Alternative Charging Infrastructure for EVs – Part -1

Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Thus, a big shift in paradigm is absolutely essential to overcome the challenges and speed up the deployment of Electric Vehicles (EVs) on all roads on the surface of the earth...

Starting from early 19th century, the invention of EV has a long history & is attributed to various people. However, it was sometime around 1828, when a Hungarian priest and physicist Ányos Jedlik invented an early type of electric motor and then went on to create a small model car powered by his new motor. Probably this was the beginning of EVs. In 1835, Thomas Davenport (the inventor of the first DC electric motor in America), from Brandon built a small-scale electric car. During the same period (between 1832 and 1839), Scottish inventor Robert Anderson also invented a crude electric carriage. In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, the Netherlands, and his assistant Christopher Becker from Germany also created a small-scale electric car, powered by non rechargeable1 primary cells. In 1891, the first regular electric car in the United States was developed by William Morrison, which was a six-passenger wagon capable of reaching a speed of 23 kmph (14 mph). It was the period (1878~1882), when Thomas Edison also developed and started selling viable electricity. With two mutual supportive technologies rising at the same time, the EVs started getting prominence. By 1895, engineers began to devote their attention to EVs as even in their primitive forms also these EVs were much better than the prevailing horse-driven & steam-propelled carriages. With increased interest in EVs, many innovations followed in the late 1890s to early 1900s making EVs a preferred mode of transportation – on road, on the rail, and even a combination of both in form of trams.

Even when the early ICEVs started appearing on road, post the patent of the first tricycle by Carl Benz on 29th Jan 1889, the EVs were still found & preferred as they were much better2 compared to primitive ICEVs. By 1912, since many homes in the USA had electricity, the period saw a surge in the popularity of EVs & by the turn of the century, with 33,842 registered EVs & 32% market share in the USA, EVs were hot cakes in the mobility market (Steam cars 40%/ ICEVs 22%) despite the fact that most of these early EVs were massive, bulky & expensive (but so were steam cars & ICEVs), slowly, EVs were gaining acceptance, making them popular. Sales of these EVs peaked in the early 1910s when there were over 300 listed manufacturers in the USA who produced EVs.

However, the fall of EVs came much quicker than expected from 1910 to 1930 – a period, during which many innovations related to ICEVs improved their performances & created exponential growth of their market. While, many prevailing political factors also supported & promoted the growth of ICEVs, the technology & infrastructure needed for EVs also lagged than that of ICEVs. As the road system in the USA started growing (1880 onwards), connecting widely spread cities, the need for a vehicle, which could travel longer distances with ease of fuel supply, arose. This need was well matched by the timely discovery of crude oil in the Texas area (1901).

However, the fall of EVs came much quicker than expected from 1910 to 1930 – a period, during which many innovations related to ICEVs improved their performances & created exponential growth of their market. While, many prevailing political factors also supported & promoted the growth of ICEVs, the technology & infrastructure needed for EVs also lagged than that of ICEVs. As the road system in the USA started growing (1880 onwards), connecting widely spread cities, the need for a vehicle, which could travel longer distances with ease of fuel supply, arose. This need was well matched by the timely discovery of crude oil in the Texas area (1901).

The continuous reduction in the prices of oil as well as that of ICEVs, thanks to Henry Ford who introduced the concept of the “interchangeability of parts” and the “moving assembly line” between 1917 and 1928, and went on to churn out more than 15 Million Units of Model T from his factories. Both factors created a mutually supportive loop for the growth of the ICEV market. Once the invention of the electric starter (by Charles Kettering) in 1912, eliminated the need for the hand crank to start these ICEVs (a major deterrent for female & aged drivers), there was no stopping for ICEVs for the next 100 years.

