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Mad about Markets: Charging infra a real problem for electric vehicles; experts analyse India’s EV ecosystem

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Experts expect the penetration of e-scooters will rise from 1 percent currently to 10 percent in five years from now and that of four-wheelers to increase eight times from sub-0.2 percent now to 4 percent in FY26.

The total number of passenger electric cars on planet Earth crossed the 1 crore mark in 2020. The number was just 17,000 in 2010. Electric vehicles had penetrated close to 5 percent of the global market by 2020. Their market penetration could cross 17 percent by 2030. In 2020, a year when total car sales fell 16 percent, EV registrations increased 41 percent.
The India's EV market is a little under 2.5 lakh units in FY21 and is likely to jump to 1.1 crore by FY31.
Experts expect the penetration of e-scooters will rise from 1 percent currently to 10 percent in five years from now and that of four-wheelers to increase eight times from sub-0.2 percent now to 4 percent in FY26.
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The lack of charging infra is indeed a real problem. India has adequate infrastructure for internal combustion engine vehicles with as many as 77,000 fuel stations across the country. This gives drivers the confidence to travel anywhere without the fear of being stranded. However, electric vehicles, 'fuel' comes from the charge left in the battery and India currently has only 1,800 EV charging stations.
Under Fame II, the total project pipeline for EV charging stations is 4,180, with 2,636 sanctioned and another 1,544 in the pipeline. But, are these enough, and how many more public chargers does India need to meet its growing EV demand, and is India's electric vehicle ambition running on low battery?
CNBC-TV18 discussed this with Sohinder Gill, CEO of Hero Electric, and Sandeep Bangia, head of Tata Power's EV charging business.
On when will EV become mass-market products, Gill said, “Well, it is not a question of will it happen or not, it is a question of when would it happen. So on two-wheelers, it is going to happen every soon, so also commercial vehicles, which make business sense, on cars it will take time and buses is the government agenda. So, it is in various spans of time you will find electric mobility taking over IC engine to a greater extent.”
He added, “We are almost there on the verge of an explosion in case of two-wheelers, which is I think around 18 to 24 months away from an exponential growth point of view. As far as four-wheelers are concerned, surely first the charging infrastructure or the confidence of charging has to set it. Otherwise, it will be only premium cars, which can do 400 kilometres in one charge, because anybody who wants to buy a car could think of going intercity sometime."
"So for them, either you depend on charging infrastructure, or you go for a very premium car, which is very niche, or you go for a second car. All this means I think the car exponential growth to start is at least three to four years away.”
On current charging infra, Bangia said, “Tata Power EZ Charge currently has 600 plus chargers in the country, the public chargers that do not include home chargers and semi-public chargers, which is about 50 percent-plus market share today. We are putting up about 3,000 chargers in the current fiscal. Depending on the penetration of vehicles, I think we are committed to putting up to 100,000 public chargers in the next maybe 7 to 10 years’ timeframe.”
On adding 4,000 chargers under FAME II scheme, Bangia said, “So 4,000 as a number of chargers, are they enough or not is completely dependent on how the EV penetration takes up. For EV penetration to go up really, you need to have a wider choice of vehicles and at the right price point.  We are possibly at the cusp, one or two significantly important cars or significantly attractive cost at the right price point is going to trigger out this ecosystem.”
Watch the accompanying video for more.