The PluginIndia team went on an electric car drive using the Tata Tigor EV. We used the ChargeZone Fast Charger network extensively to do the journey. This will show how electric cars can be practical and more enjoyable on a highway ride!
We put the Tigor EV for charging overnight before we signed off for the day. We left Moiz Apt, Santacruz, Mumbai at 0700 hours and had a peaceful drive to reach Abhishek’s place, close to the Mahindra factory at Kandivali. The spare tire takes up about 20% of boot space. We managed to fit our 4 bags in the relatively small boot. Thankfully Abhishek was travelling lighter than usual. We ended up using his coat as a window shade through the day. Bought some bananas and wadas near his house, and we were on the road.
Our first stop was at Vapi, where Abhishek sampled the coffee at Starbucks. I managed to convince a fruit seller to make a watermelon chaat for me. Kamlesh was carrying a dabba, which had emptied out its watermelons. Used the dabba for a watermelon refill. The idea of having one dozen bananas per day for our group appealed to me. It’s a healthy snack. After a half an hour break at Vapi, we moved on and headed to Bilimora. The Chargezone fast charger was 10 kilometres before Bilimora at the Empire hotel.
We met with Vedanshu. who does video editing for Pluginindia. Vedanshu’s brother, a programmer, took us to Jalaram Khakhra House. Lunch was an assortment of Gujju snacks, most of them having a besan base. We had to return back to the charging station because of an error in charging. We realised there were two options in the app for the Tigor EV – The older 120 km range one and the current Ziptron. The Tigor CAN bus does not talk too well to most fast chargers. So the user has to become a CAN substitute, and key in vehicle details. Not a very happy thought – as future vehicles may have more battery options – some of which even the users may not be aware of. Strong suggestion to Tata Motors is to get their act together on the CAN bus front. What we need is an Android kind of open source – not the Apple type of Gated community that Tata currently lives in.
On our ChargeZone app, we had chosen the older Tigor version, which has a 15 kWH battery. We should have realised our error when their software did not allow us to choose anything more than 15 kW. We had viewed this as a bug – and had gone on to chose the full charge option. We found out later that there was a genuine programming bug too. When you select dark mode on your phone, some of the font colors continue to remain black. So Tigor EV Ziptron, exists as – ahem, dark matter. After discovering this bug, we restarted charging and left with 96% charge.
Our next stop was at Karjan, near Baroda. We met with Gaurav, who looks after new projects at ChargeZone. The company has already installed 650 charging guns, most being in the b2b space. Ashok Leyland is a big customer in Ahmedabad. The business model for Leyland is a service contract; electricity being provided by the government via the bus company. Incidentally, there are non Leyland Hinduja group companies which have the operating contract for running the buses. We discussed the swapping experiment that was tried at Ahmedabad, with Sun Mobility. Turned out that there were mechanical problems in the swapping system – and so the swap batteries were converted to fixed batteries. The initial buses had been fitted with 320 kWh batteries – but bus operators soon realised that this was overkill. The batteries were downgraded to 200 kWh – which sufficed for the 200 km daily running of a typical municipal transport bus. The buses are fast charged overnight – takes about 2 hours per bus. There is a 45 minute boost charge which is given when the shift change happens. Shift changes are staggered and start from 1230, ending at 1730 hrs.
ChargeZone also has 65 public chargers. The good news is that revenues at some of the Mumbai Ahmedabad route chargers are covering operating costs of rent and electricity! Chargezone is now electrifying the Pune Bangalore route. Pune Shirdi was done recently by installing two chargers – one at Sangamner and the second at Shirdi. The company either rents the space for the charger or has a revenue share agreement. The rental agreements are for 10 years – and the revenue share agreements for 20. The share of the location owner depends on location. Lower traffic means lower share. It start with 20% and can go on to 30%. There is an exclusivity clause in the agreement, where the location owner cannot provide charging facility of any other CPO.
The chargers are being supplied by Pune based ADOR. Liked the charger, as it did not give us any problems during the few hours that we spent around it. To add to that, the electricity situation in Gujarat is quite good. Having said that, Chargezone is experimenting with solar-storage solutions for charging. They are buying electricity at an average of Rs. 7.5 per unit from the GSEB – and retailing it at Rs. 18 plus 18% GST. Would be interesting to see if having your own generation and storage justifies the RoI math.
The real cost advantage of EVs is evident when you use the car for drive between cities. Remains to be seen how comfortable the charging experience will end up being. Spoke to Gaurav about establishing a network of CPOs, which hopefully can mandate a single RFID device for all networks. ChargeZone already has a tie up with Fortum for interchangeability. Instead of waiting for the government to come up with a CPO policy, it is best that the operators themselves come up with a cooperative kind of structure, which does the interconnections between CPOs. PII can volunteer to help.
The same glitch of choosing the wrong Tigor happened at Karjan. We restarted charging and reached 96 percent after having paused at 85%.
It was 1900 hours by the time we left Karjan. Took the Vadodara bypass and then the expressway to Ahmedabad. We drove at speeds of between 80-90 kmph on the expressway. The expressway reminded me of the NICE road in Bangalore, where you have to overtake through the leftmost lane quite often. Both are 4 lane roads, with one tarred shoulder lane. We found some hitchhikers waiting on the sides – which actually made the leftside overtaking manoeuvres quite dangerous.
We had averaged 105 wh per km through the day, which was not too bad, considering that the AC was on most of the time. We had set the car’s cabin temperature at 26 deg C – and that would have helped. Fun fact – the Tigor battery has its own chiller system. And the battery was being maintained at an even cooler 25 deg C. Would be interesting to know whether the chiller energy is being included in the wh/km figure that is shown on the tripmeter.
The wh/km inched up to 107 at expressway speeds. The relatively small increase was because we already had 400 km under our belt by the time we hit the expressway. And the average wh/km is a kind of weighted average. The past punya helped us overcome the current paap of our high speed driving. It was 2230 hrs when we hit the ring road in Ahmedabad. Like in my last entry to Ahmedabad, there was a cop waiting to make money out of outstation cars. Fortunately, the white on green number plate has got bad readability – and we were shooed through without a bribe. We went to the ChargeZone station at Vastrapur – and found the location to be convenient. We had an offer from a Tigor user to use slow charging at his place. We troubled our friend at 2300 hrs, and he happily lent us his Tigor to go back to Ginger Hotel in Vastrapur, which was going to host us for the night.
Was happy to note that Tata had a slow 15 A charger installed at the hotel. Was told that Tata Power has installed the slow guys at all Tata properties. It took us more than 20 minutes to check in. The Ginger team needs to work on reducing this; we were already dead tired by the time we had reached Ahmedabad.
All in all a great day driving the Tigor EV to Ahmedabad. Our next blog will be on our trip from Ahmedabad to Udaipur and Udaipur to Shimla. Stay tuned!
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