The world is embracing electric vehicles speedily and in the next few decades, EVs are going to be in majority. So, with an idea where India can be a country that runs completely on EVs, the CII Conference on ‘Challenges for Indian EV Manufacturers – The Welding Perspective’ analysed where India stands in the whole structure of electric vehicles globally and its roadmap to get there, with a perspective on welding. The conference featured the discussions on the following topics: global and Indian perspectives of the e-mobility market, future trends and challenges for welding fabrication for EVs, latest innovative technologies, the Indian EV journey and the way forward, manufacturing automation/integration for EV in India - future trends and challenges. It was attended by heads from fabrication, engineering, design, project management, heavy welding, welding equipment, material sciences, Additive Manufacturing as well as representatives from EV and auto-ancillary sectors.
Getting the basics right
The first session of the event explored the global and Indian views on EVs, where the first speaker, Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group, threw light on how electric vehicles are to become an integral part of our lives in the future and at that point, everyone would want to see that the vehicles they are using are reliable. “Hence, reliability and sustainability would ensure stability for any company at that point,” said Arya and continued, “The crux of the vehicle lies in the basic technology being used, like welding or coating technologies. Also, we need to see how we can have a well-to-wheel perspective for EVs to generate and consume green.”
Next, Vishwanath Kamath, MD, Fronius India and the Conference Chairman asserted, “The National Electric Mobility Mission, an initiative undertaken by the Government of India, comes with the aim to make India a country that runs completely on EVs by 2030. In the past few years, from 2015-17, there has been a seven-fold increase in EVs in India, with Delhi leading the pack, where 1/3rd of the EVs are presently sold.”
The following speaker was D G Salpekar, GM – eVehicles, Energy Efficiency Services (EESL). Salpekar stressed upon the need to manufacture batteries for EVs in India. He cited, “We don’t have any lithium-ion battery manufacturers in India right now, which is the most significant cost element. So, unless we really work on manufacturing batteries, it will be very difficult to bring down the overall cost of EVs. A lot of focus needs to be put on the charging infrastructure for EVs, which is a key element for people to adopt EVs.”
Welding fabrication and light-weight vehicles
The second session emphasised on the trends and challenges for welding fabrication for EVs. The first speaker of the session, Chellappan Raghavan, Segment Management (Automation & Robotics), Fronius India, conveyed, “A lot of vehicles in the market are made up of a good amount of aluminum, which reduces the weight of the vehicle by 40%. But since aluminum is a fast conductor of heat, you cannot use the same concepts for aluminum welding as that for steel welding. Plus, you cannot re-work on aluminum and need to get the welding right the first time itself.”
The session was next taken over by Gerd Holzschuh, Technical Director, Fronius China, where he revealed about China’s place in the world of EVs. He said, “The EV market is booming profoundly in China now, because the Chinese Government has made very strong decisions. In Shanghai, you have to buy your car plate separately from the Government, which costs around €10,000. So, to promote EVs, the government will give the plates that come with EVs for free and customers will only have to pay for the electronic vehicle.”
EVs in India: The Journey Ahead
The third session was a panel discussion on the topic, ‘The Journey Ahead for the Indian EV Industry’, which was moderated by A Shivkumar, Chairman, CII Core Group on Welding Technology and Former Chief Executive, EWAC Alloys. The speakers for the discussion were Zafar Equbal, CEO, Goenka Electric Motor; Ayush Lohia, CEO, Lohia Auto; Anu Gupta, Head–Skills, Inclusive Growth and Investment Team, DFID India; and Yuvraj Sarda, Senior Manager, Strategy, SUN Mobility.
Starting off the discussion, Equbal said, “Apart from the cost of EVs, the convenience of user-friendly charging infrastructure is the principal dynamic that decides whether a country’s EV quest would flourish or not. But we do not have charging infrastructure in the market. What can help is to have EVs that can have swappable batteries that can be recharged.” Explaining further, Lohia said, “Setting up charging stations requires different kinds of approvals from the local electricity board, the municipal corporation and you also need to involve the central approval as far as what are the ISI standards that need to be maintained.”
He added, “Besides, if it is a high-voltage charging station, safety is a key parameter here. A person can bear a shock that carries up to 60 volts of electricity. But for a high-voltage system like a charging station, it can bring about death with even the slightest negligence. What’s more, we have stray animals all across the streets of India. So, can we imagine what would happen if they managed to bang at the station? That would create complete havoc. These kind of practical challenges are hindering the growth of EV infrastructure and we need to be sure about what kind of things we are talking about.”
The discussion further took a turn towards the prominence of skill-development in EVs. On this, Gupta averred, “From manufacturing to driving a car, there is a whole new set of people and related jobs, and therefore, related skills that will come into the picture with EVs.” Sarda added, “Through all this, India has ideal conditions for electric vehicles, thanks to its smaller vehicles and stop-and-go traffic.”
Trends and challenges in EVs
The fourth session explored the future trends and challenges (manufacturing automation/integration) for EV manufacturers in India, which was moderated by Vikas Swami, VP, Kuka India. The speakers at this session were Ajay Gurjar, Deputy COO & Head (Business Operations), Yaskawa India (Robotics Division); Dr Pranati Sahoo, Advanced Application Engineer, Electronics Material Solutions Division, 3M India; Sudhir Sanna, Robotics and Vision Automation – Chief Sales Officer, OLCI Engineering India; and Sachin Kamble, Manager, Proposal & Design, OLCI Engineering India.
The debut speaker of the session, Gurjar, remarked, “As far as energy efficiency is concerned, ICEs give an efficiency of 17–20%, while electric vehicles give 90-95% of energy efficiency.” The subsequent speaker, Sahoo added that using EVs can lead to thermal runways because of mechanical or thermal abuse. “In such cases, you can use fire suppression materials. These can be wrapped around the cells, as they normally come in tape form. So, if the temperature in the car rises very high, then the material starts to swell up. Once the material swells up, it is highly insulating. That stops the heat from propagating from one cell to another, which prevents a blast,” she shared.
Sahoo further informed that another kind of material that can be used is an endothermic material. So, if the temperature shoots up, the endothermic material will take up the heat and give away a certain amount of water, which will try to put out the fire. However, if that does not work, then the material turns into char, which prevents the car from catching fire.
Coming towards the end of the session, Sanna spoke about e-buses and threw light on the benefits of robotic hemming and spot welding. Kamble added to this by highlighting the company’s bus-body building fixtures, which have a scope from process design to SOP support.
Most car manufacturers have electric car platforms ready and since EVs are more simplified, building them once production lines are in place can be much easier. Moreover, when it comes to welding fabrication in EVs, aluminum is a good choice, because in spite of its thinner dimensions, the strength of aluminum helps ease the vehicle weight without compromising on its coherence and performance. And, to make the job easier and get past the challenges that it brings with it, it’s imperative to use equipment and consumables intended explicitly for aluminum and also to keep in mind the best practices that can help drive success when welding aluminum for EVs.