We Are Working On Multiple Technologies To Reduce Battery Weight With Higher Energy Density, Shorter Time To Charge, And Cost Optimization: Sachin Agrawal, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Technology, VE Commercial Vehicles

Sachin Agrawal - - Senior Vice President - Product Development and Technology, VE Commercial Vehicles

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EMobility+ got an exclusive chance to interview Sachin Agrawal  – Senior Vice President – Product Development and Technology, VE Commercial Vehicles, and got his views on EV adoption in the CV segment. He also spoke about key design challenges being faced during the electric transition as one of the leading CV manufacturers and key design attributes considered while adopting the power system architecture for their EVs.

With a lot of buzz for EV going around, how do you see its adoption in the CV segment?

Electric vehicle penetration in the CV segment is driven through two key levers – one is the total cost of ownership (TCO) and the other is India’s vision and commitment @COP26 to reduce Greenhouse gas emission and increase renewable energy by 2030.

CV market has got a wide range of portfolios right from 1T vehicle to 55T vehicle. As we all know, the EV segment is ideal for short-range distance for example intracity segment where daily coverage gets limited to 100-150kms per day. This segment will see faster adoption of EV technology. We are already seeing the popularity of Electric 3 Wheeler increasing day by day. Further with rising diesel fuel prices and reduction in EV prices, EV vehicles are becoming favorable on a Total Cost of Ownership basis even for Light commercial vehicles. Soon, we will observe increased use of Electric LCVs in the 4-9T segment for intracity/short-distance use mainly driven by e-commerce and FMCG segment.

For the Bus segment, adoption has already started with Govt FAME-2 scheme, now many STUs are coming out with Electric Bus tenders. Recently CESL is consolidating all STUs requirements and has come up with a single tender of more than 5000 buses.

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Regarding heavy-duty truck applications, EV adoption will start from short distance applications e.g port to warehouse or plant warehouses, etc due to favorable TCO. The long route haulage segment might not be suitable for completely electric vehicles and Hydrogen fuel cell technology-based EVs will be the right solution for this segment.

With slow demand in the 4W segment, how do you see the commercial vehicles driving the Indian EV ecosystem?

There is a lot of work happening on reducing the cost of EVs. Localization of major components like Traction motors; E-Axles; Inverters etc will bring down the cost of the EV systems drastically. The energy storage system is a major contributor to EV cost and with the government supporting the industry through PIL on domestic battery cell manufacturing; the outlook is that battery cost may come down to USD 100 per KWh by 2025. With rising diesel fuel prices and a reduction in prices of key electric system components, Electric light commercial vehicles with short-range applications will see favorable economics on a TCO basis. Further, tightening emission norms and increased sensitivity to the environment may also drive more and more restrictions on diesel vehicles in metro cities.

CV Industry is working towards the development of 4W EVs and soon we will see many vehicles running on the road for intracity applications. This will get followed by heavy-duty segments requiring shorter distance coverage and the possibility of opportunity charging during goods loading and unloading.

As one of the leading CV manufacturers, What key design challenges do you face during the electric transition? How automotive design trends have evolved so far to address these challenges?

As we know, CV products are meant as profit machines for customers and have to run more and more to recover cost at the earliest. Major challenges for EV adoption in CV products are range requirement, higher initial price and charging infrastructure, and time required to charge. To provide a higher range, we need to provide higher battery capacity, which means higher dead weight in the vehicle, which not only reduces payload but also increases the initial cost of the vehicle and makes it unviable economically.

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As such transition to EV in CV space will start from a short-range intracity application, which solves some of the issues mentioned above and also becomes economically viable on a TCO basis. We are working on multiple technologies to reduce battery weight with higher energy density, shorter time to charge, and cost optimization. We are also working on building modularity between different powertrain adoption including Diesel, CNG, Electric, and Hydrogen.

In the rapidly evolving technology era, what is your approach to developing & delivering cost-effective and efficient EV powertrains which can suit various customer applications and segments?

At this stage, we are focusing to develop application-specific products which suit the customer segment and also are economically viable. A common solution may not work for all applications and even with current diesel vehicles, we have huge variants depending on customer needs. Apart from the initial cost, energy efficiency is one more important aspect in EV that not only decided operating cost but also influences the range and battery sizing. We are working on understanding different duty cycles and working on In-house calibrations to ensure that we deliver best-in-class energy efficiency in our vehicles.

Like I said earlier, for EV adoption we are first focusing on intracity application and then we will move towards long haulage and higher load applications. We are working on carefully understanding and evolving suitable business models depending on the application to better suit customers e.g whether opportunity charging is feasible or not.

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What are the key design attributes you considered while adopting the power system architecture for your EVs?

Major considerations are light-weighting, higher energy efficiency, lower initial cost, modularity, and future technology protection. The system architecture has to be flexible so that it can adopt drivetrain electrification quickly using existing platforms. Modularity and reusability of the existing architecture of low voltage vehicle systems will make this transition smoother. Some of the key attributes that need to be considered for power system architecture include (though the list can be much longer…)

  • Duty cycle based torque/power requirements considering all operating modes
  • Energy supply and management including charging and regeneration capability utilization
  • Energy sources and Drive cycle efficiency
  • The electric power demand of vehicle subsystems
  • Overall weight and volume of various components
  • Safety-related parameters
  • HV and LV system placement
  • A communication system including CAN and UDS

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