In the Delhi NCR region, e-rickshaw has emerged as a popular eco friendly means of public transport in a very short span of time. The rampant increase in numbers has posed significant challenges for government authorities and electricity distribution utilities.
Government authorities are facing issues like vehicle registration, traffic violations and passenger safety. Anti-social elements have created illegal electrical networks for unauthorized use of electricity to charge e-rickshaw batteries, thus not only affecting the revenue inflow for the discoms but also affecting electricity supply quality and badly compromising safety aspects.
BSES plans to use smart meter technology to address this issue. A team under guidance of the authors has designed and developed a SMART DC energy meter as a metering tool to resolve the issue. The smart DC energy meter (SDCEM) can capture GPS coordinates and send data over GPRS to the server.
During a pilot programme, the data received was analysed and very interesting insights were derived.
Delhi is home to about 18 million people. The national capital region of Delhi encompasses a variety of localities ranging from urban to semi urban and rural areas. In recent years the national capital region has witnessed an exponential rise in the number of e-rickshaws, providing last mile connectivity to commuters.
Although the intention behind the introduction of e-rickshaw was benign, the modus operandi has posed significant challenges for electricity distribution utilities including government authorities.
The introduction of this popular mode of transport was intended to provide an alternative to hand operated cycle rickshaws and to replace diesel/CNG-based auto rickshaws with eco friendly battery operated low tariff e-rickshaws.
However, even with almost 100,000 battery operated three wheeler e-rickshaws plying their trade in the city, there is no system for legal charging points. Unauthorised charging is impacting the tariff of cities and affecting supply quality.
Large numbers of e-rickshaw are available, but the majority of them are unregistered and so far there is no formal charging infrastructure in place. It was assumed that these e-rickshaws would be charged by their owners at their homes but field facts are different.
The following are major reasons why owners are not always charging them at their home: a) Not all e-rickshaw owners live near the route they taxi. Taking the e-rickshaw to their home means they lose the opportunity to earn money as a good percentage of their battery energy will be used for the home to route and vice versa commute.
- b) E-rickshaw charging takes a few hours and keeping an unattended e-rickshaw on the road (outside their home) at night is risky as thieves have been known to steal the battery/ charger from the e-rickshaw.
- c) Home wiring and/or connection is not suitable for charging. Higher bills can affect their BPL status.
- d) This has resulted to a new ‘parking and charging business’ whereby service providers provide night-time parking space and also charge the rickshaw. Even though they charge a good amount for parking and charging every night, the majority of these service providers are working illegally and neither own the parking land nor have legal electricity connections.
During various interactions with operators, owners and associations, it was found that in most cases these rickshaws are charged at an isolated location in bulk. Each charging session costs about Rs100–150 ($1.60–2.35).
The economics behind the illegal charging
These vehicles are charged in batches as part of an organised illegal network. They can generally be seen around electric poles, street light poles or power lines, where they assemble to charge the vehicles.
According to experts, the e-rickshaw industry is pegged to grow over 20% in coming years. To tackle this burgeoning problem and revenue loss to discoms, multi-level strategic measures are required, taking all the stakeholders into account, viz Delhi Govt, DERC, transport department, police department, e-rickshaw manufacturers and dealers and e-rickshaw owners.
BSES smart DC energy meter for e-rickshaw
The BSES strategy is to facilitate charging for the e-rickshaw operators and eliminate their dependence on the illegal charging network.
It is further believed that this strategy will build trust in the discom and create a winwin situation for both discom and operators.
As depicted in the illustration above, a survey of the distribution area was undertaken to understand how e-rickshaws operate.
Representatives from BSES talked to many operators in order to collect primary data.
Based on the field observations and inputs received, BSES engineers designed and prepared specifications for a smart DC Energy meter to be installed on the e-rickshaws.
Once the specifications were finalised, the meter was developed and a pilot programme undertaken, during which meters were installed on many e-rickshaws for testing.
After the initial configuration, the data started coming on via the module and analysis was undertaken on the collected data.
Design and specification
- The concept – The purpose of the smart e-rickshaw meter is to measure energy flow to/from the battery with respect to time and GPS location. This enables BSES to know what quantum of energy, and from which source, is used by the e-rickshaw.
- Type of meter – The meter is capable of recording DC energy which is used to charge the meter. Typical meter rating is 12V to 100V and Imax as 50 Amps. These batteries are charged daily and are able to give a mileage of 80-100 km per charge.
- Meter location – To measure the DC energy used for charging the battery, the meter is located just in front of the battery. It has a sealable tamper proof enclosure to protect it from any physical damage.
- GPS coordinates – One of the key criteria for success of this initiative is to identify the exact location and the distance travelled by the vehicle. This information is used to show the point of battery charging and the distance covered before the battery is discharged. This helps in investigating the number of charging cycles undertaken in a day. The start of charging is recorded as an event i.e. record V, I, time and GPS coordinate.
