Rapid urbanisation has fueled mobility needs, creating an increased demand for vehicles. While it is a sign of progress, it has led to low air quality and increased dependence on crude oil. To counter the ill effects of fossil fuels, electric mobility is being seriously considered as an alternative. Further, India has pledged to reduce carbon intensity by 33-35% by 2030.
The idea to adopt electric vehicles in India was first proposed by the government in 2015, with the launch of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
Since then, there has been much debate on its adoption and consequent timelines, but what is certain is everything hinges on availability or lack of charging infrastructure in the country. Earlier this year, the government approved the setting up of 2,636 electric vehicle charging stations across 62 cities in 24 states and union territories of India under FAME II.
No surprise then that a number of private companies are increasingly foraying into this area. Last year, MG Motor set up its first EV fast-charging station at Gurugram. The launch of the station came just a few weeks ahead of the planned launch of the company’s first EV in India — the MG ZS.
Recently, Tata Power also announced its plans to expand its EV charging network in the country to over 700, by the end of 2021.
Government Push for a Robust Charging Infrastructure
The Indian government aims to build a network of charging infrastructure throughout the country and at least one charging station every 25 km on both sides of the country’s highways and roads. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a JV under the administration of the Ministry of Power, Government of India, has the onus to procure electric vehicles and establish charging stations across the country.
“EESL is looking forward to electrifying the 5 lakh cars used by the government. We have already completed the procurement of 10,000 EVs. Our EV model will provide an impetus for Indian vehicle manufacturers, charging infrastructure companies, fleet operators, service providers, and the industry to gain efficiencies of scale and reduce cost, and at the same time, create local manufacturing facilities. It will also help in gaining technical competencies for the long-term growth of the EV industry in India. One of our biggest goals is to strengthen the charging infrastructure in the country, with an objective to establish at least 3,000 charging stations over the next two years,” shared Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director, EESL, with The Blue Circle.
Under this programme, EESL has signed MoUs with Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), Noida Authority, Chennai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (CMRCL), Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRCL), Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), among others. Till date, 68 Public Charging Stations (PCS) have been commissioned.
Growing Tribe of EV Players
For adoption of EV by any consumer, range anxiety and upfront cost of vehicles are two important concerns, shared Awadhesh Kumar Jha – Vice President, Charge & Drive & Sustainability, Fortum India, who believes that range anxiety is more of a perception than a real concern.
“If we go by various surveys, it is known that an individual owner has an average travel of 40-45 kms a day, and the current breed of EVs in India is more than enough to fulfill this requirement. But the devil does not lie on average. Average many times hides the real story. For example, what if I must go to meet my family members from one end of the city to the other end and there is a traffic jam en-route, will I be able to reach my destination? Customers would like to get assured of addressing such genuine concerns,” he added.
Fortum, one of the world’s leading clean energy companies, is looking to power a wide fleet of EVs on Indian roads. It has gained a credible reputation in Nordic countries and the Baltic region, Russia and Poland, and is now looking to spread its wings in India by building on its network of charging points for EVs.
“Fortum will be creating a public network of fast chargers, which can cater to various vehicles. Presently, we are catering to 4W passenger EVs. Fortum has already made 68 DC Fast charging points operational across 38 locations in seven cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Gurugram and Noida,” said Awadhesh.
Out of these, 20 charging points are of 50KW DC charger of CCS/CHAdeMO, which is first of its kind in India available to end consumers on public charging mode. Since the launch of their DC fast charging stations in Hyderabad in July 2018, there has been a positive adoption of EVs by customers.
More than 1500 registered users and over 3000 customers have downloaded their mobile app – Fortum Charge & Drive India- which is available on iOS and Android platform.
What sets Fortum’s chargers apart is the D-I-Y (Do-It-Yourself) model, where an EV user has complete control on the charging.
“Unlike gasoline vehicles that are dependent upon some assistance to get the fuel tank filled in, at our charging station, an EV user has to simply plug in the charging gun to their vehicle and start/stop the charging using either Fortum Charge & Drive mobile App or RFID issued for this purpose. Payment towards transactions happens digitally through pre-registered Debit/Credit cards. We have our own in-house Charging Infrastructure Management platform, which has evolved over one decade in Nordic, which is much advanced in terms of EV adoption,” shared Awadhesh.
There are also a slew of EV startups that have come up with innovative solutions to strengthen the charging infrastructure in the country.
One of the frontrunners is Bangalore-based FAE Bikes that has launched ‘Kirana Charzer’, a low-cost, smart EV charging station costing just ₹10,000 that is focused on enabling small shops and individuals to install their own charging stations and earn additional income.
“We have been working towards an EV future, since 2016, when EV wasn’t even a buzzword. We were funded by the Karnataka government, we have given EV policy consultation to state governments, so we knew their issues, what they want to achieve, and where they are facing roadblocks. We were also deeply connected with the OEMs, fleet owners and then we were dealing with the public directly and could understand their anxiety. We wanted to create a solution that would be accepted by all these stakeholders, and it is from there that this whole idea germinated,” shared Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Co-founder at Charzer and FAE, with TBC, on how the Kirana Charzer came into existence.
It is by far India’s cheapest and largest charging station app which allows the owner to earn 100% revenue from EV charging. Compact, zero-maintenance, IoT-enabled and easy to install anywhere (wherever there is a basic electricity connection), making it easy for even kirana store owners to install it. Existing solutions are very expensive and hence, even after incentives, only governments and big companies are able to install them.
“The model is such that the kirana store owners earn money, and also that the EV ecosystem progresses as a whole. We launched it in London at MOVE 2020 in February. MOVE is the world’s most important mobility event, where disruptive technology and innovation drive much-needed change. We received interest in Kirana Charzer from 60 cities, across 20 states and these are from not only Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities, but also Tier-3. Within 15 days of our launch, we were in a place to put 2,500 charging stations with public involvement,” said Sameer.
There’s also Magenta Power, a renewable solutions provider that has announced plans to roll out its ChargeGrid Flare, and electric chargers integrated with street lamps. According to The Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) supported start-up, this technology will allow cities to deploy curbside vehicle charging at lower costs and would contribute to lower street clutter compared to existing solutions. In the first stage, these chargers would be installed at HPCL retail outlets in major cities across India.