Close on the heels of Uttar Pradesh’s policy prescription for charging stations, the central government is set to unveil its own subsidy proposals for all states. The proposal is a follow up to the Fame 2 subsidy proposals, which have shifted the benefits of subsidies to public transport and two-wheelers. The FAME India Scheme (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India), is to run for a period of three years commencing from April 1, 2019, with total budgetary support of Rs 10,000 crores. A robust charging network is critical to ensure that the EV move actually works. While the target for charging stations is close to 5000 in this first phase, for perspective, consider the fact that the country has close to 62,000 fuel pumps for fossil fuels, the overwhelming majority of which are owned by the public sector oil majors.
Interestingly, these majors will play an important role in establishing the charging network too, as not only do they own valuable real estate at the right places with their existing network, on highways, only central utilities have been allowed to set up charging stations. Depending on which estimate you go with, India currently has close to 200 charging stations, with most set up more like pilots and demonstration purposes, like those at power utility offices and even at the EESL (energy Efficiency and Services Limited) office.
So far, at a state level, a notable aspect of setting up charging stations in cities has been the absence of any licensing requirements, though the power tariff seems to be settling at Rs 6 to Rs 7 per unit in most cases.
Companies like ABB, Acme Industries, Fortum India, Panasonic India and others are actively considering setting up vehicle charging stations. State-run companies like NTPC, GAIL India, Indian Oil Corp, and Power Grid Corp have been exploring diversification into electric vehicle charging infrastructure business. Critics have pointed out that too much dependence on these firms will play to lobbies that are trying to delay the EV shift, as PSU’s will simply not move fast enough or prioritise the charging mandate over their core business, which continues to depend on fossil fuels.
Again, for perspective, China, which has moved well ahead on the EV front, especially public transport in key cities, has over 330,000 public charging stations at last count. Add those to over 480,000 home chargers reported, and it now has over 808,000 chargers. It might actually hit the million mark this year. It is now moving to build fast chargers, to take care of the next big challenge for EV’s there, total charging time. The US, another large EV market, by contrast, has just over 67,000 public chargers.
For India, while a slow start seems inevitable, the way the massive e-rickshaw network of over 1.4 million e-rickshaw has managed to run without any public charging network offers hope that at least for two-wheelers, charging stations might not prove to be as big a hurdle as one expects.