Views of Aniruddha Kumar

Joint Secretary, Thermal, MoP

The Ministry of Power (MoP) has been entrusted with the task of formulating a framework for setting up charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs). In order to promote the large-scale deployment of EVs, it is important to ensure a robust and extensive network of charging stations. Besides, identifying a suitable business model that best meets the requirements of all the stakeholders is essential. At a recent Power Line conference on “E-mobility and Charging Infrastructure”, Aniruddha Kumar, joint secretary, thermal, MoP, discussed the issues and challenges in setting up EV charging stations and how these are planned to be addressed. Excerpts…

What are the plans for setting up EV charging infrastructure in the country?

The government is committed to encouraging e-mobility in the country in a big way. The MoP has been entrusted with the responsibility of formulating policies for the setting up of charging infrastructure. It is going to be a chicken-and-egg story. Unless there is adequate density of charging stations that are accessible by all, people will not be encouraged to adopt e-vehicles. At the same time, if there are insufficient e-vehicles, there would not be much incentive to set up the charging stations.

The Forum of Regulators has already published a report on this subject. The report suggests three business models for setting up charging infrastructure. One model envisages that the discoms will own the charging stations. This will be a good business opportunity for discoms, as there is surplus generation capacity in the country and discoms are looking at ways and means to increase power demand. It will be a win-win situation for the discoms. They will be able to sell more electricity and make money out of it. The second model is the franchise model wherein a franchisee will operate the charging station on behalf of the discom. The third model for EV charging is battery swapping.

We are currently brainstorming on how to promote e-mobility in the country. The ministry is deciding on how to set up charging stations at the pan-Indian level, including in smaller cities, and what should the ownership model be. Should they be owned by discoms or public sector undertakings or private entrepreneurs?

The MoP is going to set up a committee to look into various factors including the charging  specifications and standards. The committee will also look into problems pertaining to grid management since once a car is plugged in for charging, it generates a load of 50-60 kW and such heavy loads will generate harmonics in the grid. Another important aspect is identifying the most suitable business model for EV charging infrastructure. Apart from this, it is necessary to decide whether the stations should be set up in cities, or on the highways or in big/small towns, and whether these should cater to four vehicles, two vehicles or commercial vehicles.

What will be the tariff for the sale of power from the discoms to the consumers or the charging stations?

All the charging entities need to be given a deemed licensee status. This will substantially reduce the cost of electricity purchased by them. If these entities purchase power from the discoms, the tariffs will be very high. As deemed licensees, they would be able to buy power directly from the generators at Rs 3-Rs 3.50 per unit, thereby  substantially lowering the cost of charging EVs.

Will there be a need to amend the Electricity Act, 2003, for introducing EV charging?

It is not yet certain whether an amendment to the act would be required to operationalise EVs. Even if an amendment is required, the government will not shy away from doing so. A number of amendments have already been proposed to the act and there is a lot of pressure on the ministry to carry them out. Since the government is committed to promoting the use of e-vehicles, this is not going to be a problem.

How is the process of introducing electric vehicles planned to be managed?

The Central Electricity Authority, with support from various other agencies, will be driving the process. Currently, most of the discussions regarding EVs are centred on technology or technical issues. However, having a suitable business model is equally important. If today people are given an option to buy a new vehicle, they will opt for a vehicle powered by fossil fuel. There is lack of adequate charging infrastructure; therefore, there are very few EVs on the road today. Similarly, in case a charging station does not get sufficient vehicles, its capacity utilisation would be very low and it would not be economically viable.

NTPC Limited and Powergrid  are planning to set up charging infrastructure for three-wheelers in Gurgaon and Noida as a pilot project. To this end, these companies are looking at suitable places with ample parking. It could be parking lots under municipal corporations, airports, railway stations or offices. This would require the least investment and would be easy to implement. A car requires 32 square metres of parking space. Even if a charging station has a capacity for 10 cars, it would require 350 square metres of land.

Some countries have taken a huge leap forward in terms of deploying EVs. There are countries where EVs account for a 50 per cent share in the total vehicle population.

Since we are still in the process of formulating a framework for introducing EVs, it is necessary to look at some global best practices. This can help us develop the required number of stations and ensure that these stations get the required number of vehicles for charging. For the first two to three years, it is going to be very challenging. A lot of money is required for setting up these charging stations and for the first five years, it is difficult to break even. It would require a lot of patience on the part of charging entities as charging stations are likely to be a viable business proposition only after five to six years of operation.

What are the next steps regarding the implementation of EVs in the country?

The MoP plans to soon announce the formation of a steering committee to resolve policy-related issues for EV charging. This committee will have three subgroups to resolve issues related to the impact of EVs on the grid, and identify charger standard specifications as well as the best-suited business models.

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