What 3 real-world experiments revealed
This article is part of an in-depth dive into electric vehicles in India. #EVinIndia is the first chapter of “Shaping sustainability”an exclusive series from The Better India to give our readers an in-depth understanding of how Indians are making sustainability a priority in all walks of life.
gRakesh, based on urugram, confidently states that now is the best time to buy an electric vehicle (EV). Given rising gas prices, the total amount you spend per liter of gas can earn you an EV, he adds.
He is the proud owner of a four-wheeled Tata Nexon and a two-wheeled Honda Electric Optima HS500 (e2w). For more than five years, rising gas prices have made no difference in his life. In fact, he claims to have saved hundreds of thousands of rupees which almost covered the cost of buying his car.
“If you follow global trends around the world, you will notice that countries are becoming less and less dependent on each other. And electric vehicles can help us become self-sufficient without harming the environment,” Rakesh told The Better India.
But is this measure of independence and economy worth risking your life for?
Anjnay Saini from Delhi asked this question when he was stranded in -14 degrees C at a height of 5,000 meters above the ground in Ladakh. His road trip in the virgin region last year allowed him to face reality.
“It was a matter of life and death. At very high altitudes, the sand is replaced by clay on the ground and starting a car is difficult in such terrain. I couldn’t do it and the freezing temperatures only made it worse. My car ran out of battery and waiting for the electricity to come was becoming unbearable with every passing minute, I was also developing respiratory problems. It was risky business but I managed to get by. My advice would be to wait for the power to come in and then take a road trip through this windswept and treacherous landscape,” says Anjnay.
On the other hand, Aakash, another electric vehicle owner who made a round trip from Jaipur to Longewala on the Indo-Pakistan border, via Pushkar, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in four days, says there are disadvantages of driving an electric vehicle if you are ignorant.
“You can make your road trip as smooth and enjoyable as a petrol or diesel vehicle if you have a concrete charging infrastructure plan. I’ve done about 33,000 km and personally that’s a difference between day and night compared to a gasoline vehicle. My switch to electric vehicles has been completely worthwhile,” says Aakash.
While Rakesh, Anjnay and Aakash had different experiences with their electric vehicles; in the vote, the collective conclusion is in favor of zero-emission vehicles.
And that seems to be the growing trend across India.
According to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), India expects to sell nearly one million units in 2022, equivalent to what has been collectively sold over the past 15 years.
“We haven’t seen better days than the past few months across the entire EV journey. Over the past 15 years, we’ve collectively sold approximately 1 million e2ws, e-three-wheelers, electric cars and of electric buses, and we will most likely sell the same million units in just one year from January 2022,” SMEV Director General Sohinder Gill told PTI.
Opt for electric vehicles with 3 Ps
The trio are happy to see this growing trend, but their only suggestion is to “plan, prepare, then move on” before rushing with installments.
It is obvious that electric vehicles have obvious advantages. They’re good for the environment, have lower lifetime running costs than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, are state-of-the-art and, of course, save you money at long term.
However, as we flip the coin, it is imperative to look at the other side. Issues such as the lack of fast-charging stations and limited battery size, which can prevent you from taking out-of-town excursions, should be considered.
“It is not difficult to identify and resolve limitations via KYC or Know Your Car. Before embarking on an adventure, find out about the capabilities of your vehicle and prepare accordingly. For example, I know that my car can travel 300 km on a single charge, so I try to cover a distance of at least 280 km on a single charge in areas where there is no EV infrastructure. so that after 300 km there is a charging station,” says Rakesh.
“Understand how your car works by driving a few kilometres. You will know how far it will go without having to recharge and of course the way you drive makes a difference. It is possible to predict range anxiety,” adds Aakash.
But how do we do that?
Plan your routes and charging stops
One of the first things Anjnay did on his previous road trip from Delhi to the Spiti Valley was to call all the hotels he was going to be staying at to inquire about charging facilities to ensure that ‘there would be no surprises later. He carried a grounding kit for DC flow while charging and a 15 amp charger.
With the help of apps, he identified three DC (direct current) charging stations—Statiq, TataEZ and Forteum—on his route.
Knowing that dhabas and restaurants have slow AC (alternating current) charging, their rest stops were planned to give him and his friends time to eat, rest or sleep while the car was loading.