On the other hand, since neither the battery technology was improving in those times nor the EV’s control systems, due to which EVs lacked the power, needed long charging time & offered lower travel range,  which curtailed their growth and in a short span of 50 years, beginning from early 1880, the EVs, having attained their peak in 1910, literally got eliminated from the mobility market by the end of 1929 when the last Detroit EV under Anderson was shipped in November 1929. Finally, EVs completely disappeared by 1935.

Over the next 100 years, an incredibly large and complex infrastructure grew & strengthened to harness & distribute fossil fuel, primarily focused around ICEV based mobility systems. Such infrastructures include oil fields, pipelines, refineries, storage, transportation & distribution systems. This fuel cycle has a very complex “Life Cycle” from its source to final use as shown below.

Energy Needs: Here, it is pertinent to note that all kinds of energy sources when used, generate some or the other kind of heat & greenhouse gases yet the energy is certainly needed for the growth of the society. Unfortunately, the explosion in the numbers of ICEVs brought the burning of fossil fuel “within the society”. With a huge number of ICEV built since 1900 (by a rough estimate there are approximately 1.2 billion automobiles are on the road across the globe burning the fossil fuel, leaving aside another large number of equipment/ machines run by ICEs and this number is expected to grow to 2 billion at least by 20403). While the emission from these ICEVs/ICEs has always been a major concern, the ICEVs also brought many other kinds of environmental issues, such as land & water contamination, high noise levels, and deterioration in AQI, etc. With times, these issues attained monstrous proposition impacting the whole plant and started affecting all forms of lives (human, animal, marine & vegetation, etc.). It has been well recorded that the GHG emitted during the current industrialization has already raised the average global temperatures by about 0.6 DegC (compared to pre-industrialization times) and it continues to rise. This temperature change has a far-reaching impact on the whole eco-system affecting farming, wildlife, sea levels and is altering the natural landscapes as ICEs only contribute about 1/5th of this total global warming pollution.

On the other hand, electrical energy is one of the most compact, portable, cleanest & safest forms of energy, which can also be generated from many renewable energy sources such as hydropower, sunlight, wind, rain, tidal waves, and geothermal heat without even burning fossil fuels. With technological advancements in recent times, all these energy sources are now being extensively tapped across the world to generate electricity (the share of renewable energy in global electricity generation has jumped to 29% in 2020, up from 27% in 20194 and is expected to increase to more than 35% in 2022.)

The electricity from any of sources mentioned above (which do not require any burning of fossil fuels), once fed into electricity grids, can be used by the EVs. Commercial viability of these energy sources and increasing awareness about global warming and environmental degradation, pushed the revival of EVs, and they started receiving fresh attention for revival. Slowly, multiple technologies combining electricity with ICE started coming into prominence in mobility systems e.g. BEVs, HEVs, PHEVs & FCEVs but BEVs (or simply EVs) were yet to bounce back.

Rise of BEVs: The rise of EVs can be attributed due to the culmination of many unrelated technological innovations that merged with geopolitical incidents happening between 1940~1980. While some of the important technological innovations included the invention of the transistor (1947), MOSFET (1959), Li-ION battery (1980), the geopolitical incidents included the Gulf Oil Crisis (1970) & the rise of environmental consciousness in society across the globe. The first revival of EV was tried out in 1997 when GM had rolled out its EV1, though it did not succeed5 but certainly it created a buzz on the great future possibility of these EVs by showing their superiority over ICEVs. By 2004, when the advancement in the solid-state electronics, controller, and drives as well as in the batteries seemed to have reached that threshold at which no one could stop the rise of EVs, came the Team Tesla backed by Elon Musk who, like Henry Ford [whose focused approach on creating an affordable ICEV for masses was responsible for altering the face of mobility world forever, when he created Model T], was also focused on creating an affordable EV for masses. Under Elon Musk, Tesla invested heavily in the Giga Factories between 2003~2005 to produce its first EV (Roadster), having a travel distance of 394 km on a single charge (under test conditions), a travel range unprecedented for any production EV till date. Tesla went on to develop cutting-edge battery technologies as well-matched electric powertrain needed for new-age EVs. From there, Tesla designed its bestselling premium all-electric sedan Model S, which could compete with any existing ICEVs on safety, performance, and efficiency. The acceptability of the Tesla Model S opened the flood gates for the EV market.

