Charging is the backbone of electric mobility, and critical for accelerating EV adoption

Over the last two years, India’s e-mobility journey has picked up considerable pace, with EV sales growing exponentially, particularly in the two and three wheeler segments. All future projections also point to rapid growth in the sector, and a recent report by Climate Trends predicts that by 2030, India could have up to 5 crore EVs on road. However, a key factor influencing this growth will be the available charging infrastructure in the country. Charging infrastructure is the backbone of electric mobility, and is also one of the key perceived barriers to EV adoption. While India is picking up pace in setting up charging infrastructure, it is still at a nascent stage. At present, India has one charger per 32 light duty vehicles, whereas the global average is 10. In order to support 5 crore EVs by 2030, India would need at least 20.5 lakh public and semi public charging stations, assuming an average of 8 EVs per charging point. However, high operating cost, DISCOM load, and the uncertainty related to utilization rates of charging stations are holding back the charge operators from expanding their current reach.

Policy support can go a long way in increasing charging infrastructure

Currently, between various charge point operators and oil marketing companies, roughly 5 lakh charging stations are in the pipeline over the next few years. Some of India’s national level policies like the FAME II have allotted INR 1,000 crore (approximately USD 135 million) for charging infrastructure. The Charging Infrastructure Guidelines and Standards by the Ministry of Power (MoP), suggest that at least one charging station should be available in a grid of 3km x 3km, one charging station every 25km on both sides of highways and roads, and one fast charger available every 100 km on highways. While this is a good start, India’s charging infrastructure can do with more policy support.

  • State EV policies should define clear charging infrastructure targets: More than 25 states and Union Territories have announced EV policies that focus strongly on demand and supply side incentives to boost EV sales and production. Many of them have announced incentives for setting up charging infrastructure but only a few of them have defined targets in terms of number of charging stations to be established by their policy period. Incentivising charge point operators alone will not achieve the desired result. There is a need for state EV policies to define clear targets for charging points. Currently, Maharashtra has defined targets for just seven cities for a total of 2,375 charging stations, and Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have targets for establishing 1,00,000 charging stations each by 2024 and 2026 respectively. This total number, however, is far below the estimated number of charging stations required i.e. 20.5 lakh to support 5 crore EVs by 2030.
  • Further, states should adopt the Charging Infrastructure guidelines and Standards by the Ministry of Power (MoP), for all state and national highways. This would ensure that at the state level, at least one charging station is made available in a grid of 3km x 3km and one charging station is set up every 25km on both sides of highways/roads.
  • Policies should make charging infrastructure mandatory in residential and public places: All the new home and workplace parking areas should be mandated to have a percentage of overall parking space as EV-ready. Even petrol pumps need to be mandated to have at least one charging station on their premises. Some steps that have already been taken in the right direction and that can be emulated by other states:
    • In Delhi, Maharashtra, and Goa, new residential buildings are mandated to have at least 20% of the total parking spaces as EV ready, of which 30% should be in common parking spaces or parking spaces unallotted to any individual residence owner.
    • In Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, all new permits for commercial complexes, housing societies and residential townships with a built-up area of 5,000 sq. mt and above will mandate charging stations.
    • In Chandigarh, EV charging infrastructure is mandatory for all the Petrol Pumps (Both Private and Govt. Owned) operational within 6 months from the issuance of the final EV policy.
    • Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh mandate Municipal Corporations Public parking spaces to have charging stations. In both these states, some cities will be declared as model Electric Mobility (EM) cities to adopt EVs, charging & hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, and new EV-enabling building codes.
    • In Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Goa, respective EV policies lay down plans to provide charging stations at Municipal Corporations' public parking spaces, bus depots, international airports and government complexes etc.
  • Cap rental costs: Policies could consider capping rental costs for public charging stations, making availability of land banks easier and leasing costs slashed, and establishing a charging infrastructure investment facility funded by public money, say partially.
  • Introduce an effective Battery Swapping policy: Earlier this year, India released a draft battery swapping policy which offers incentives to produce EVs with swappable batteries, subsidies to companies manufacturing swappable batteries, a new battery-as-a-service business model, and standards for interoperable batteries. Once put into effect, this policy can be a game changer for two and three wheeler EVs, as it would reduce charge time and bring down up front cost of the vehicle. A user will simply need to swap a drained battery with a full charged one at a swapping station. The government must focus on ensuring effective implementation and socialisation of this policy, so that it is embraced by industry and consumers alike.

Global examples are proof of the results policies can achieve

India can learn from the example of countries in advanced stages of their EV transitions like China, the U.S.A., and the Netherlands, where policy support significantly increased charging infrastructure. In 2015, the Chinese state council issued a guidance note that called for charging stations sufficient for 5 million EVs by 2020. It mandated that, at a national level, all new residential spaces and 10% of all public parking spaces be reserved for EV charging. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China set a target of at least 0.12 million EV charging stations and 4.8 million charging points to be built by 2020. Another policy released in 2016 placed a special focus on residential EV charging, with over 30 cities offering subsidies for home charging. In April 2020, China decided to invest USD 381 million in EV charging to enable the State Grid company to build 78,000 more charging stations over the year. As a result of these initiatives, China today has the densest EV charging infrastructure, estimated at 2.2 million charging points.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the state governments have played a larger role in its e-mobility transition with federal policies providing loan guarantees for chargers built along identified charging corridors or offering support in the form of tax credits on the cost of installing an EV charger.  Local governments offering similar financial incentives, such as California offering low-interest loans, Colorado offering business tax credits and grants to purchase charging stations, and Oregon promoting EV charging by fast-tracking applications for residential chargers have played a pivotal role in the clean energy shift. Today, the US has close to 113,000 charging stations.

An electric mobility future will only become a reality if the right charging infrastructure is made available to support it. While India’s EV policies are moving in the right direction, there is a need to do much more to realise the envisioned transition.