Tamil Nadu has been at the forefront of attracting investments in electric vehicle manufacturing and related areas. But its effort to drive faster adoption of electric vehicles (the astute is ranked 6th) is likely to feel a big jolt as the new tariff order of Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) may play spoilsport.

Recently, TNERC furnished a new tariff order for public charging stations in the State. It has placed charging stations one step above commercial tariff, which is the most expensive structure in the State.

Tamil Nadu has classified the new tariff structure under peak and off-peak hours. Energy charges per kWh have been fixed at ₹8, ₹10, and ₹12 for public charging stations in Tamil Nadu.

Dependant on time of day

Although ₹8 slab is equal to the commercial tariff, it is applicable only between midnight and early morning, while the peak hour rate is ₹12 per kWh, an increase of 49 per cent.

Operators of public charging stations in the State argue that not many people drive or charge e-cars at public stations during these hours.

In States such as Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, the per kWh rate is fixed in the range of ₹4 to ₹6.7 for public charging stations.

While the peak hour tariff of ₹12 kwh is manageable, as operators point out, the alarming side of the new tariff is the fixed charges announced for charging stations.

In Karnataka, fixed charges for a 50 kW (0-50 kW) connection are ₹70 per month and ₹170 for every additional kW above 50 kW. In some States, there are no such rates, while in Maharashtra and Kerala it is just ₹90 for an LT connection.

Not feasable

In Tamil Nadu, however, the rate for a 0-50 kW connection is ₹100 per kW per month, and from 51 kW to 112 kW the rate will be ₹300 per kW. So, fixed charges for a 49 kW connection is ₹4,900, but if the connection goes up to 51 kW, the charge will be ₹15,300. So, just for an extra 3 kW, the bill shoots up by ₹10,000.

Also, if the connection is above 112 kW, the rate will be ₹550 per kW. Suppose an operator takes a 120 kW connection, he or she must pay ₹66,000 as fixed charges per connection, irrespective of how much or little electricity the operator consumes.

Operational expense

If one works out the cost structure for a 100 kW connection under a new tariff, the cost per kW amounts to ₹17-18 (excluding other costs) at public charging stations in Tamil Nadu. “For charge point operators like us, there are several costs over and above this. Some of them are AC–DC conversation loss, charger cost, electrical infrastructure, real estate rentals, electrical maintenance team, spares, customer support team, software development, maintenance etc.,” KP Karthikeyan, CEO & Co-Founder, Zeon Electric, which currently operates more than 70 charging stations (DC fast chargers) in South India and has 10,000 registered customers.

Of course, these are the rates (fixed charges) fixed for the commercial sector. But there is a critical difference. With a commercial load of 100 kW in other sectors, the consumption will be 20,000-25,000 units a month. But, in public charging stations, according to operators, the utilisation is lower as of now and the maximum consumption per month is about 5,000 units.

The new tariff order will only force people to go for a lower kW connection of 49 kW and below, leading to a much longer charging time for e-cars. “The whole case of viability for public charging stations will go for a toss and may lead to the collapse of existing infrastructure in Tamil Nadu,” he added.

EV charging operators have requested the State Government to reduce the tariff for public charging stations to ₹7 per kWh (still higher than other states) and revise fixed charges to ₹70 per kw. They have also requested to maintain this tariff till 2025.

“Raising tariffs at this early stage will make it unviable to run a public charging station and it will stall the growth of infrastructure ,” said Karthikeyan.