Innovating for Clean Air: India

Increasing electric vehicle uptake and reducing air pollution are crucial, interrelated challenges for cities worldwide. Replacing petrol/diesel cars with electric vehicles (EVs) could have a hugely positive impact on air quality and health, as well as supporting climate goals.

To address these challenges, in 2019 Energy Systems, Connected Places and Satellite Applications Catapults with collaborative partners in India, launched the Innovating for Clean Air project. Led by Energy Systems Catapult, the project was a two-year initiative funded by UK Research and Innovation and focused on the Karnataka state capital city of Bengaluru.

The Challenge

An article in The Lancet published in December 2020 on “Health and economic impact of air pollution in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019,” stated:

  • 67 million deaths in India in 2019 were attributed to air pollution, 17.8% of all deaths in the country.

Reducing Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle usage could have a hugely positive impact of air quality in India, and across the world. Globally transport is thought to account for 23% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a study in New Delhi found that the transport sector accounted for 19% of PM10, 39% of PM2.52 and 81% of NOx3 emissions in the city[2].

The Solution

Through engagement with Indian stakeholders in Bengaluru, the Catapults identified some of the key EV and air quality challenge areas for the city and Indian enterprise. Then launched an open call in the UK to find small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who could deliver innovative solutions.

We aimed to enable the introduction and early adoption of selected EV and air quality products and services by deploying them in real-life urban testbeds in Bengaluru, India; creating tangible collaboration opportunities for UK and Indian innovators.

These Clean Air Testbeds involved a cohort of 17 high potential UK and Indian SMEs developing innovative clean air and electric vehicle solutions.

Out of those, nine deployed their solutions on the Clean Air Street – a collaborative initiative between the Connected Places and Energy Systems Catapults, the Directorate of Urban Land Transport, and the Indian Institute of Science.  The other eight cohort carried out experiments in multiple locations across the city, including office buildings, residential areas, schools and university campuses.

Satellite Applications Catapult (SAC) are also working with SME Earthsense to develop a unique measurement system for air quality by integrating satellite, ground and mobile sensor data to deliver a detailed localised map of the air quality to help support the integration of EVs within the city of Bengaluru.

Led by the UK’s Catapult Network and providing a unique business collaborative Indian and UK innovators, the project aimed to increase the evidence base for policy that delivers cleaner air, while creating a replicable model which can be used in other cities and countries.

Finally, to build on the work in Bengaluru, we have worked with the Sustainable Transport Lab team at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Connected Places Catapult (CPC) to Model EV charging infrastructure in India to advise on the optimal location and size of charge points in the city.

Clean Air Street

The Catapults collaborated with the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), Bengaluru to transform one of the central streets in the city into a ‘Clean Air Street’.

The street provided a testbed for 10+ UK and Indian clean air and electric vehicle SMEs/start-ups to showcase their solutions, test them in a real-life context, gather consumer feedback and encourage citizen awareness and sustainable behaviour.

Working with partners, the Catapults have been able to capture and investigate the impact of the street closure on air pollution, quality of life for residents and visitors, and the economic impact on local businesses.

Clean Air Testbeds

In addition to the Clean Air Street initiative, the programme supported other SMEs/start-ups and partners to deliver pilot projects in multiple locations across Bengaluru, including:

GreenEnco charging station

GreenEnco provides strategic and risk management consulting services for renewable energy including technical and financial services across the complete solar PV project lifecycle and energy storage projects.

As part of the Clean Air TestbedGreenEnco designed, developed and installed an EV charging station integrated with solar power generation and battery storage at the Indian Institute of Science campus with local partners.  

GreenEnco then developed a mobile phone application for booking and payment for charging with a dynamic pricing mechanism. An initial user group is being established to trial the app to understand how the tool can be further enhanced and the user preferences towards dynamic pricing.  

Through developing and testing the app: 

  • GreenEnco have brought their solution closer to commercialisation. The app will enable them to explore how to attract users to the charging station, for example if push notifications can be incorporated to attract users when charging prices are low.
  • We connected GreenEnco with EverythingEco, an Indian partner who will recruit a range of stakeholders – from car makers, last mile distribution companies and consumer, trade and industry groups – to create a user group. The company has already supported the pilot project by collecting insights on how EV drivers view using solar generated electricity to power their vehicles – the outputs highlight that drivers place high importance on the source of the electricity they use.

Previous work on this pilot project and development of the app has allowed GreenEnco and the Indian Institute of Science to showcase the charging station to a range of stakeholders and highlight the value of green generated electricity for EV charging. Through using the charging station, EV drivers have been able to reduce the carbon intensity of their travelling.

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Electrified delivery pilot project

The growth of e-commerce in India was accelerated considerably by the pandemic, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the gig economy, largely in the last mile delivery sector.

Food delivery companies such as Swiggy, Zomato; market places such as Amazon, Flipkart; Grocers such as BigBasket; and fashion retailers such as Ajio, Myntra, are all contributing to this growth. The most common mode of transportation for deliveries are fossil-fuel based two and three-wheelers. 

Electric vehicles have climate and air quality benefits in addition to relatively cheaper running costs. However, higher capital costs (largely due to batteries), concerns around the service ecosystem, and uncertainty around charge point availability are some of the deterrents/challenges that are slowing down the transition. 

There is an opportunity for makers of electric two/three-wheelers and ancillary service providers to address some of these challenges to accelerate EV adoption in the last mile delivery segment of Tier 1, Tier 2 cities across the country. There are emerging small and mid-sized manufacturers who cater to this segment by providing cost-effective designs suited for short distance cargo deliveries.

In addition, tech companies are entering the business of battery charging and swapping infrastructure, or its associated technologies and the financing/leasing of EVs. However, there is very limited information on how the whole ecosystem works when together. 

