As range anxiety, varying charging standards and lack of fast charging facilities deter Indian consumers from going for electric vehicles, the government believes that India will become an electric vehicle nation by 2030. The question now remains whether such a goal is realistic given the state of electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure today.
Several industry stakeholders, including electric vehicle manufacturers, government authorities, policymakers, experts and startups gave Inc42 a clearer picture of the ground reality of the Indian electric vehicle industry and the charging infrastructure.
According to a MarketWatch report, the charging infrastructure market in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CARG) of 40% in the next five to six years. Most industry experts also believe that 40-45% electric conversion by 2030 is a realistic expectation, provided that the infrastructure is created for it.
Which Companies In India are Producing EV Charging Stations?
As per DataLabs by Inc42, to meet the charging requirement for 20 Lakh electric cars, India needs about 4 Lakh charging stations installed by 2026. Currently, India is said to have around 300 public EV chargers compared to 57,000 petrol pumps. While China, on the other hand, had over 2 Lakh charging points by the end of 2016.
EV companies are evolving with changing times and are helping drive the electric vehicle adoption in their own way. Apart from Volttic EV Charging, Magenta Power, EVI Technologies, eChargeBays, EESL, Micelio, Ather Energy, Lithium Urban Technologies, there are other players in the market, which includes Tata Power, NTPC, Rajasthan Electronics (REIL), Fortum India, Ola Electric, ACME Group among others. Other companies such as ION Energy and Log9 are working to improve battery technology.
Varun Chaturvedi, MD and CEO of Volttic EV Charging, told Inc42 that EV players are eyeing charging as a huge business opportunity. Volttic taking a collaborative approach said that it has started partnering with petrol stations, tech parks, hotel, restaurants and mall owners to stay ahead of its competitors. “The non-availability of adequate land or power capacity at a key location makes this game a little non-attractive,” Chaturvedi added.
Based in Noida, Volttic has installed EV charging stations on-premise for corporates such as JP Morgan, McKinsey, Fidelity, Infosys, HP Computing, Naukri.com and others. Currently, Volttic’s charging stations are powered by local DISCOM power supply, but it plans to integrate renewable energy, once a fixed demand in the public charging stations area is met.
The company works closely with OEMs such as Tata Motors and Mahindra Electric for charging solutions. Volttic claims that its chargers are utilised on a daily basis with an average usage of more than 10 hours a day. At present, the company has installed over 55 charging stations, a mix of both AC (slow) and DC (fast) chargers. By the end of March 2020, it plans to reach 100-plus charging stations across India and 600-plus stations by 2025.
Similarly, Magenta Power believes that electric vehicles are not the solution to pollution unless the source of supply is renewable and clean. Maxson Lewis, managing director of Magenta Power, told Inc42 that the company’s first electric vehicle charging station incidentally was India’s first solar-based electric vehicle charging station. “While we attempt to have all the 53 charging points on solar or renewable energy. At this time, five of our charging points are solar-based. As the usage patterns and economics allow, we will be moving to a 100% clean energy-based charging portfolio,” Lewis added.
Mumbai-based Magenta Power is an end-to-end solution provider for clean energy generation, adoption and utilisation. The company offers a gamut of clean energy solutions in the areas of rooftop solar power systems, electric vehicle charging solutions (ChargeGrid) and energy informatics. Further, Lewis said that the industry is yet to mature, however, the sheer scale and transition requires a business investment of more than INR 5000 Cr over the next two years to make a significant impact.
India’s Fragmented EV Market Poses Unique Challenges
Complicating things for EV charging station companies and other infrastructure providers is the varying needs of the market — with two-wheelers, three-wheelers and four-wheelers splitting the EV market. That’s not even including bigger vehicles such as electric buses and electric trucks.
However, the charging infrastructure required for electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers are way different from that of four-wheelers.
“While electric cars require a more systematic approach, two-wheelers and three-wheelers have a very minimal requirement or necessity when it comes to public and private charging facilities” – Rajesh Singh, founder and CEO, eChargeBays
In other words, electric two-wheelers do not need large infrastructure because their owners often charge them at home. In terms of three-wheelers, the vehicles are extensively used as a fleet for commercial purposes, which have their own private infrastructure. Therefore, investing in public and private infrastructure for these two categories of vehicles seems less lucrative. At the same time, these vehicles do require some infrastructure such as battery swapping stations for commercial fleets and opportunity charging stations for customers, battery makers told us.
With the focus divided such and the market size not being large enough to dictate the direction, it’s hard for companies to decide which way to develop their charging stations.
