Is Lack of Charging Infrastructure Impeding Growth of Electric Vehicle Sales?
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India is moving towards electric mobility and both the government and industry players have been doing their best to increase adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). However, the pressing chicken and egg question in this space remains whether development of charging infrastructure is necessary for deployment of the vehicles or is it the other way round?
While speaking at World EV Show (WEVS), organised by Trescon on November 14, Harkiran Sanjeevi, deputy director general at NITI Aayog, explained that development of any kind of infrastructure takes time. She explained that the government is working to address the issues related to EV charging infrastructure and is also working with state-level agencies to ensure that the charging stations are put in place.
According to Sanjeevi, development of the charging infrastructure is a dynamic process and thus it might not be possible for the government to make a 10-year plan and stick by it. “Nodal agencies at state and city level will have to ensure that charging infrastructure is put in place in line with the demand from local areas,” said Sanjeevi.
Adequately Prepared For Range Anxiety Issues
Sanjeevi believes range anxiety is definitely an issue but not big enough in India. “Our average trip size is not very large and normally people will commute on average 15-20 km (two-wheelers) even in big cities. In a day, 50 km is good enough for users and they can easily come back home or charge it at their workplace which should be sufficient.”
She explained that initially launched electric cars had less range but in the near future, cars will have over 200 km range once fully charged and this might be adequate for users to run their vehicles for a couple of days and then charge them at home.
“Public charging facility should be available to address the range anxiety issues but for daily commute, for example from home to office, I think we are adequately prepared for but nevertheless it should be addressed and steps are being taken to develop the charging infrastructure,” Sanjeevi said.
Challenges Faced by The Industry and Users
While presenting industry’s perspective, Sohinder Gill, CEO, Hero Electric India, explained that the objective and target is the same for both government and industry players. However, he said EVs will definitely flourish even if it is left to develop on its own at its own pace. “Electric mobility will happen but whether it will happen in the next 20 minutes or 20 years is not known.”
However, if the government, users and the industry is looking to switch to e-mobility within a certain number of years then steps need to be taken today and not in five or 10 years. Stakeholders, too, need to talk about the micro-steps that need to be taken to eliminate obstacles at this nourishing stage and this, according to Gill, is the difference in opinion between the government and the private sector.
“While it is great to talk about the plans and blueprints, what has not happened in the last few years is that the consumer adaptation of electric vehicles has gone down and not up. Is it not worrying? Is something missing? That needs to be seen. If this is a trend then, will we have grounds to go back to zero and pick it up again or there is a possibility of something happening magically,” Gill said.
What Went Wrong With EV Policies?
Gill added that the policy went wrong because it nipped the nourishing stage at the bud. According to him, FAME I policy began as a great experiment where two, three-wheelers and buses at least began to take off and the volume was increasing. “FAME II subsidised vehicles’ volume has been less than 4,000 in the last eight months. Why?” Gill asked.
According to Gill, even before the industry could take off, there were “a plethora of requirements that were brought in which suffocated the industry, caused difficulties for the consumer and also a little bit of policy imperatives which were so confusing that the industry and investors sort of backed off”.
The second phase of FAME scheme has especially hit the sales of electric two-wheelers which are expected to lead the e-mobility revolution in India. The scheme has not only reduced the incentives for vehicles but also introduced stringent requirements in terms of range and speed which need to be met to be able to avail the incentives.