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Your next car should be electric. But do the math first before deciding to plug and play

Smodestly but surely, many of the concerns about electric cars are being addressed. Vary? Most electric cars available on the market today have more than enough range for a few days of commuting to the office and the best ones can easily handle a trip from Delhi to Jaipur or Chandigarh with range to spare. Charging stations? Hundreds of new charging points are opening in most Indian cities large and small, as well as on busy highways. There are even charging stations in Ladakh. Initial costs? While electric vehicles remain on average 50% more expensive than their internal combustion engine (ICE) siblings, a growing number of ‘affordable’ electric cars (under Rs 25 lakh) will enter the market over the next few years. .

And then there’s the cost of running electric cars, which is by far their biggest selling point, because make no mistake, very few people will buy an electric car for altruistic reasons like reducing pollution. But when they realize that cars like the Tata Tigor EV cost just over one rupee per kilometer to run versus around 7-8 rupees for the petrol version of the Tigor, the extra four lakhs for the Tigor EV seems like a good deal. At the end of the day, you don’t really have to be far-sighted to see that gasoline and diesel prices at the pump will only increase in the near future.

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luxury EV

Heck, even the Audi e-tron quattro, one of the best electric cars available in India right now, all Rs one crore, costs just a few rupees per kilometer to run. The Audi Q5, its closest ICE sibling which has a gasoline engine, drinks 12 to 15 rupees worth of dinosaur juice every kilometer. While it might not be worth the extra Rs 35 lakh for the electric Audi, the e-tron is slightly bigger, more powerful and actually slightly better to drive. Sure, the math might not make sense today, but with better batteries on the way, which not only promise greater range, the likes of Toyota’s first electric car built from the ground up, the bZ4X, promise that the batteries will age even better, retaining up to 90% of their charge capacity even after 10 years. This addresses another buyer concern – the cost of replacing a battery. Incidentally, most electric cars sold today come with an eight-year battery warranty.

Last week I drove the forthcoming Volvo XC40 Recharge, an electrified version of the Swedish automaker’s sport utility vehicle, and although its launch is still a few months away, the electric version is truly a “pocket rocket” with more 400 horsepower, more than double that of the diesel-powered XC40. The car was further proof that electric cars are incredibly fun to drive and vastly outperform their ICE siblings and that it’s not just about accelerating from the starting line. While electric car batteries, usually located between the front and rear axles, are heavy, like low weight mass and the instantaneous power delivered by the batteries, electric cars can spin around corners, seemingly defying the concept of force. centrifugal. . This is true for high-end Teslas and even the Tata Tigor and Nexon EV.

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But all is not smooth

Extremely low operating costs depend on owners being able to charge their cars at home, as residential electricity tariffs are far cheaper than commercial and industrial tariffs across India. In Delhi, a user of BSES Rajdhani would pay eight rupees per kilowatt hour (kWh) at home. Charging at commercial charging points can cost upwards of 20 rupees per unit. For charging at home, a secure and above all insured parking space is the best solution for charging these vehicles. With most Indian car owners parking haphazardly on the streets, this will be a problem.

Some electric scooters with removable batteries can be charged at home, but this is not an option for electric car owners. Unguarded public infrastructure in India will unfortunately almost certainly be vandalized, but business opportunities could exist for charging stations with multiple charging points to appear in crowded areas of cities like Delhi or Mumbai where owners can leave their cars to charge overnight. Of course, it depends on how much people are willing to pay to charge their cars and electric two-wheelers.

Typical home wall chargers charge electric cars between 7.2 and 10 kWh every hour, meaning cars such as the upcoming BMW iX 40 with a 71 kWh battery can easily be fully charged overnight parked in the parking lot. garage. But smaller cars like Tata’s limit their maximum charging speed to just 3.2kWh per hour, but even their 22kWh battery can fully recharge overnight. But one of the reasons Tata, and even Audi and BMW, limit the maximum speed their cars can charge from alternating current (AC) chargers, which make up the fast majority of available charging points, is infrastructure. back end.

And that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the electrical room. To solve this problem, it would be necessary to intervene at the highest level. Why? Residential connections in apartments in the toner districts of Delhi and Mumbai would have a high sanctioned load, typically 11-12 kWh. That doesn’t leave much spare “charge” to charge a car, but it can be managed in many homes. Increasing the sanctioned load is possible, but if a few homes can increase their load to charge their electric vehicles, if hundreds of homes wanted to increase their sanctioned load, this would require major investments by the electricity supplier in new transformers.

And to make matters worse, in some parts of the country, Noida, for example, the sanctioned load even in areas like sector 14 and 15 is only 5kWh. The situation is similar in many parts of India. And considering that at last count, India’s state-owned electricity distributors are indebted to Rs 1.6 lakh crore, the massive funds needed to transform India’s power grid to cope with the dramatic shift to electric vehicles will require a sea change in the way policy makers think about the grid and electricity in India.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Editing by Anurag Chaubey)