As per the latest study, 85% electric vehicle charging happens at the owner’s home, where a majority of them live in independent homes. For those residing in apartments or gated communities, it becomes a cumbersome task, especially for the customers who do not have reserved parking facilities, inaccessible electric meters, skewed electrical charging ports and others.
“The range anxiety begins at home” Rajesh Singh, founder and CEO of eChargeBays, told Inc42.
He added that when consumers buy electric vehicles today, the manufacturer or OEM will give them a home charger. “But setting that up is easier said than done,” he asserted.
Many customers struggle to install a home charger thanks to challenges such as electric metering configuration to varying home and building specifications, no standards for electrical connections, lack of suitable spots to install chargers and more. That’s the root cause of range-anxiety, Singh said.
Singh’s company, eChargeBays, has partnered with Chinese-owned British automobile brand MG Motor and other OEMs to provide end-to-end solutions to consumers.
Based in New Delhi, eChargeBays, in the span of one year, has installed over 40 charging stations across India. eChargeBays claims to have developed product-agnostic solutions that can be implemented across categories of electric vehicles, be it two-wheelers, four-wheelers or commercial vehicles. Apart from providing services for consumers at home, the company offers charging stations at public spots, quick chargers and shared charging services for mass charging.
Finding A Cure For Range Anxiety
Most customers, today, adapting to the electric vehicle are first-time owners and are unaware of the consequences. If the initial experience goes miserable, the consumers might regret their choice. Therefore, it becomes crucial for OEMs and electric vehicle infrastructure companies to ensure their customers have a hasslefree experience, both intercity and intracity.
Animesh Mishra, head of sales at Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) told Inc42 that addressing the issue of range anxiety among the public is very crucial as it plays into the consumer mindset towards EV. He recommends setting up charging stations at various highways to boost the interest of those commuting from one city to another.
A joint venture under the ministry of power, the government of India, EESL is a public service energy and infrastructure provider that focuses on implementing energy efficiency programmes for public projects and public-private partnerships. Today, the company is strengthening the charging infrastructure across the country and claims to have installed over 66 public charging stations (PCS) complying with DC-001 (15kW) in Delhi.
Apart from these public charging stations, EESL has been instrumental in setting up over 470 captive chargers, out of which 170 are DC-001 fast chargers and 300 are AC-001 chargers.
EESL has already signed deals with various urban local bodies such as Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Telangana state, Chennai, Jaipur, New Delhi, Noida Authority, Maharashtra and with the central government’s common service centres (CSC) e-Governance Services India Ltd.
“In the next two-three years, EESL will be setting over 10,000 charging stations across India,” Mishra said
According to EESL, the company estimates that 79 Mn electric vehicles (across various categories 2/3/4W) will be on the road and 8 Mn public charging stations (including all types of chargers) will be installed by 2030. EESL will be setting up 2600 charging stations by December 2020 — each consisting of at least six charging points. “While this targets only major cities, the next phase will be energizing national highways and subsequently Tier 2 and 3 cities,” added Mishra.
Last year, EESL partnered with Bengaluru-based electric mobility startup Baghirathi Sustainability India to deploy around 250 electric vehicles. “We have also collaborated with BluSmart Mobility to enhance shared electric mobility in India with the help of the charging network of EESL at affordable subscription model,” said Mishra.
Based in Gurugram, BluSmart is one of India’s first all-electric shared mobility platforms that offers efficient, affordable, intelligent, sustainable ride-sharing, car-sharing and scooter-sharing solutions to customers.
Can Government And Policy Drive Innovation?
The central and state governments have been trying their utmost to promote electric vehicle adoption in the country through new policies and frameworks for the electric vehicle sector.
The flagship policy that extensively focuses on building electric vehicle infrastructure in the country is the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME II). Under the second phase of FAME from April 1, 2019, the central government had planned to set up 2,636 electric vehicle charging stations in 62 cities across 24 states and union territories in the next three years.
While there has been an increased focus on innovative ways to encourage electric vehicle inclusion on a national level, several state governments have geared up on the policy level as well. For example, recently, the Rajasthan state government announced Rajasthan Solar Energy Policy – 2019 and Rajasthan Wind and Hybrid Energy Policy – 2019,’ where the state entity will provide land at 50% concessional rate of DLC for first 500 renewable energy-based electric vehicle charging stations.
What’s more? These electric infrastructure projects will have a 100% exemption in normal transmission and wheeling charges for a period of 10 years and 100% electricity duty waiver for seven years. Similarly, about 138 charging stations have been approved for the state of Telangana by the central government. Also, Bengaluru will soon have 112 electric vehicle charging stations, while 12 fast-charging outlets have also been proposed.
