The Automotive Component Manufacturers Association’s (ACMA) July 2021 report (bit.ly/3EjRzr0) reveals that India’s EV market in 2020-21 comprised 61% electric 2-wheelers, 37% electric 3-wheelers and light commercial vehicles, 2% electric 4-wheelers and 0.2% e-buses. To meet this growing demand, India will need to deploy a robust EV- charging infrastructure across geographies. According to the International Energy Agency, almost 90% of chargers worldwide are private light-duty vehicle slow chargers in homes, apartment buildings and workplaces. So, it is imperative to create augmentation plans for setting up charging infrastructure across geographies.
The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme is leading India’s EV transition. The minimum applicable range for availing subsidies for a 2-wheeler under FAME is 80 km. On average, a 2-wheeler runs 17 km a day, much lower than FAME requirements. So, charging an e-2-wheeler outside your home and office is feasible. Since the range is lower, you don’t need to charge it daily.
For private 4-wheelers, the average run per day is 32 km, and for commercial 4-wheelers, it’s 192 km. These vehicles can be charged overnight at home or during the day in office complexes. The commercial ones can be charged at public parking lots, including metro stations.
Even for intra-city public transport (buses or light commercial vehicles), large-scale public EV-charging infrastructure may not be required. In all our metros, tier-1 and tier-2 cities, the longest bus route is no more than 170 km. In a large majority of towns and cities, it is likely to be less than 100 km. These distances are safely covered by the existing range of batteries used for commercial buses. With adequate number of charging stations/capacity in depots, buses will be able to replace or charge their batteries on completing their designated routes.
So, not requiring a large-scale public EV-charging infrastructure in all Indian cities is an important issue to be considered when planning urban transport. Mandating every fossil fuel-vending outlet to have EV-charging stations is already notified and needs to be speeded up. But this must be supplemented with alternate solutions, such as charging points within residential complexes, housing societies, malls, stations, offices, etc.
A mandate of reserving at least 10% of parking lots for access-controlled charging points would make EVs even more attractive. The housing and urban affairs ministry has reportedly already amended the residential property by-laws to mandate sufficient EV-charging points in housing colonies and apartment buildings. This has to be now implemented in mission mode.
All urban local bodies can mandate a minimum number of charging points in parking lots that could depend on actual demand. Parking lots could adopt a feasible revenue model for providing EV-charging stations. This could be replicated in parking lots in offices, stations and airports.
Easy to operate battery-swapping stations, which need less space (as low as 3x2x2 m3), could be an alternate strategy. Battery manufacturers can work on models in which swapping stations with 4-6 batteries can be provided even at small retail outlets. This may emerge as a viable option for e-3-wheelers due to low charging time, reduced upfront cost and better battery life. Here, too, the requirement for public charging infrastructure is limited.
A parallel strategy can be to locate charging infrastructure on the premises of bulk demand-driving agencies, and make them publicly available. This will help drive utilisation economics and solve the issue of unnecessary congestion at other public or semi-public charging points because of fleet vehicle charging. Also, the benefits of time-of-day and other non-peak power utilisation benefits can be made available to such agencies by electricity distribution companies, so that grid balancing can be managed long term.
It is time to empower consumers. Government, industry and media need to work towards nurturing informed citizens on EVs and EV-charging infrastructure concerns. India will then be in the forefront of the global transition to clean transportation.