India’s effort to populate the road space with as many electric vehicles as possible — according to NITI Aayog, EVs should account for sales of 80 per cent of two and three wheelers, 50 per cent of four wheelers and 40 per cent of buses by 2030 — must be accompanied by a rapid improvement in charging infrastructure. Even if 30 per cent of all vehicles sold in India are to be EVs by 2030, we are looking at a figure of over 15 million EVs, against current EV stocks of perhaps under nine lakh, dominated by two and three wheelers (90 per cent). To get to this output goal, India needs to get three parts of the EV game right: the production of vehicles, batteries, and the presence of charging stations. The first two are on stream, with investments and collaborations proceeding at a hectic pace. They have been aided by a demand side push through FAME, and a production linked incentive for making the EVs and their batteries — the total PLI outlay amounting to nearly ₹45,000 crore. It is no one’s case that charging requires a similar public outlay. This is particularly because, unlike in Europe and the US, India’s two-and-three wheeler dominated market needs minimal space, investment and energy to get its vehicles moving — a 25 kwh, three-phase charging station, or even a single phase 7kwh point may work for most situations. All that the charging ecosystem needs is a cogent policy framework to get market forces moving. The Power Ministry has come up with a set of guidelines which makes it quite easy for almost anyone to set up a charging station, provided quality standards are met. So far, EV producers have created charging capacity, with aggregators such as Energy Efficiency Services Limited acting as facilitators.

Under these guidelines, residential complexes and offices can be used to charge vehicles. It is necessary for the housing and urban development agencies to frame norms accordingly. Once a charging station is sanctioned, it needs to be given an electricity connection within a week in a metro and 15 days in other cities. The norms allow for purchase by open access with a cap on the rates, as well as defined land rentals in revenue terms (₹1 per kwH). However, States mandate that only a 1 MW facility and above qualifies for open access; this norm needs to be revised downward as it is an entry barrier to setting up small charging stations that can service two/three-wheelers. While it is possible to visualise shopping complexes offering charging facilities, it should be possible for even a parking meter, as in the West, to double up as a charging station for half a dozen two wheelers. The requirement of real estate for charging may not be as daunting as perceived. Fast charging stations on the highways need to come up soon to nudge car buyers to shift to EVs.

It is also wrong to believe that EVs will draw deeply into the power supply. Given the advances in battery technology and the development of renewables, both the quality and quantity of power needed for EVs will not prove to be an issue, going forward.