In the recent past, there have been multiple debates on whether charging infrastructure should be handled by the government or whether it should be private.
For instance, in the private sector, Bengaluru-based Lithium Urban Technologies is one of the largest charging infrastructure providers. It claims to have around 85 to 90% occupancy rate. Lithium claims to run its own fleets, while the charging infrastructure is being used by its own fleet and its partners.
In this case, it becomes very difficult for a company to be a pure-play in only charging infrastructure as the usage rarely goes up over 60 to 70%. Anything less than this and the company would lose money for its charging stations. Therefore, there is a dire need for private electric vehicle charging infrastructure to collaborate with a fleet operator to use it.
“Looking at the government perspective, companies like BESCOM in Karnataka, have very competitive rates for privately owned electric vehicle infrastructure players,” added Micelio founder and director Shreyas Shibulal.
The Challenge Of Standardisation
In India, electric vehicles have to adhere to varying charging point standard requirements. Currently, the government has allowed three types of charging standards, including Bharat Standard, CHAdeMO and Combined Charging System (CCS). These are for electric cars. However, when it comes to two-wheelers and three-wheelers, there aren’t any charging standards, and the market is full of competing charging ports.
“As far as standardising charging ports is concerned, we’re of the opinion that the government should not standardise as of now because if we jump too early in the innovation curve, we may cut out innovation completely,” added Shibulal.
Bengaluru-based Micelio works on multiple areas, which includes the Micelio Fund to invest in innovative startups that work in drivetrain technologies, charging infrastructure, energy management and special-purpose electric vehicles among others. In addition, it also runs the Micelio Discovery Lab as an incubator with state-of-the-art infrastructure for startups to collaborate and create EV products.
Micelio also offers B2B solutions, where it provides intelligent and data-driven last-mile logistics electric vehicle fleet to businesses. In addition to this, it is looking to build better vehicles for enterprises. However, as far as the battery technology is concerned, the company said that it might not jump into it as yet, given other companies are already working on that.
Shibulal said that individual carmakers have their own standards of charging, and similarly, two-wheeler manufacturers will have their own standards. Therefore, in one way it seems easy to say that the government should standardise electric vehicle charging infrastructure, but at the same time, many industry stakeholders feel that it may kill innovation.
It has to be noted that for any industry in the growth phase, one just cannot standardise things till the innovation has reached its peak as better and advanced technology might be coming about. This is where innovation will come in handy, and somebody with a particular type of charging infrastructure can feed off someone who has an electric vehicle fleet.
“This, in a way, will be a two-way street till the charging infrastructure subsists and starts making money. Also, the fleet company will not have to invest in charging stations and can have a symbiotic relationship with other companies having an existing charging infrastructure,” Shibulal told Inc42.
Solving The Chicken And Egg Problem
While this is great, but what about the ground reality? Apart from a few announcements of setting up of charging stations across the country, there haven’t been many real developments in the EV charging stations.
“It is just a marketing gimmick,” according to Ravneet S. Pholkela, the chief business officer at Ather Energy, one of India’s new-age electric vehicle makers.
He said that the question of whether charging infrastructure comes first or electric vehicles come first has been everpresent. “We [Ather Energy] firmly believe that the charging infrastructure always comes first as this will scale up the business multifold. Paving the way for fast, cutting edge electric vehicle charging solutions will become a viable option for customers, rather than rudimentary charging stations,” added Pholkela
In other words, according to him, EV companies need to invest ahead of time to build fast-charging infrastructure solutions — with conservative estimates of demand — rather than slow-charging infrastructure that has very little impact.
Ather runs the Ather Grid with over 45-50 charging ports in Bengaluru and Chennai. In the coming days, the company plans to set up more charging points in eight cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad and others. Most importantly, Ather claims that its charging ports have the capability to quick charge to deliver up to 15 Km of range with just 10 mins of charging.
Rupesh Kumar, CEO at EVI Technologies, a company that is known for setting up electric vehicle charging stations and battery swapping facilities also believes robust electric vehicle charging infrastructure will enable greater electric vehicles penetration in the market. To start with, Kumar called for uniform EV charging tariff pan-India, which is required to create customer trust.
eChargeBays’ Singh, on the other hand, believes that the OEMs should launch more electric vehicles for the ecosystem to thrive. More options means, more customers will end-up buying electric vehicles and have a trickle-down effect on charging infrastructure.
“Today, there are hardly any electric vehicles on the road. Few of them include Hyundai Kona Electric, MG Motor’s ZS, Mahindra eVerito and Tata Tigor. The limited options of electric vehicles invariably impact the requirement of charging infrastructure. That is the reason why there are very few charging stations in India.”