On 04 Dec 2018, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in his speech6 at the E-Mobility event of COP24, had also pointed this shift “…Many are putting in place the policy frameworks and infrastructure needed for sustainable transport. A growing number of countries and regions have announced plans to phase out fossil fuel vehicles and to shift to e-mobility. Others are putting in place targets for the absolute number or overall share of electric vehicles by 2020 or 2030… These policy initiatives have spurred market growth for electric vehicles. There is increasing demand and many businesses are embracing e-mobility and its new economic opportunities. According to Bloomberg, by 2040, 55% of all new car sales and 33% of the global fleet will be electric.”

The snapshot at the bottom of this page gives a broad timeline set by various global automobile manufacturers to phase out the ICEVs while some of them have still not made up their long term plans on this issue.

Economics of Running BEVs: While, on one side EVs have much lower number of moving parts (e.g. just in the drivetrain in an ICEV, there are typically 2,000+ moving parts, whereas the drivetrain in an EV contains around 20+ parts making them more reliable), the EVs also have low maintenance cost as compared to ICEVs both in terms of serviceability & consumables. With this, while on one side the EVs have much lower maintenance costs, even the main drive of EVs being an electric motor, also has only one moving part, the shaft and is proven over the years for its reliability & robustness. While the controller and charger are fully solid-state electronic devices, the state-of-the-art new-age batteries (Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Al-Air, Li-S, or even proven Pb-Acid battery) are also more or less maintenance-free. However, on one side while the evolving new battery technologies can extend the driving range of EVs, with improved battery management systems, they are also able to extend the useable life of the battery packs. In times to come when the future EVs are fitted with these advanced batteries based on cutting-edge technologies, they may not require any replacement during the life of the EVs (as is expected in today’s EVs). While the battery life & performance are affected by multiple factors (which may also include driving conditions, driving habits as well as operating weather conditions) and hence depending upon its deterioration, it will certainly require periodic replacement.


In India, while current regulation demands any ICEV to be scrapped after a fixed time frame (15 years for Petrol ICEVs/ 10 years for diesel ICEVs), the life span of EVs is yet to be notified, yet it would certainly be more than 15 years. While the EV battery life is yet to ascertain, a consumer report (USA), estimates the average life of EV present-day battery pack to be around nearly 17 years (while many other technical experts estimate the EV these batteries to last somewhere from 10~20 years) before they run out to store & effectively deliver energy for driving EVs. Here it is worth mentioning, while the EVs are not only easier and cheaper to maintain, they are also more efficient than the ICEVs by a reasonable margin (2W: ~2.35 times, Car: ~2.56 times, SUV: ~1.37 times). However, on an average, the EVs have twice the Well-to-Wheel energy conversion/transfer ratio compared to the same ration for ICEVs (29% for EVs again 14 % for ICEVs).

                                                      …To be continued

  1. The first rechargeable batteries based on lead (Pb) chemistry were invented in 1859 (by French physician Gaston Planté) while rechargeable batteries based on nickel-cadmium battery (NiCd) chemistry were invented by Waldemar Jungner (Sweden) in 1899, however, their technologies needed time to mature for being used in EVs.
  2. The EVs almost had no emission (except small battery fumes), had much lower NVHS (noise, vibration, harshness & smell) levels, needed lower maintenance, had a self-starting feature (it wasn’t available in ICEVs till almost 1912/14), had fewer rotary parts and did not require gear changes during the drive.
  5. See Epilogue





Prabhat Khare possesses a BE (Electrical) degree from IIT Roorkee (Gold Medalist). Now, he is the Director of KK Consultants. He is also a BEE Certified Energy Manager and a Lead Assessor for ISO 9K, 14K, 45K & 50K.

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