Interview (Sanjay Aggarwal)

Sanjay Aggarwal,
Managing Director at Fortum India

“What kind of business model is Fortum working on for EV charging?”

Fortum has been offering EV Charging service in Nordic countries for almost a decade. We have developed expertise in providing a greater experience to the consumer. Our Mobile App, which has been developed and fine-tuned based on consumer feedback offers a seamless experience to consumers in getting their vehicle charged. In India with the Government’s focus on Digitization under the program of “Digital India” and the digital-savvy population, we are working on a business model that is in perfect sync with the above two narratives. Keeping this in view, we are offering three services in India.

Under the brand name of Charge & Drive – where a person can drive in with their vehicle, charge the vehicle, pay using credit card/ debit card, and drive away to its destination- Fortum started its operation in India in August 2017. With the pilot beginning in October 2017, Fortum has already made 36 DC Fast charging points operational. These charging points are available in Hyderabad and Mumbai suburban area. Though there are not enough e-vehicles in the country presently, but it is growing backed up by enabling govt push like making charging infra as service, extending the demand-side subsidy to end consumers, and having 12% tax on BEV compared to Hybrid which ranges from 28% to 50%.

Since the launch of our DC fast-charging stations in Hyderabad, we have been observing the positive adoption of Electric Vehicles by customers. We have more than 400 registered users and more than 600 customers have downloaded our mobile APP. These are smart chargers which are unmanned and gives freedom to the consumer to take control of charging need of their vehicle at the location of their choice, and at time of their convenience without any intrusion from another person.

Our second offering is intended to “co-create” EV market by enabling various charge point operators (we do not consider them as “Competitor” rather they are “Co-Creator”) to offer their services to end consumers. Our “proven and tested SaaS from the Nordic market” offers reliability and credibility to our service.

Fortum Charge & Drive offers a cloud solution for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging service providers and infrastructure investors. The cloud-based (SaaS) architecture enables flexible, pay-as-you-grow models, and white/grey label alternatives. The Fortum Charge & Drive service is configured to suit a wide array of customer requirements, from back-end administration that allows an operator to see the current status of each charger, control the charging at each station (e.g. start, stop, restart), manage the charging Connect and configure chargers, remote monitoring and diagnostics, and Price plan administration, to the front-end branding of the consumer mobile app and web portal.

The Charge & Drive Saas cloud solution is hardware agnostic; multiple hardware manufacturers are already integrated, and more are being added continuously. Our service allows network operators to remain in control of their network and charging points, regardless of which hardware manufacturer(s) are in use, and our roaming capability with flexible payment options provide a superior end-user experience. Fortum Charge & Drive offers the only mass-market proven solution for EV charging, as well as a personal commitment to growing the charging business.

To end consumer, it offers status of charging points (Available, In Use, Out of Service); flexible payment option through RFID, Credit/Debit card; multiple payment models like per minutes, per kWh, charging history and many other features which help a consumer have a great experience charging their EV. It enables a fully secured charging, which makes sure that without authorization, either through RFID or mobile app, the charging process cannot be initiated.

Another service that we offer in India market is Battery Swapping solution for the 3-wheeler market. Three-wheeler is the linchpin of the Indian transport system, offering affordable and accessible transportation to Indian commuters. To create a large-scale transition towards electric mobility, there must be a cost-efficient alternative for the operators and drivers of the three-wheeler. High-quality batteries with sufficient capacity suffer high initial cost which is one of the major limitations for the transition to electric vehicles. Battery swapping offers a solution to mitigate this limitation where vehicle cost is reduced by taking out battery from the vehicle, and a battery swapping operator offers the charged battery to operators and drivers of EV as part of operating cost. <br />

“What advantage does Fortum Group's experience in EV globally bring for Fortum India?”

According to the World Health Organization Report, out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in India. Not surprisingly, vehicular pollution is one of the major contributors to the deteriorating air quality in the country. In this background, the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) has emerged as the most viable option to help curb the emissions from the transport sector. E-mobility has three stakeholders – OEMs, Charging Infrastructure Providers, and Consumers. Amongst all, it is a consumer who is the ultimate driver.

A consumer will like to be assured of getting a charge at their preferred location, time, and price to get over their range anxiety. This requires a robust, ubiquitous, and friendly charging station network. As charging takes more time than gasoline fueling, the consumer would like to find a charging station in an interesting place where they would feel happy to spend time while their car gets charged. Also, they would like to know on a real-time basis where and which charging points are free for charging, what is the price of the charge, how secured in their car while it is being charged, etc. All these would make her/his charging experience a happy one.

Fortum Charge & Drive has been providing such experience to its customers in Nordic countries and Europe where we are operating a network of about 3000 chargers out of which 30% are rapid chargers. Now with the acquisition of Plug Surfing, customers can have access to 65,000 charge points across Europe. We understand what it takes to help evolve the EV market from our experience from Norway where we are leading charging point operator. We intend to cater to the Indian consumer the same experience as we have in providing to our Nordic consumers – hassle-free, ready to use, and enjoyable experience.

In India, we are currently operating 36 DC charging points in Hyderabad, and Mumbai under Public charging mode and 4 AC Type-2 22 KW charger in Delhi. We have sold CMS license to operate chargers to a leading 4-wheeler OEM in India to operate its chargers through our proven Charger Management System (CMS). We have integrated 5 locally manufactured chargers for use as “Smart Chargers” in India. This is very significant as this has enabled charger OEM to develop smart chargers and take on various Multi-National Charger OEM as well.<br />

“What were the takeaways from the battery swapping project in Noida?”

