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Monopoly fears stalk battery swap firms

The companies said standards for maximum dimensions, minimum rated capacity of a swappable battery system, and standardization of a specific type of connector, are limiting  (Photo: Bloomberg)Premium
The companies said standards for maximum dimensions, minimum rated capacity of a swappable battery system, and standardization of a specific type of connector, are limiting  (Photo: Bloomberg)

  • Adhering to a single standard specification may lead to monopoly, stifle innovation
  • The Dept of Science and Tech and the Bureau of Indian Standards are formulating battery specifications, standards

NEW DELHI : Several companies in India’s organized battery swapping industry have opposed the proposal for a single standard specification for swappable electric vehicle batteries, claiming it will lead to a monopoly by a foreign company and stifle innovation.

An alliance of these companies has met officials in the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to oppose a single standard for battery form factor, connector and communication protocol, an executive at one of these companies said on condition of anonymity. The meeting comes days after stakeholder consultations on the draft battery swapping policy.

The DST and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) have been entrusted to formulate battery specifications and standards as part of a national policy for battery swapping, which is likely to be formalized by the end of the year.

“The standard is limited to a narrow range of dimensions. This specification favours one company in the battery swapping ecosystem, giving it an unfair advantage if these standards are published," a senior executive at a leading battery swapping company said, without identifying the company.

The alliance includes several vehicle manufacturers and swapping service providers like Hero MotoCorp, Piaggio, Exicom, Gogoro and Sun Mobility. If they do not join the single standards system, they will have to forfeit the incentives the government is likely to offer in terms of rationalized taxes and customer incentives.

In their feedback submitted to BIS, the companies said standards for the maximum dimensions and the minimum rated capacity of a swappable battery system, as well as standardization of a specific type of connector, are limiting. The standards being referred to in these discussions are ones that the BIS is working on in the form of preliminary draft proposals.

On 2 May, the Indian Battery Swapping Association (IBSA) wrote to NITI Aayog: “While we welcome the standards covering safety aspects of battery swapping, we request you to kindly put on hold the current standards under formulation by BIS on battery form factor, connector and communication protocol."

The letter added, “This will bring current investments into the industry to a standstill and enforce a monopoly around a single company’s standard—one that has never been implemented anywhere in the world, let alone India".

However, while the draft policy document said standards will be formulated for communication protocols and battery specifications to enable interoperability, it did not publish the specifications in the policy document, which was opened up for stakeholder consultation.

Meanwhile, the government’s plan to bring interoperability in the battery swapping ecosystem has left the industry divided. Entities like Sun Mobility and leading Taiwanese battery swapping operator Gogoro, which is slated to launch India operations in a partnership with Hero MotoCorp, have opposed the view that batteries of different makes and specifications should be allowed to be swapped at any swap station, citing safety risks.

“It is concerning that there is no separate section in the draft policy on safety standards with respect to interoperability. If a customer is at the receiving end of any untoward incident of fire, there is no clarity on who that risk will be borne by. OEMs and swap station operators, for one, will not want to take these risks and will choose to go ahead and work with their partners according to the agreements they have in place," an executive with one of the battery swap companies said on the condition of anonymity.

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