Researchers at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) have designed a unique charging solution for e-scooters. Dr. Aftab Hussain, who heads the Processes, Architecture and Technologies Research in IoT (PATRIoT) division at IIIT-H and his team has designed a complete end-to-end charging solution from the electronic hardware components that are sturdy and safe enough for outdoor deployments to the software that contains an appropriate processor to control all input and output devices of the system.
In a paper titled, "Compact Electric Vehicle Charging Station Using Open Charge Point Protocol for E-Scooters" that has been presented at the 2021 International Conference on Sustainable Energy and Future Electric Transportation, Dr. Hussain and his team of researchers proposed a unique design and fabrication of charging equipment specifically for e-scooters.
Leveraging the core strength of the lab which lies in flexible electronics, the researchers have used a flexible, inexpensive membrane for the keypad with a longer lifespan than a mechanical keypad. Much like the interface at an ATM, the user has to swipe an RFID card that authenticates her before she enters the amount for which charging has to be done. Safety features such as emergency disconnection of AC power supply in case it goes beyond a minimum threshold, or in case of hardware faults have also been incorporated.
Deeksha Devendra, the lead author of the paper, cites the compact nature of the charger that makes it possible to deploy it in densely populated urban centres where a need for such chargers is most felt.
"Current EV charger designs are bulky, requiring land usage rights, whereas this device can be mounted on a street lamp," she said. The USP of the system though lies in the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) that it is based on. With this, charging stations are no longer vendor specific.
"Our design scores over others' as it allows users to roam between the charging stations irrespective of the vehicle manufacturer, whether it is an Okinawa or a Hero e-scooter," said Deeksha. "It's the OCPP which makes the entire system reliable, both in terms of data security, as well as compatibility with the entire national infrastructure," said Dr. Hussain, adding that their system is ahead of the curve.
The team started working on the solution as the charging infrastructure for two-wheelers is yet to catch up. The professor said that the lack of non-standardised charging points for e-bikes in particular is going to be a problem for the country in the foreseeable future. "The current problem with e-scooters is that they can't be charged just about anywhere. The existing charging systems are specifically tailored for each make of such vehicles. Users are typically tied to charging their e-bikes at home. And this again is tremendously inconvenient," said Dr. Hussain.
With residential housing societies yet to ramp up their parking lot infrastructure with charging points, one needs to unplug the scooter battery - a tedious process in itself - physically carry it home, charge it and reconnect it before the next ride. To repeat the sequence of events on a regular basis is a dampener on the path to electric mobility.