‘An EV charging station that is powered by free (abundant) solar energy, sounds interesting right! With this innovation, we can save thousands of kilowatts of energy every year that would be spent on charging electric vehicles. But if it’s that great then why has this idea isn’t scaled yet? Why is no one looking at it?
What is the position of India in solar charging stations?
What are its problems and solutions?
Let’s undrape all the above questions and have a wider outview over “Solar-powered charging stations”.
Geometrically India is situated very near to the tropic of cancer and is enriched with enough solar energy that can power the whole world alone. Every year nearly 5000000000000000 kWh (5 x 1015 kWh) of solar energy incident over the landmass of India. But sill we didn’t achieve using 0.000000001% of its energy capacity. However, work upon this mission is going on at a rapid pace but the destination is still too far away and why charging the electric vehicles using solar power isn’t introduced in the first place! Well, this isn’t entirely true because a Telangana-based company is targeting the rural areas for building sustainable solar EV charging stations and is getting a very positive response from their customers.
What is a solar charging station?
It’s a type of EV charging station where the electricity will entirely (or) partially be coming from the solar source of energy. These are such spots that will be open for the public domain to use and charge their electric vehicles. Just like today’s petrol/diesel/CNG refueling pumps solar charging stations exist to charge the electric vehicles but in a larger area than the petrol pumps to extract maximum energy from the sun and provide maximum charging energy required.
Types of charging stations:
They are of two types On-grid and Off-Grid solar charging
On-Grid: These types of solar systems are connected to the main electricity grid and store a little amount of energy for backup and send the rest of the energy back to the grid when the system is not in use. The On-grid system is mainly used for real-time energy consumption purposes and its overall cost reduces because smaller batteries are used.
Off-Grid: These types of solar systems are not connected with the grid but have a larger battery to store the energy for evening or night (When there is no sun) usage. These types of solar systems are mainly used for commercial applications. A commercial solar charging station should be built upon an off-grid solar system. The solar charging station market is expected at a CAGR of 34 percent.
Solar charging station benefits (according to the Indian conditions):
One of the bigger purposes for introducing electric vehicles is controlling our oil imports and attaining zero emissions, but right now almost all the electric vehicles that are getting charged are using electricity from gird and in India, 80% of the electricity is made of non-renewable energy sources (Fossil fuels), and again if we are using the same energy to recharge our EV instead reducing carbon emission it’ll create more pollution than what ICE vehicles would have created (Making electric vehicle in itself emits a lot of pollution too). So, running electric vehicles over grid-based electricity is a very temporary solution for reducing carbon emissions.
Now, we must find a permanent solution to overcome this situation, and that is ‘renewable energy.’ Few of the sources of renewable energy present now are Wind energy, Biogas, Hydropower plants, solar energy, etc. But all of them are either have less energy density or not compatible with the present market demand. But technology is constantly improving, and the most lucrative renewable energy source, for now, is “solar power” because it’s affordable for a large chunk of the population, good in energy density, and its production emits low carbon into the atmosphere. However solar has its own disadvantages too but overall, it’s a good energy source to look after for renewable energy.
Not stretching it further but here are some quick points that talk about the benefits of solar charging stations:
- Reduces carbon emission (Not removed completely). A vehicle charged with solar-powered electricity emits 0.6 kg of carbon into the atmosphere whereas a gasoline-driven vehicle would emit 13 kg of carbon for every 100km ride.
- Charging cost will reduce. Solar power costs nearly 1.5 rupees for every kWh of electricity.
- India will reduce its dependency on fossil fuels for driving electric vehicles
- The load on the grid reduces.
Global Condition of solar charging stations and their future in India:
Globally this idea has been embraced, industry leader like “Tesla motors” has set up their solar-powered charging station in many places and provided free energy to so many people. One more such example is the case studies of countries like the Netherland, Macau, Romania have opted for solar charging stations at a large scale but till now mostly two-wheelers or smaller electric vehicles only gets charged in such charging stations because solar power isn’t enough to charge the whole electric car.
Current scenario and future of this technology in India:
The Idea of solar charging stations is fortunately taken a little seriously in India and many EV startups like magenta power, Visaka, etc. are taking some positive steps ahead to make EV charging sustainable in India.
Visaka case study:
The company has a wide range of products but the similarity in all of them is “Sustainability”. Each product that this company manufactures has a sense of sustainability in them. But one of their products i.e., ‘Atum charge’ is a great kick start for the solar charging station space in India. The ‘Atum charge’ is a solar solution provided to make a larger solar system that comes with integrated support to do an EV charging business with their solar system.
Many such solutions are emerging in India with a solid vision to transform the complete electric vehicle charging space but right now India has to travel a couple of miles to achieve a sustainable electric vehicle charging eco-system. The solar charging stations can be seen for smaller applications, but they are not commercialized yet.
Government is also not showing much interest in building a sustainable charging infra although it’s one of the most concerning points for the development of an emission-free transportation system. But only time can tell how things will turn out because one day or another the charging infra needs to become emission-free.
Why solar charging stations aren’t commercialized yet?
There are various reasons behind this, let’s discuss them all point by point:
- The economist must be in the favor: If we investigate the past, we’ll find that for any technology to go mainstream there is a major role of an economist in it. If the technology is aligning with the business profits, it’ll grow otherwise it won’t be as simple as that.
Now solar charging stations indeed have a lot of business potential in it and the industry leaders like Ambani, Adani, Tata all are entering into this business and making their own marketplace to grow in the solar space of India, but right now it’s not right time to invest a lot in solar charging station due to very less EV adoption.
- Space constraints in almost all the metro cities: Renewable energy replacement is mainly required in the most crowded place where the pollution and population density are very high. But if the place is crowded that means the existing place is already low for the people and there is very less scope of acquiring much land space and an average solar.
- The technology hasn’t arrived yet: Indeed, in many places, companies and startups are experimenting with this idea, but no country around the globe could make a fully-fledged solar power charging station for all types of electric vehicles catering to a mass population. In other words, the technology for making a fully sustainable charging station hasn’t arrived in the market but in the near future, we’ll surely see such technology manifesting into reality.
- Solar panels are not indigenous: All most 80% of the solar modules are being imported from China and according to the “Made in India” project India is not most likely to commercialize the solar charging station and push the Indian economy and geopolitical power into a death trap anywhere soon.
So, here are some of my researched points that are responsible for limiting the potential of solar power in India.
Renewable energy is inevitable and is the future of the energy sector of the country. Many industry giants like TATA Power, Reliance Power, Adani solar are marching towards making clean renewable energy. And soon it’ll going to happen in India.