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India's EV charging landscape: Navigating challenges and charting a charged future

By Nisha Shukla,

Added 10 August 2023

As the adoption of EV accelerates, demand for a robust and widespread EV charging infrastructure grows. Despite several challenges to its seamless implementation, the charge point operators are finding innovative ways to tackle these hurdles. Besides, they suggest implementation of smart charging solutions to optimise the use of renewable energy sources.

In India, the charging infrastructure for EVs is still in its nascent stage, and there is a need for significant investments to establish a robust network. Creating a localised quality EV charging infrastructure requires several requisites such as adequate power supply, proximity to streets where EV's operate especially in commercial areas and highways, standardising charging equipment for convenience of EV users through agreements with the government bodies along with smart charging solutions to optimise the use of renewable energy sources.

With the growing rate of EV adoption in the country, we have seen an increase in the number of charging stations in the country. According to the data revealed by Vahan dashboard, as of January 23, 2023, India had 5,254 public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, to cater to a total of 20.65 lakh EVs. Another study by Counterpoint Research showed that India is expected to have 10,000 public charging stations by end of 2025.

However, these numbers are not enough to meet the growing demand of EVs. To fulfil the growing demand for EVs, India would need 20.5 lakh charging stations by 2030.

There is a significant gap in the demand and supply of charging infrastructure in India. The most common challenges faced by public and private players in this segment include limited availability of installation space, lack of charging infrastructure and high installation costs, among others for setting up charging stations.

We spoke to a few players in the domain about the challenges and the efforts they are taking to fulfil the gap in the Charging Infrastructure.

Installation cost

The cost of setting up both fast and slow charging networks is a major factor increasing the price of charging for electric vehicle owners. According to Niranjan Nayak, MD, Delta Electronics India, the installation cost of charging infrastructure is influenced by various factors such as charging station type, location, power supply, and maintenance costs. "Fast charging networks are more expensive to install than slow charging networks because they require more costly equipment and installation due to higher voltage and current requirements."

He further adds, "though high installation costs are a significant barrier to charging infrastructure deployment, subsidies and financial incentives can make EVs and charging more accessible and affordable. Besides, private players such as automakers and charging station operators can also provide financial support to make charging more affordable."

For Kartikey Hariyani, Founder and CEO, Charge+Zone, "This surge in the cost is due to the infrastructure cost which includes significant investment in land, equipment, and electrical systems." He highlights that the charging stations must comply with local regulations, which can increase costs due to the need for permits and approvals. Apart from that electrical upgrades are necessary to accommodate the high-power demands of charging stations, which again adds to the overall cost.

Hariyani also mentioned about several financial support measures which have been proposed, including subsidies, tax credits, and grants to address this issue. In addition to financial support measures, "regulatory frameworks can also play a role in reducing the cost of charging infrastructure. Governments can streamline the permitting process and reduce regulatory barriers, making it easier and more affordable for private entities to install charging infrastructure," he added.

Ashish Deswal, Founder, EarthtronEV stressed that charging network operators need to achieve financial sustainability to continue operating and expanding their infrastructure. He further highlighted that to cover the costs and generate profits, "pricing structures may include various components, such as charging session fees, membership plans, access fees, or pricing based on the charging speed, which might create a financial burden for the EV owners."

However, Deswal noted that as the EV market grows and economies of scale come into play, the installation cost of charging networks may decrease. Additionally, "government incentives, partnerships, and advancements in charging technology can help reduce costs and make charging infrastructure more accessible and affordable for EV owners."

He also highlighted that efforts are underway to address these challenges, including public-private collaborations, government incentives, and regulations to promote competitive pricing and encourage investment in charging infrastructure. Deswal believes that "as the EV market expands and charging infrastructure develops further, the cost dynamics are expected to evolve, leading to increased affordability and more competitive charging options for EV owners."

Augmenting the number of charging stations

There is a huge gap in availability of charging stations in India as compared to other countries. As per a whitepaper release, there is one charger per 135 EVs in India, compared to 6 in China.

According to Niranjan Nayak, the lack of charging infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges in adoption of electric vehicles in India. "While there are several potential solutions to address this issue, there is no one immediate fix," he adds. However, he believes that a combination of short and long-term strategies can help improve the availability of charging stations in the country.

As a short-term plan, Nayak suggests "the government could provide incentives for private companies investing in charging infrastructure and establish public-private partnerships to set up charging stations at strategic locations. This could include offering tax benefits, subsidies, or low-interest loans to encourage private companies to invest in charging infrastructure."

Another short-term solution could involve "standardising charging infrastructure to ensure compatibility and interoperability between different chargers and EVs," said Nayak. By doing so, "more companies may be willing to invest in charging infrastructure, knowing that their equipment will be widely adopted," he added.

As a long-term approach, Nayak suggests that "the government should focus on promoting community charging stations and fast-charging technology. Community charging stations could be set up in local communities and apartment complexes, providing a low-cost and convenient charging option."

Deswal shared a very different perspective on lack of availability of charging stations in India. According to him, collaboration between the government and private sector can expedite the deployment of charging infrastructure. "The government can provide land or infrastructure support, while private entities can invest in and operate the charging stations. PPP models have proven successful in accelerating infrastructure development in various countries."

While Kartikey Hariyani agrees that there is inadequate charging facility in India, his tech-driven EV charging networks company is focussing on striking partnerships to address this issue. "As part of our partnerships with private players such as Marriott International, Mahindra, Blue Orchid, Snap-E, we have deployed and installed charging stations at various touch points across the country. We have also been working closely with the Government for the National Highway Electrification Program and have so far electrified 1000 kms of state and national highways across the country," he revealed.

 

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