If someone ever told you in 2010 that electric vehicles would become a norm by 2020, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. But over the past decade, the world has set its eyes on electric vehicles. From environmental consciousness to ease of operations, every year, more and more people are buying an EV for a number of reasons.
According to Global EV Outlook 2020, the global sale of electric vehicles was around 7 Mn in 2020, 47% of which were in China. India sold 1.56 Lakh units of vehicles in FY2019-2020. Out of which 1 Lakh consisted of two-wheelers for personal and commercial use. There is a significant change in the perception of using sustainable mobility options, both among the general public as well as the government.
Efforts like incentivising EV, introducing new policies, campaigns and initiatives by private companies are playing a catalytic role in promoting the adoption of electric vehicles. However, one of the main concerns lie in the lack of easily available charging infrastructure. Through there are a number of players who are working towards this, there are significant gaps that are limiting the industry from thriving.
Understanding The EV Value Chain And Its Gaps
A study published by Ernst and Young reported that the EV ecosystem comprises the following elements- EV manufacturers, EV owners, charging station manufacturers and charging station owners. In addition to this, other factors such as energy source, the energy outlet, space for installation, technology to measure energy consumption and an integrated billing system is an important part of the EV ecosystem. This chain is highly unique and interdependent. One element is dependent on the other to make the whole system work. Let’s bifurcate them to get a better understanding of the current scenario in India.
The creators in this chain are EV manufacturers and EV charger manufacturers. Manufacturers like Hero, Mahindra, Tata, Ather, Hyundai and other renowned brands have come up with different variants of electric vehicles for both public and commercial use. On the other hand, charging stations are just beginning to gain momentum across metros and tier 2 cities in India. The government has recently published guidelines for installing AC and DC chargers in the country and companies are making the most to develop charging infrastructure amidst all the challenges.
On the supplier side, there are both electric vehicles as well as the chargers. While EV manufacturers already supply the vehicles through retail, it’s the chargers that are facing problems in distribution. The underdeveloped infrastructure poses a huge challenge for installation. The problem of space and utility is a major concern for establishing availability for the general public.
Apart from this, there are guidelines established by the government that have to be adhered to. In addition to this, the issue of energy sourcing is one of the crucial elements. Establishing technology for high voltage use and collaborating with energy providers is yet another challenge. All combined, these are some of the factors that are limiting the expansion of the infrastructure.
The support team includes technology for supplying electricity to charging stations, mechanical advancement for building and repair, a stable energy consumption measurement and billing system. Manufacturers require skills and support in constructing vehicles and acquiring important parts from relevant vendors. Consumers need support on vehicle access, energy access, maintenance services and awareness on their devices and charging options.
EV owners and commercial businesses that are utilizing Evs form the primary customer base for EVs. With most users located in tier 1 and tier 2 cities in India, lack of charging infrastructure is one of the key gaps in faster adoption. In addition to this, limited awareness about the benefits of EV and its technology are among the other reasons for slow adoption.
In order to sustain and run the EV ecosystem, all the above-mentioned stakeholders have to work in harmony. It is a cycle of interdependence where everyone has something to gain
How Can We Create A Financially Sustainable EV Charging Infrastructure India?
In 2020, 7.3 Mn chargers have been installed globally, out of this 6.5 Mn were private, light-duty vehicles, slow chargers in homes, workspaces and multi-dwelling buildings. This shows the need for public charging infrastructure across the world. Now compare this number with the growing number of EV owners in India. We would require at least 1 charging station per 3 km radius to provide for a densely populated country like ours.
This is a humongous challenge altogether, the problem of space, let alone cost, is a crucial one to solve. There are charging stations available at big petrol pumps or they have been randomly installed at open spaces. The true challenge is to help EV owners find the nearest station.
The only solution to this problem is to enable public participation combined with cutting-edge technology. Commercial spaces like Kirana stores, restaurants, hotels, parking zones, malls have under-utilized spaces. Some of the most highly populated areas in Tier I and Tier 2 cities have ample space available for setting up charging stations. The numbers of charging stations that can be installed here would make a huge dent in the mountain of problems that this industry is facing.
People won’t have to worry about their next charge if these public places were equipped with the right charging infrastructure. Solving this problem will accelerate the adoption and help the industry boom. The more charging stations there are, more people will come forward to buy an EV. This will in turn help in reducing air pollution and provide the much-needed push for clean mobility.
The government has a huge role to play in bridging the gaps that exist in the EV ecosystem. Although they have established guidelines and put together a movement to promote the use of these vehicles, it’s simply not enough. We are taking small steps in the right direction, a great example would be the use of electric buses in Kolkata. As of 2019, a total of 80 buses have been introduced for public use with a plan of expanding another 100 in 2020. But this small contribution is just a drop in the ocean. The industry needs incentive support from the government on a large scale.
Private sector businesses need to see the opportunity in relying on electric vehicles for deliveries and commute. Not only will they be saving cost on petrol, but they can profit by installing charging stations at their premises. Finally, the cherry on the cake would be to help people locate a charging slot that they may not be aware of. This will encourage them to buy an EV without worrying about the availability of charging stations.
To maintain a sustainable value chain and infrastructure in the EV industry, we will need a plan that helps benefit everyone. The expansion of charging stations in the country would be the first step in establishing a fool-proof strategy. Therefore, public and commercial participation is the key to unlocking new business opportunities that will help boost this industry.