India has the potential to generate 749 GW of solar power, which is so far largely untapped for vehicle charging
One of the main arguments often heard against transport electrification being considered clean, is that electric vehicles are charged using electricity predominantly generated from fossil fuel sources. While studies have shown that despite the power source, transport electrification will reduce carbon emissions and air pollution, the growth and potential of solar powered EV charging stations is enabling green mobility in the truest sense.
By 2030, India is expected to have 102 million EVs, which would need 2.9 million public charging stations. Solar-powered EV charging stations are a promising, eco-friendly and cost-effective solution, with many benefits for the consumer, economy and India’s climate goals. With India’s potential to generate 749 GW of solar power, which is more than the country's current installed capacity, this is an untapped opportunity which is slowly gaining momentum.
Fig 1: Solar-powered EV charging stations. Envision Solar
The many benefits of solar charging stations
These EV charging stations use solar panels to generate electricity, which makes them eco-friendly. A study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) shows that the per-unit cost of electricity generated from solar panels ranges between Rs 2.50 to Rs 3.50,(which will be significantly lower by 2030) whereas the per-unit cost of electricity from grid power ranges between Rs 6 to Rs 7. This can translate to lower per unit charging costs for consumers, which can further bring down the total cost of ownership of EVs. Another study shows that electric vehicle charging stations with solar rooftop photovoltaic are economically more viable than charging stations sourcing electricity from the grid. The mismatch between solar energy generation and consumption (from charging) can be solved by deploying net metering at charging stations.
Another benefit of these stations is that they can also be set up in remote areas, which lack access to grid power. This can help promote EV adoption in rural areas, where the cost of setting up traditional charging stations can be high due to the absence of grid power. According to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, around 50% of India's population lives in rural areas, and the adoption of EVs can help promote sustainable mobility in these areas.
These stations are also a potential source of job creation, as highlighted by a recent report by CEEW, which shows that the installation of 1 million EV charging stations in India can create up to 46,000 jobs, including those in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of charging infrastructure, thus helping boost the country's economy.
And lastly, their contribution to reducing carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels will be immense. In 2019-20, India's crude oil imports amounted to $102.5 billion, accounting for around 2.8% of its GDP. The adoption of EV and solar-powered charging infrastructure can help reduce India's dependence on imported oil and promote energy security.
Present CPOs offering solar EV charging
There are currently wwo Charge Point Operators (CPOs) in India which are offering solar EV charging stations -- ElectriVa and Atum Charge.
ElectriVa, which at present has five solar EV charging stations, aims to build the fastest and largest EV CP network with advanced state-of-the-art infrastructure, operated through IoT based unmanned and automated systems, powered by sustainable energy sources and data analytic tools, driving the growth of clean mobility.
Solar-powered EV charging solutions provider ATUM Charge has completed installation of 250 Universal Electric Vehicle charging stations across the country, with the maximum 48 in Telangana.
Other private players have also recognized the potential of solar-powered EV charging infrastructure and have taken several initiatives to promote its adoption. Tata Power announced that it would set up 150 EV charging stations across the city of Mumbai. The company has also partnered with several state governments and public sector undertakings to set up EV charging infrastructure in the country.
EV manufacturer Hero Electric has also announced that it would set up a network of 10,000 EV charging stations across the country over the next five years.
Fig 2: Solar-powered EC charging stations are eco-friendly and cost-effective. Photo: istockphoto.com
Govt's push for solar-powered EV charging stations
The government has taken several initiatives to promote the adoption of solar-powered EV charging stations. In March 2021, the Ministry of Power issued guidelines for the development of public EV charging infrastructure that mandates all public charging stations to install solar panels with a capacity of at least 10% of the total charging station capacity.
Additionally, the government has also announced several incentives and subsidies to encourage the adoption of EVs and solar-powered charging infrastructure.
The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme provides financial incentives to buyers of EVs and supports the development of EV charging infrastructure in the country. The government has also announced a subsidy of up to 40% for the installation of EV charging stations in residential buildings and up to 25% for the installation of public charging stations.
Fig 3: Initial investment to set up solar-powered EV charging stations can be high
Challenges of setting up Solar EV charge points
One of the major challenges is the high upfront cost of solar-powered EV charging stations. Although the per-unit charging cost is lower, the initial investment required to set up solar-powered EV charging stations can be high. The government needs to provide more incentives and subsidies to encourage private players to invest in solar-powered EV charging infrastructure.
Additionally, the adoption of solar-powered EV charging infrastructure requires significant investment in solar panels, which can be a challenge for small-scale operators. Another challenge is the lack of standardisation in EV charging infrastructure. There are several types of charging connectors and standards, which can create confusion among consumers and hinder the adoption of EVs.