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India plans one EV charging station every 25 km. But will private players come to the party?

The move comes as a shot in the arm for EV manufacturers as well as EV buyers, most of whom are concerned about the lack of charging infrastructure. However, the proposal has not overly enthused private charging infrastructure companies. Read on to find out why

October 23, 2020 / 12:30 PM IST
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Last week India’s Department of Heavy Industries invited companies to set up electric vehicle charging stations on major existing and upcoming expressways and highways running across the length and breadth of the country.

An expression of interest (EoI) invitation put out by the government states its plans to have one charging station every 25 km to facilitate faster adoption of electric vehicles under the second phase of the ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles (FAME)’ programme.

Fast chargers used in Europe and Japan to power four-wheelers, as well as chargers designed for India that can fast-charge two- and three-wheelers, are proposed to be set up under this programme.

The document invites public sector undertakings (PSU), government organisations, state-owned distribution companies and private companies to set up slightly over 1,500 charging stations on 25 expressways and highways.

Are stakeholders interested?

To begin with, this is not the first time that the government has invited companies to set up a large-scale EV charging network. In August 2019, a similar EoI was issued inviting prospective bidders to set up the charging infrastructure.

The government received an unprecedented 106 proposals from public and private entities for the deployment of about 7,000 EV charging stations. However, only 2877 charging stations were sanctioned by the government.

The orders to set up each charging station went only to public entities, with central government-owned companies such as Energy Efficiency Services (EESL), Rajasthan Electronics and Instrument (REIL) and NTPC bagging more than 70 percent of the contract. No private companies made the cut.

Speaking to Moneycontrol, Maxson Lewis, Managing Director, Magenta Power, said: “In the entire EoI document, the mention of private players is at the end. The structure is the same at the 2019 document. If private companies are not allowed to participate in this EoI then there will be no interest from them to invest in charging infrastructure at all. The industry needs something like this but it is important to know how open the government is to involve private parties.”

Magenta Power has set up multiple EV charging stations, including some on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, in association with HPCL.

The public entities have so far set up around 600 charging stations after winning the contract in December-January. The impact of the Covid-induced lockdown forced them to go slow. These chargers, which were a mix of fast and slow chargers, have been set up on highways and within cities.

Easing buyer anxiety

As the latest EoI targets only highways and expressways, the project is aimed at addressing the charging anxiety among buyers, many of whom feel that electric vehicles cannot be used for long drives.

Sources add that as was the case last year, the latest EoI will also see the participation of several government-owned companies.

But not every private company is being overcautious. Since starting EV charging operations in 2017, Fortum, a Finnish company, has installed nearly 70 charging stations, including for carmaker MG Motor India.

Awadhesh Jha, Vice President, Charge and Drive and Sustainability, Fortum Charge and Drive India, said: “Commenting on how the EoI will go forward will be very speculative. The document clearly states that the EoI is open to private companies also. We do not believe that something that happened in the past will happen again. Any qualifying private company stands the same chance as any PSU.”

The rollout

Initially, a total of nine expressways with a total length of 1,775 km will have a minimum of 174 charging stations. These include the Mumbai-Pune Expressway (10 stations), Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway (20 stations), Bengaluru-Chennai Expressway (30 stations) and Surat-Mumbai Expressway (30 stations).

Likewise, 16 arterial highways having a total length of 13,370 km, will have a minimum of 1,370 charging stations. Some of these highways are Delhi-Kolkata (160 stations), Mumbai-Delhi (124 stations), Mumbai-Panaji (60 stations) and Chennai-Bhubaneswar (120 stations).

Types of charger

The types of EV chargers that will be mandatory at each charging station make the latest EoI distinct from the earlier one. Successful bidders will have to install CCS 2 and CHAdeMO chargers in addition to Bharat Chargers.

A CCS 2 fast charger earmarked for the programme (minimum 50 kW) can fully charge the Tata Nexon EV or a Hyundai Kona EV, for instance, in about 60 mins. CCS 2 is the most favoured charger in India with every electric car being compatible with it.

The EOI also gives interested parties the option to set up a CHAdeMO (minimum 50 kW) charger. CHAdeMO chargers are favoured by Japanese car manufacturers and powers models such as the Nissan Leaf and Honda Fit. No electric car in India is compatible with CHAdeMO.

One Bharat Charger DC-001 (15kW) is also to be installed with either CCS 2 or a CHAdeMO charger. Bharat AC-001 (10kW) and Type 2 AC (22kW) have been kept as optional chargers for the bidders.

“The proposed charging stations can start their operations with the minimum number of chargers to cater to the initial requirements and can add more,” said the EOI.

India currently has about half a dozen fully electric cars in the market.

Tata Nexon EV, MG ZS EV, Hyundai Kona, Tata Tigor EV, Mahindra e-Verito and the Mahindra eKUV are currently on sale and several more are in the pipeline. These include the Tata Altroz EV, sub-Rs 10 lakh EVs from Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki, eXUV300 from Mahindra and the electric version of the Kwid from Renault.
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Swaraj Baggonkar
first published: Oct 23, 2020 09:29 am