As the battery swapping concept is yet to achieve “proof of concept” commercially and technically, there is a need to run a few pilots before it is offered as a commercial solution. With this objective in mind, we have recently introduced a new initiative under a new brand “Change and Drive”, a pilot project comprising 30 e-Autos that will operate around the Mall of India in Noida. By providing high-quality Li-ion battery swapping infrastructure and assuming battery ownership and risk, Fortum offers e-rickshaw drivers higher efficiency, unlimited range and the possibility to provide their services at a lower cost.

We found the project feasible enough. The first battery-swapping project we did was with Clean Motion and now depending upon where the vehicle density is and where the e-rickshaws have the feasibility, so along with them, we would expand our business.

The basic premise is that typically, the e-rickshaws normally used to take anything between 2-3 hours for charging and when we have battery swapping, it takes one and a half minutes. So that means, the remaining 2 hours in which earlier the e-rikshaw was just standing still, that can be used as movement, they can carry a greater number of passengers and generate more money. I would say that on a very good day like a Saturday or a Sunday, they make around 100 km. Earlier, they used to make around 70 -75 km a day. So, it leads to improvement and at least for e-rickshaws specifically, we feel that battery swapping is a far better solution as compared to four-wheelers and for buses because for them, the weight of the whole battery becomes too much, and it can’t be manually transferred.<br />

“How do you see the Indian conventional power niche developing compared to the renewables?”

I would say that with respect to the conventional power, which is thermal power, except for public sector companies, I don’t think any private sector company would find it feasible enough to put up a coal-based plant. Coming to an epoch-making concern, many countries along with India already have a strict limit on the emission of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particle matters. Keeping this in mind, Fortum would like to bring its own advanced time and cost-saving Primary NOx reduction technology to India, to support India in reaching its sustainability goals.

There are two solutions by which you can reduce the NOx emissions, one is at the source where the NOx is being generated and the coal is fired itself and the second is after it has been generated, how to fix NOx. We are more into the primary combustion technology and concerning all the thermal plants that we have, there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done. As a utility company, we are extremely eager to learn new technologies like renewables. We have a lot of hydro &amp; innovations, but we have also realized that these transformations from combustion to non-combustion, will take some time. We feel that in this transformation process of energy changing, we must be active on that. The government of India is taking good initiatives, by promoting renewables, they are also promoting legislation to reduce emissions such as NOx and
other particles. The change will not happen in one night, so we are being competitive enough to supply the energy that is needed across India. We need to provide something like a transformation process whether that is 10 years or 20 years. Without technology, for the available solution, let’s push the industry but not exceeding the capitalized cost.

We also have to consider the operation of course because if you jump from one solution to the other without doing the homework, you will face an increase in the cost. You should tackle where and how emissions are being generated and eliminate that to happen. We also have a lot of knowledge on bio-fuels but you cannot expect a lot of things to happen in one night and the power generation and power asset here in India especially in coal, is still quite young so either replace it totally or make a plan to phase it out.

“Please share more details on Fortum eNext?”

Fortum next, part of Fortum Corporation, helps thermal power plants improve their operations and reduce emissions. The offering includes highly specialized expert services throughout the whole life cycle of a power plant, such as environmental solutions and turbine and generator repairs and overhauls. Further, Fortum next provides full-scope operation and maintenance services as well as solutions for energy efficiency improvements and production optimization. Over the last 30 years, the European Union has periodically tightened the NOx emission regulation for thermal power plants. Fortum has developed its own NOx reduction technology since 1990's and successfully completed more than 50 similar projects in Central Europe and Asia.

Fortum eNext provides a time and cost-saving tailor-made combustion solutions to help thermal power plants comply with the new NOx emission regulation. NOx level of 300mg/Nm3 can be met with our advanced NOx reduction methods without increasing operational expenditures. Furthermore, combining our state-of-the-art low-NOx combustion technology with a secondary NOx reduction system, substantial NOx emission reductions can be achieved in an economical way.

Fortum's low-NOx solution is based on primary reduction methods, i.e. the key will be to prevent the formation of NOx in the combustion process. Fortum’s advanced low-NOx technology reduces emissions effectively (even up to 80%) and, compared to other solutions (secondary methods) there is a minimum need for new equipment, no auxiliary power consumption, no water consumption, and no ammonia or urea consumption and no by-products for disposal. Our low-NOx solution is designed to fit any original equipment manufacturers (OEM) technology. We can guarantee that the desired emission levels are met, regardless of the current set up at the site.

Our delivery is an efficient turnkey project with short production downtime. Technical implementation will be carried out in co-operation with our local partners. Remote monitoring and technical support for the warranty period are always included.

“What are Fortum India's future plans for the solar industry?”

Starting its activity in India in 2012 with an acquisition of operating a 5 MW solar plant in Rajasthan, Fortum has created a portfolio of 685 MW (185 operating and 500 under development) solar assets in India. Solar power in India is a fast-developing industry. As an industry, there are too many players at present, with very different approaches. Consolidation in the industry is taking place and will continue in the future. The future of the industry is going to be bright if investments take place in this sector in the right avenues. India is currently becoming the most preferred destination for investment in solar energy, as the country targets to draw 40% of its total energy requirements from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. Concerning solar, Fortum will continue to look at 250 MW to 300 MW every year at least in the near foreseeable future.

Interview 03/07/2019 by News Bureau
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