Govt Re-Energizes Its Push for Electric Vehicles in India, Time to Get Real?

While there has lately been tremendous development in the Electric Vehicle (EV) sector, lack of a structured framework around charging infrastructure and policy remains a hiccup. Towards this effect, the Ministry of Power last week released guidelines around charging infrastructure for EVs.

 

Top-line:

 

  • An eight page document carrying much awaited guidelines around Charging Infrastructure for EVs released over the weekend. 
  • A proposal to impose fees on purchase of new petrol / diesel cars to cross-subsidize EVs and battery tech is apparently in the works, as per reports
 
Related Event: Tata Power concurrently announced plans to invest c. INR700m to set up 1,000 charging stations for EVs in NCR, serving both personal and commercial vehicles. That's a far cry from the 21 charging points it operates for EVs in Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad. The company plans to join hands with Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil to set up the stations. It would also partner with other entities, such as metro rail stations, hospitals, malls, hotels, etc, besides own franchisees.    
 

Govt Re-Energizes Its Push for Electric Vehicles in India, Time to Get Real?

 

Ok, let's zoom out: Charging points are a massive EV enabler. They, along with better battery tech minimize the so-called "range anxiety" faced by EV drivers i.e. a fear that your vehicle would run out of charge before you reach your destination or the next suitable charging point. Moreover, the advent of "Fast" charging has now ensured EVs don't really need to wait for long before they're juiced up.

 

It is hence only natural that the industry (not just the big boys but nimble start-ups which typically innovate much faster) have been waiting with bated breath.

 

What do the rules say?: Well, you can charge your EV at home now. You will get priority access to electricity from power utilities at the same power tariff. You also don't need to be a licensed power distribution company to setup a public charging station (PCS). If you satisfy the laid out specs, you're good to go. Moreover, if you're a commercial EV owner-operator (e.g. EV trucking and bus companies), you can setup "captive" charging infrastructure for your vehicles.  

 

Unanswered: Are the specs required to setup PCS too cumbersome for smaller players? Can small EV manufacturers (and not only owners like in the case of trucks and buses) also setup captive charging infrastructure? What about parts of the country which are off-grid?

Govt Re-Energizes Its Push for Electric Vehicles in India, Time to Get Real? 

The Big Picture: 

 

  • The present rules appear to favour big "wannabe" EV manufacturers (like Mahindra)/power companies (like Tata Power), who can afford/care to setup a PCS OR commercial EV owner-operators who are allowed to setup captive charging infrastructure. 
  • Are the "wannabe" EV manufacturers really incentivized to setup public charging infrastructure? They're already selling petrol vehicles and would prefer a status quo unless the demand side for EVs is disrupted (hence the subsidy structure would become very important). 
  • What about the small players? As per industry experts, they would struggle to satisfy the onerous technical specs as laid out in their current form. 
 
In US and China, EV charging infrastructure started through the captive approach, before demand picked up and an ecosystem developed around it. In India, the approach seems to be the other way round.
 
 
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