task. While the charger can be built and deployed in strategic locations, the vehicles (their batteries) that need to be charged should be capable of accepting this power.
This brings us to the second problem.
Most vehicles in India including the Reva, which is arguably the only commercially available electric 4W in India runs on a 48V system. In the case of Reva’s 10kWh battery pack, the current they’re pulling from their packs to deliver the performance they claim is incredibly high (I would imagine somewhere around 200A). I will not get into the technical disadvantages of depending of battery systems with such high current outputs. But just look at the stark difference between something like this and a Tesla. The Model S runs close to 400V which could deliver 10kW of power (similar to Reva at 1C) with 25A being drawn. The delta between these two scenarios (which may become reality this summer as per Elon) make it difficult for a private company that is making an investment into infrastructure to decide what kind of EV market they should plan/build for.
The only other hurdle to movement in the space is the lack of standardization and dependence on the government for support. Charging stations are literally the future of petrol pumps (a.k.a gas stations) and such a public service most definitely required government intervention. The government does want to make significant progress in the EV space and everyone seems to be quite pro the movement. Unfortunately like with most other projects that require deep technical know-how, its taking much longer than anticipated to figure out what should be considered as an “acceptable” modus operandi.
Basically, the limitation here is not on our capability of setting up the charging stations. It may even be a viable business model given a certain critical mass of vehicles on the road and a smart way to secure these stations. But there is a BIG question yet to be answered. It’s a question that we (people working in the space) hear on an everyday basis. When will ’No-Compromise’ EVs make their way into India?
If Tesla lives up to their informal announcement, I expect there to be a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) spreading into the Indian OEMs by 2019. This is when the Indian EV market will start showing undeniable promise and we will most certainly see a plethora of private companies getting into this charging business.
Until then, hold your guns.
Disclaimer: I'm the founder of ION Energy and we're doing some frighteningly ambitious stuff in the Energy business that may directly impact the EV business.