Watch Anjnay’s trip to Ladakh here:
He drove on India’s first EV-enabled highway, which has charging stations at regular intervals of 25-30 km between Delhi and Chandigarh.
But if his trip to Spiti went well, there were some hiccups during his trip to Ladakh.
“For my trip from Delhi to Ladakh, I charged seven times, spending about 18 hours to travel 2,000 km. I had to switch to petrol for a few kilometers and spend Rs 1,500 on it in areas where it does not “There was absolutely no electricity. All in all, I spent Rs 3,000 for this car trip, which is still significantly less than a petrol car trip,” he adds.
Other apps such as Tata Power’s EZ Charge and Zeon Charging and Google Maps can also help locate charging stations.
As for Aakash, he followed a similar plan and called hotels ahead of time to make sure electricity was available.
“We also made sure that every 200 km or so we planned a stop at a hotel or such establishment to recharge the EV. Every place we stopped for the night, we charged our car for a good 10 to 11 hours,” he says.
An electrical engineer by profession, he also invented a solution to his autonomy anxiety in the form of a DIY kit.
With a one-time investment cost of Rs 8,000, he made a grounding kit (an iron rod covered with copper wire is inserted into the ground). This kit protects against unwarranted electrical spikes that can damage the vehicle.
“You just push the iron rod into the ground and connect a wire and the vehicle charger to it. The kit contains an extension cable with an energy meter, an indicator to note if the wiring is correct, an iron rod, a copper plate and all other equipment that one needs during long EV journeys. This product is available on the Aha3D site”, he specifies.
Your driving style matters
For both trips, Anjnay identified downhill routes for regenerative braking. He followed a rule of thumb: “One kilometer takes 1% of the battery charge uphill and downhill, the same percentage can cover 4km, thanks to kinetic energy. ‘Stop-pedal-accelerator’ became my motto. Almost 40% of this route was downhill so we were able to regenerate 30% load for our Spiti trip.
To help users benefit from this concept, Tata announced in December 2021 that new Nexon EVs will have options to select regenerative modes that will allow the driver to adjust the intensity of regenerative braking.
Aakash also mentions focusing on speed and acceleration. He says that if you want to cover long distances, avoid shifting gears and over-accelerating because the battery can degenerate faster. Hard braking also consumes a lot of battery.
“For example, if you drive at 80 km/h, you get a range of 200 to 220 km. But if you find that’s not enough, you can always start riding at 40 km/h, which will increase your range to over 300 km. Therefore, at no time were we blocked. Although the company claims a range of 312km, if the Tata Nexon is driven at speeds of 90-100km/h the battery range drops to around 160km on a single charge. If they drive like monks at 40 km/h, they can extend the range up to 320 km,” observes Aakash, whose personal best is 340 km on a single charge.
Rakesh says that despite his e2w’s flaws, he had a good experience.
“The quality of the vehicle may not be the best because the panels and shock absorbers are very basic. But I agree because saving gas is more important to me. I use it to get around in the city because it offers a range of 110 km on a single charge,” he says.
He only invested in the bike after calculating its running cost and finding that he could recoup the cost of Activa in two years by spending nothing on gas.
Since he has a solar hybrid inverter at home, charging his car and two-wheeler is convenient. E2w has removable batteries.
His suggestion to potential buyers is to opt for a scooter equipped with lithium iron phosphate or lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide batteries.
“When choosing a vehicle, look for three parts: the battery, the motor and the controller,” he adds.
Key points for electric vehicle journeys:
- You have to have the right mindset.
- Do not be afraid of difficult terrain, think carefully to find a solution.
- Always carry the necessary equipment with you and plan well.
- If you drive less than 1500 km per month, do not buy an EV. The car is an asset from the first day if you cover more than 2000 km.
- Tata Nixon intended to be a city car so the range is not motorway worthy. With the advent of quick-change stations, smooth highway driving seems like a near possibility.
You are wrong if you think an EV is expensive. It is possible to cover the cost of ownership. I managed to save 10,000,000 rupees in four years on fuel, which is the same as the cost of the car when I bought it a few years ago.
Edited by Yoshita Rao