- Data communication – The meter is GPRS communication enabled to capture 30-minute interval data and send this to the server. This helps in getting on demand data of the vehicle electrical parameters and location coordinates. The meter also has a data communication port to facilitate manual downloading of the meter data.
- RTC requirement – The meter is capable of recording RTC times, for example when the charging starts and stops. The online module has the capability to reset RTC over the air with the proper authorisation.
- Inbuilt battery life – Each meter comes with a strong battery, having an estimated life of not less than 10 years. The battery powers the GPRS data communication and GPS coordinate recording even when the vehicle is not moving. In other words, the meter remains in ON condition throughout its usable life.
- Event capture – The meter is capable of capturing RTC times when battery charging starts and when charging stops as events. The meter is also capable of capturing events when there is no DC voltage and current is flowing.
- Meter build quality – Considering the conditions in which the e-rickshaw operates, the meter is designed as shock proof and has IP65 protection. Apart from a robust, quality build, the meter complies with all the typical needs of conventional meters, including a top cover opening.
- BCS and software module – The meter comes with user friendly BCS software to read the meter data which includes master records of vehicle numbers, vehicle owner and meter numbers. The online module of the system is capable of capturing on demand data and events, track vehicle movement and reset the RTC. A few basic logics are incorporated in BCS software.
Installation of DC energy meters
For the initial field trial, BSES identified the owner of a fleet of e-rickshaws who rents out e-rickshaws. The meter was installed on many e-rickshaws to capture the data. The advantages and merits of installing this DC meters were explained to the owner.
As envisaged, the data captured by the meter were available on the module. The module plotted excellent route maps with very high accuracy. The location coordinates of the e-rickshaw movement were fetched at every 15-30 min interval depending on the network coverage.
In the maps shown above, the red dots are the GPS co-ordinates captured and the green line shows the route taken by the e-rickshaw. The multiple points at a single location indicate that it was a charging point or a parking location which was further confirmed with the MIS available in the module.
Analytics and data study
The GPS co-ordinates gave a real picture of the movement of the e-rickshaws. BSES analysed the pattern and identified that there are four type of locations where e-rickshaws are charged –
- Own house – Some operators charge the e-rickshaw at their home, with their domestic connection
- Charging shop – There are e-rickshaws which get charged at a battery charging shop and they pay on a per charge basis.
These shops have legal connections.
- Building/campus – There are e-rickshaws which are charged on a campus, possibly with the consent of the building occupants/security guards. These buildings have legal connections.
- Illegal tapping – There are some cases where the rickshaws are charged by directly tapping into the distribution network.
- The analysis gave BSES a list of such illegal points which were further raided by enforcement teams and the theft was stopped. The movement and location data were shared with the owners of the e-rickshaws and were verified with a high degree of accuracy.
Analytics required for successful implementation
Analytics will play a big role in building the trust between the e-rickshaw owners and the discom. The successful implementation of this system along with proper charging ports will give peace of mind to the owners.
The operators will be required to maintain a simple log book, capturing their daily charging schedule and location. At the end of each month, electricity bills can be generated based on log book entries. Analytics will help in identifying any abnormal deviation, preventing malpractices and misinformation and dispute resolution, if any.
Even an Interesting case of battery replacement with a ‘charged battery’ was detected based on mileage per charge i.e. charged batteries were put in rather than charging through the system. When asked, the e-rickshaw operator accepted the same.
Once the complete system, including DC smart meters and the charging ports with proper tariff arrangement from the regulator, is in place all the stakeholders are going to benefit from this.
The growing number of e-rickshaws has posed a great challenge for the electricity utility and at the same time an opportunity as well. BSES has analysed the e-rickshaw modus operandi and has taken the first step to meter these vehicles.
Once the metering starts, it will be a case study for the Indian power industry and strong business case for other utilities to follow. For successful implementation of this project, support from all the stakeholders is required.
However the present solution has three major limitations:
- There is no Indian standard (IS) for an e-rickshaw DC energy meter and thus it cannot actually be used for billing purposes.
- It does not directly measure AC energy – only DC energy. The actual consumption can vary due to charger efficiency.
iii Acceptance of the DC meters by e-ricksaw owners is uncertain. MI
About the author
Rajesh Bansal is presently working as senior vice president, head (Network operation), at BSES Delhi.
He joined BSES Delhi, a power utility, in 2004. He believes metering plays the most vital role in any distribution utility. He has imparted training and shared his knowledge about various applications of meter data and planning metering roadmaps. He is frequently invited to address delegates on ‘business opportunities in the field of smart grid/ energy storage and power distribution in India’.
In India, he is an active member of various technical committees for energy metering and also chairman of CBIP metering standardisation committee.
Akhtar Ansari is a B.Tech (Electrical) graduate and MBA in Power Management. For the last 12 years Akhtar Ansari has been working with different utilities across the globe. He has diversified experience of working in power, water, coal and waste to energy sectors. As an analyst and consultant, Akhtar Ansari has worked with clients based in India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, China and the UK.