One proven method to deliver a better charging experience is EV roaming. This makes the charging experience akin to withdrawing money, where a customer can access all ATMs irrespective of their bank account.
Decarbonisation of the transport sector will be crucial to India’s transition to a low carbon economy in the coming decades. While the narrative is mostly being dominated by new electric car launches, it is the charging infrastructure that will be the backbone of this transition. In this regard, recent developments such as government’s plan to install 6000 chargers across nine highways or the oil PSUs’ aim to set up 22,000 stations in the next 3-5 years, would go a long way in allaying the range anxiety associated with electric vehicles (EVs).
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Notwithstanding the adverse impact of COVID-19 induced economic slowdown, as many as nine states announced EV policies in the last 12 months. The central government also substantially enhanced subsidies on electric two-wheelers and extended the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME - 2) policy by two years to 2024.
The policy interventions seem to have worked in the short term as sales of electric scooters have picked up. According to data compiled by CEEW-CEF, EV sales have been accounting for more than 2 percent of all monthly vehicle sales since August 2021. A long-term transition though will rely heavily on the quality and quantity of charging infrastructure made available for these vehicles.
The CEEW-CEF dashboard for electric vehicles shows that India had 934 public charging stations as of 2020 and nearly 30 Charge Point Operators (CPO) providing such services. While all 19 of India’s state EV policies encourage the installation of charging infrastructure, states like Assam, Delhi Goa and a few others provide specific incentives through capital subsidies, grants and tax reimbursements. The policy measures should encourage existing and new players to join the EV charging space and improve the network of charging stations. However, quantity is just the starting point to make public charging dependable.
While an extensive network of public chargers may cure EV drivers’ range anxiety, more chargers may not automatically translate into more vehicle charging options. Unlike fuel pumps, CPOs don’t provide unconditional and universal access to charging stations. The ideal charging station must be effortless to find, easy to access and convenient to use. To access all available charging stations within one’s own city, an EV driver may have to download as many as ten mobile applications, sign up and log in to each one of them. Browsing through multiple apps to find the closest charger can be extremely cumbersome. The situation further complicates during long-distance trips where the driver may not even be aware of operational CPOs.
One proven method to deliver a better charging experience is EV roaming. This makes the charging experience akin to withdrawing money, where a customer can access all ATMs irrespective of their bank account. EV roaming depends upon common charging standards and collaboration between charging providers. It works to the advantage of users – who see a more comprehensive network and can use a single platform for all charging needs. For the larger EV ecosystem, the concept of roaming promotes faster adoption of EVs, low entry barriers into the charging networks, new and innovative business models and boosts investor confidence in the space.
Roaming has been a natural progression for mature markets like Europe and North America. The introduction of roaming to the mix has increased sales in countries like Norway and the Netherlands. India can learn from the experience of 45 countries that have implemented it, to create a vibrant charging ecosystem.
A CEEW Centre for Energy Finance study finds that the time is ripe to introduce roaming to the Indian market. This should prioritise segments most amenable to interoperability, such as wired charging at public charging stations. Suitable tweaks to existing policies and prioritising common charging standards for interoperability are sufficient to formalise EV roaming. Businesses can choose to collaborate bilaterally or through a common clearinghouse – known as a roaming hub. This would depend on the degree of fragmentation the market currently sees.
Once policy, technology and business models are in place, a detailed plan to implement EV roaming can be developed. The first step for India should be the creation of open databases aggregating public charging station information. Multiple states such as Delhi, Goa, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh underline the need to unify information on public charging in EV policies. Some government actors, such as the Delhi government and Department of Heavy Industries are also working on super-apps to improve transparency and visibility.
The ideal EV market should be inclusive, user-centric, and provide market players with the flexibility they desire. As India’s EV sales boom, the nascent nature of India’s vehicle charging ecosystem is an unforeseen advantage. By embracing the principles of collaboration and standardisation for charging, India can future-proof its electric vehicle ecosystem.
Meghna Nair is a research analyst at the Centre for Energy Finance at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW-CEF).
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)
First Published: IST