Electrifying road transportation in India to achieve net zero emission goals

  • Articles
  • Dec 02,21
With the complete Indian manufacturing ecosystem now working collaboratively, the country is all set to become a global vanguard for the electric future, says Ravichandran Purushothaman.
Electrifying road transportation in India to achieve net zero emission goals

From the first recorded pandemic known to man being the Athens Plague in 430 BC to the bubonic plague where the word ‘quarantine’ was coined from ‘quaranta giorni’ meaning ‘40 days’ at the port of Venice, mobility has been one of the first industries to be affected. In 2019, the world came to a standstill again. The Covid 19 pandemic led to consumers avoiding travel at all costs and governments imposing strict lockdowns dramatically affected the transportation sector. Scientists have discovered that the transportation sector itself may be the cause of the next pandemic. The sector contributes greatly to CO2 emissions leading to global warming that may thaw the primeval glaciers in the south and north pole which host a multitude of ancient viruses. With environmental effects as grave as these affecting every country around the globe, businesses have become even more committed to protect the Earth, conserve resources and shift towards a more sustainable approach. 

To nurture a digitally positive and carbon neutral future, the move towards electric vehicles from internal combustion engines is imminent. Another prominent factor is the unpredictability of fuel prices globally thereby making traditional fossil fuel-based vehicles monetarily unmanageable for a large chunk of the population. Furthermore, with the ESG goals enforced by government bodies and investors, companies have begun to invest their money and scientific advancements into greener modes of transportation.

The Indian perspective
A substantial contributor to the global greenhouse gas emissions from the India perspective is the automotive industry. The industry in India predominantly still manufactures fossil fuel-based mobility solutions that are a major cause for concern in achieving the sustainability targets set forth. 

Analysing the tremendous potential, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari at the India Global Forum 2021 stated how India is moving towards making electric vehicles and will be the leading EV maker. Being the third largest contributor of CO2 in the world, electrifying mobility is a much-needed solution. With the country committing to reduce more than 30% of its carbon emissions by 2030 and being a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, it should ideally be one the few successful G20 nations to reach its sustainability targets. 

There has also, been a shift towards more stringent emission standards like BS 6 (Bharath Stage 6) by the government which match the Euro 6 emission standards making this a truly global effort. But to meet the target numbers of reduction in emissions by 30% a much more aggressive approach needs to be undertaken. 

Current challenges in electrification
Electrification of mobility is one solution that has the highest prospects for a sustainable future and the Indian automotive industry is making an aggressive push to make this a reality. Electrification of mobility as a concept is not new and has existed for a little under 200 years now with the introduction of the first electric car in the mid-1830s. We have come a long way from the first electric cars, but certain key issues still plague the technology from achieving its full potential. The energy density of batteries and the effective transmission of electricity to the motors that finally propel the car are some areas of improvements that the industry can undertake. The transmission of electricity from the battery to the motor is a critical step in the design of electric vehicles and the power electronics that go into these vehicles play a crucial role.

These power electronic modules, if inefficient, can end up reducing the range of the car by emitting heat instead of transmitting and converting the electricity efficiently to drive the motors. All forms of electrified mobility which include Reefer trucks that currently run-on fossil fuel also rely on the power electronics as an enabling technology. A concentrated approach to make these critical components more energy effective in the overall electrified mobility ecosystem will thereby play a vital role in successful implementation of electric mobility as a bastion of sustainability. 

Power electronics: Heart of the electrified drive train
From the power management in an electric car to the power steering, and the electric traction inverters in hybrid and electric trains, the power electronics truly are at the heart of the Electric mobility ecosystem.  All forms of electric mobility make use of modules like IGBT (Insulated-gate bipolar transistor) modules, MOSFET (metal-oxide semiconductor field effect transistors modules) and SiC (Silicon carbide) power modules that are part of the power electronics suite. These modules have to be tailored made for every application, which also includes electric charging stations, to maximize efficiency.

To establish electric mobility as the most effective alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, it is essential to address the lack of fast-charging facilities across the country. While the infrastructure for charging vehicles is being setup, leading providers of electric vehicles are also looking at improved battery storage options rather than drawing from the grid directly, as well as new power conversion solutions. Fast and ultra?fast DC chargers are proving to be integral to e?mobility as it is a key element in completing the ecosystem with lower power AC charging alternatives.

Power electronics in any form, are the most efficient when they operate at their optimal temperature. But since these components operate in all environmental conditions and the very fact that they are used to transmit electricity, there is tendency for these components to rise in temperature. Advanced electronically controlled liquid cooling technologies are therefore an essential component to not just cool the electronics but to also ensure they operate efficiently. The packaging of the semiconductors, which are the building blocks of the power electronics, also plays a role in how effectively the whole system is cooled. Cutting edge technologies such as these would invariably contribute to a more electrified sustainable transportation ecosystem.

The electric future
With the pandemic currently ravaging through countries and their populations, the impact on human life is very evident. In order for history to not repeat itself, countries around the world are now realizing, that human induced climate change can also bring about untold human misery to mankind. The Paris agreement is a welcome sign to promote global climate action and India is fast becoming a leader in the space with very well-defined sustainability goals. With a high contribution to CO2 emissions, the Indian automotive and transportation ecosystem is playing a pivotal role in achieving these long-term sustainability goals by moving away from fossil fuels and towards more electrified technologies. The ultimate goals are to propel e-mobility adoption, reduce dependence on ICE-based transportation to fight climate change. 

Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers to automotive and transportation OEMs in the ecosystem have been a great enabler by providing customized innovative solutions that help propel the move towards electrified mobility. With the complete Indian manufacturing ecosystem now working collaboratively, the country is all set to become a global vanguard for the electric future. As more individuals and companies commit to a Net Zero future, and electric vehicle market starts picking up, battery, storage, charging and service infrastructure facility in the country should also improve, leading to a faster green transformation of our road transport. Companies with sustainable solutions equipped to support this journey will have huge opportunities opening up for them in coming years…

About the author:
Ravichandran Purushothaman is the President of Danfoss India. As an active member of CII National & State Councils, Ravichandran Purushothaman has been strongly promoting the need to adopt energy efficient solutions and sustainable technologies across industries.

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