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India’s EV charging ambitions run into unlikely roadblock—RWAs at housing societies

India will need 400,000 charging stations for the two million electric vehicles it is expected to have by 2026 and residents’ welfare associations can make or mar the push for EVs

Representative image

Representative image

It was quite the climb. An electric scooter owner in Bengaluru was recently forced to haul the vehicle to his fifth-floor apartment after the residents’ welfare association (RWA) refused to install a charging point in the parking lot.

India is going big on EVs to cut its fuel import bill and clean up the air by providing subsidies and other incentives to encourage the use of these vehicles. Ambitious targets have been. Vehicle sales are picking up but there are problems on the ground.

The Bengaluru EV owner’s ordeal reflects the biggest of the problems—charging infrastructure which can undo the EV push.

State governments have offered property tax concessions to housing societies to set up charging stations but it is the number of EVs, which is rather small, that holds the decisive factor.

In 2021, 1.43 lakh electric two-wheelers were sold, 88,000 three-wheelers and just about 5,900 electrical cars, said Ajay Sharma, managing director–valuation services at commercial real estate firm Colliers. In a complex of 1,000 flats, there maybe two to three people who own e-vehicles.

An RWA is unlikely to set up an e-charging infrastructure for a few families but as the number grows, housing societies may have to plan for charging requirements, say experts.

To meet the requirement for two million electric vehicles expected on its roads by 2026, India will need 400,000 charging stations, a report by Grant Thornton Bharat-Ficci had said. As per the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, an EV industry body, India had 1,800 charging stations as of March 2021 for approximately 16,200 electric cars.

So, how will it work? What is being done to address the issue and how are RWAs prepping for the EV revolution? We try to find some answers.

Also Read: EV alternatives: Are there more practical ways to combat pollution and rising fuel costs?

Are housing societies setting up charging points?

On World Environment Day on September 9, Lodha Group said it had partnered with Tata Power to provide end-to-end EV charging solutions at all its projects in Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune. The chargers will be accessible to all Lodha residents and visitors.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Noida, Prateek Group installed two charging point stations at its Edifice project in Sector 107, the real estate company’s promoter Prashant Tiwari told Moneycontrol.

“We have a few electrical car owners in our housing project that comprises 423 flats. The maintenance company has provided them with a pre-paid card system to charge their vehicles,” he said.

Mili Majumdar, managing director, Green Business Certification Institute, India, and Senior Vice President US Green Building Council said most housing societies were not providing exclusive infrastructure for EVs.

“They simply provide some charging points in common areas such as parking and stilts. For several green rating systems, there are points given for providing charging points for electrical vehicles but since it’s not a mandatory requirement for any rating, one can’t definitely say how many certified societies have it. Also, there are multiple types of charging infrastructure –fast, medium and slow,” she said.

Also Read: Govt spends Rs 871 crore to promote electric vehicles, set up charging infrastructure

With growing awareness, demand, too, is catching up. One in five prospective buyers was asking for charging provisions as an amenity, says Ritesh Mehta, Head Residential Property Sales, JLL India. “Going forward, we may see local authorities formulating policies to have this facility as a mandatory thing to acquire completion/occupation certificate for new projects,” Mehta said.

What have governments done so far?

The Maharashtra government, which wants EVs to account for 10 percent of all new vehicle registrations by 2025, has announced financial incentives for such vehicles.

Housing societies that set up charging stations will get a property tax exemption ranging from two to five percent, the newly formed Maharashtra Electric Vehicle Policy, which will be implemented from March 31, 2025, says.

If an individual sets up a charging station for their or any other EV in the society, a two percent relief in property tax will be given. If a housing society sets up the facility, then the relief will be 5 percent for all house owners.

In June, the Delhi government approved a single-window facility to expand charging infrastructure in apartments, group housing societies, hospitals, malls and theatres.

In 2019, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs issued a directive to allot parking space for EVs in residential and commercial areas.

A minimum of “20 percent of all vehicle holding capacity/parking capacity” in the premise is to be reserved for EVs in residential and commercial buildings, the policy says.

In July, Tata Power tied up with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd to provide end-to-end charging stations at its retail outlets in multiple cities and major highways.

What are the pain points?

The recent vehicle scrappage policy “has been introduced with the aim of encouraging more people to use e-vehicles,” said Sivasubramaniam Jayaraman, Manager-Transport System, ITDP India. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy is a non-profit that works in the field of inclusive sustainable transport solutions.

Most EV owners either charge their vehicles by plugging them into electric points at their homes or they detach the battery and charge it in their apartments.

As the number of vehicles goes up, RWAs may have to firm up charging policies. “The convenience of charging is an important factor. Charging an e-vehicle is currently seen as an individual need,” said Jayaraman. Since not many people own e-vehicles, the mindset is why they should pay for such an amenity. Regulatory reforms need to be brought in for EVs, he said.

Housing societies may have to provide backup to ensure power cuts do not pose a problem, he said. “They will also have to allocate a certain amount of power dedicated for charging e-vehicles. All these strategies would have to be firmed up,” Sharma said.

How much does it cost to set up an EV charging unit?

It costs anything between Rs 6,000 to Rs 40,000 to set up a basic dedicated charging unit.

MERAS Plugins Pvt Ltd CEO and founder Vivek Samynathan said his start-up that provides EV charging solutions was recently approached by a gated community of 2,000 apartments in Chennai to install a charging unit. The RWA plans to buy the chargers and install them in the basement. The company has a phone app that controls the charging session and provides real-time data on units charged and the cost involved. The recharge wallet facility automatically deducts the amount as per usage.

A two-wheeler port costs Rs 6,000 on and a 4-wheeler charging unit costs Rs 40,000 for a standard unit. Fast-charging units start from Rs 2.5 lakh. Charging units for e-cycles cost Rs 10,000, he says.

Will installing EV chargers impact property prices?

Property value may not go up if a builder decides to provide one green feature such as a charging port for e-vehicles.

“State governments may provide property tax concession. This may bring down the expense load but that does not mean property prices will move up. There is no direct link with just one green amenity,” Sharma said.

Vandana Ramnani
Vandana Ramnani
first published: Sep 11, 2021 12:56 pm