After an open call inviting electric two/three-wheeler innovators to trial their products in a testbed with Swiggy, Bengaluru -based innovator E drives trialled one of their electric bikes with the food delivery company.  

Through this pilot project, we have helped Swiggy and E drives to: 

  • Build a better picture of the state of the electrified two-wheel market in India and introduced them to a wide range of innovators in the space;
  • The real-world trial allowed a Swiggy driver to gain experience of how an EV could be incorporated into their work;
  • Understand the challenges around data collection in some vehicles which innovators are working to improve.

Electric Vehicle dashboard

Through the Innovating for Clean Air programme, eFleet analytics worked with India-based innovator UrbanMorph, who are developing a platform that will support EV users to better understand their energy consumption and charging requirements but will also provide valuable data and insights to other stakeholders. 

Using information drawn from consumer vehicles and capturing their detailed journey and charging patterns, the platform will: 

  • Use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and deep learning algorithms to understand EV user behaviour and provide guidance on getting the most efficient usage pattern;
  • Provide an extensive data set from EV Battery Management System (BMS) integration that can be analysed to predict how the city will move in the future.

To begin data integration, UK innovator eFleet Analytics tested its SIM card based data collection devices with Bengaluru EV taxi company, eee-taxi. The data collected will provide an initial data set for the dashboard, and subsequently eee-taxi will have access to analytics and insights through the dashboard to help improve charging patterns and optimise daily operations.

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CityEV has been established to design and manufacture the next generation of charge points that will address the challenges faced by infrastructure providers. Through the Clean Air Testbed, CityEV deployed their charge point into three pilot projects in India. CityEV worked with government and private partners, one of these being eee-taxi, an electric vehicle fleet with operations in Bengaluru.

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Energeo create unique data for towns and cities by digitally studying the built environment- using sources such as satellite imagery and LiDar – to automatically identify the most beneficial locations to deploy low-carbon technologies such as Solar PV, Heat Pumps and EV charge points. Through the Clean Air Testbed, Energeo worked in collaboration with the Karnataka State’s ‘Directorate of Urban Land Transport’ (DULT) to deploy geospatially focused, data driven techniques to identify demand and the optimal position for on street and public EV charging infrastructure in areas of the state’s capital city, Bengaluru.

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Boosting clean air innovation hackathon

Alongside Directorate of Urban Land Transport, we hosted a hackathon to enable the development of an energy modelling solution for metro station transit points to help improve energy efficiencies and advise on future development.

Modelling EV charging infrastructure in India

To combat air pollution the Indian Government has begun implementing ambitious policy for the electrification of transport. Some state Governments are also looking to become ‘EV hubs’ in a race to become the most advanced in terms of electrifying mobility.

However, the rollout is challenging, with differences between states in their ability, a lack of supporting regulation (e.g. interoperability standards) and typical consumer worries such as range anxiety and waiting times for charging influencing low consumer uptake.

The model aims to benefit local stakeholders such as the local power distributor, BESCOM, to make low-regret choices on where to install EV charging infrastructure.

  • Connected Places Catapult contributed expertise on traffic flow and behavioural modelling and provided feedback on the sampling methodology.
  • Energy Systems Catapult led on the creation of a grid impact module to help predict the impact on the grid of additional charge points.
  • The Sustainable Transport Lab team at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) constructed the model and collected primary data.
  • Urban Morph constructed a user interface for use by beneficiaries such as BESCOM, the local electricity distributor.

It represents a successful proof of concept that uses primary data collected from ~32 zones in Bengaluru by IISc earlier this year, in addition to samples of real grid data.

Readiness and Capacity Needs Assessment for Electric Vehicle Adoption in Indian Cities

Alongside this project, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) produced a report on the Readiness and Capacity Needs Assessment for Electric Vehicle Adoption in Indian Cities on the ambitions and challenges faced by four distinct Indian cities in rolling out EV infrastructure. Emphasising the interrelated systems nature of policy, regulation, environment, social and technological challenges, this report provides a valuable reference point for practitioners and colleagues involved in sustainable transport.

The Impact

A number of economic, environmental and capacity development impacts have occurred as a direct result of the project.

  • The Clean Air Street initiative created a demonstration area where SME/start-up businesses could test and showcase their technology in a real world setting. The SME/start-ups who deployed in the Clean Air Street highlighted the positive impact the initiative had had on their business, with many sharing details of user feedback gathered and how it will help their future business plans.
  • The Clean Air Testbeds supported a number of SME/start-up businesses in accessing the Indian market. The pilot projects enabled the SME/start-up businesses to forge good partnerships for future research and demonstration, showcase their technologies and to explore commercial opportunities.
  • The project has also achieved environmental impacts, for example by supporting innovators with environmentally friendly solutions to develop and test their solutions. Five air quality sensors have been installed in residential areas allowing families to monitor indoor air quality in real time and undertake various activities to improve it, while four air quality sensors have been installed in a coworking space enabling the facilities team to understand the impact of indoor air quality on employee health and wellbeing.
  • A number of project activities directly focused on capacity development, the types of impacts aimed for included raising citizen, stakeholder and policy maker awareness of issues and providing tools, data and processes to support evidence-based decision-making.

Alistair Clarke, Founder and CEO of eFleet Analytics (formerly EV Technology)

“EV Technology is extremely grateful to Energy Systems Catapult for making it possible for a young UK SME to explore opportunities in India and for identifying a project partner for this exciting pilot study. “Through the project, we have identified ways to create a lower cost approach, to make it more relevant for the Indian market. This has had the added benefit of potentially opening up use cases in the European market which may have otherwise gone untapped. “We continue to collaborate with the project partner in India and with Energy Systems Catapult to extend our work in the exciting arena of electric mobility.”



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