Prashant Radhakrishnan is the Vice President and Head of Sales & Marketing (India), SemaConnect Charging Infra Pvt. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of SemaConnect Inc. With extensive large company and entrepreneurial enterprise experience, he is translating strategy into actionable goals for performance and growth of the company and helping to implement organisation-wide goal setting and performance management.
Having an influential academic background with MBA from IIM Calcutta, Prashant has over 25 years of experience in Sales, Marketing, Operations and Business Management. He has extensive experience in the Internet and Technology industry with stints in MNCs and start-ups over the years. Before joining SemaConnect, Prashant was indulged in his entrepreneurial stints, delving into Technology & the F&B industry.
The Electric Vehicle (EV) market in India is fast evolving and various favourable measures have been introduced, both at national and state levels, offering a variety of incentives to push the transition towards electric vehicles in India. However, more concerted efforts are required to build the right infrastructure and a sustainable market for EVs. The infrastructure requirements include adequate charging infrastructure, better battery systems, innovative business models, financing/ mortgage mechanism, etc.
The State of EV Industry in India
Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), an industry body, reveals that the sales of electric vehicles in India grew by 20 percent in 2019-20. Over 1.56 lakh EVs were sold in 2019-20 as compared to 1.3 lakh units in the previous fiscal. The figures comprise of two-wheelers – mostly scooters, buses and cars. It does not cover the sale of e rickshaw which is being sold in large numbers in India – 90,000 units were sold in 2019-20. Further, a report by Frost and Sullivan states that e-rickshaws, e-autos, and e-two wheelers are expected to account for over four million units in India by 2025, making them the most promising segments of electrification.
Charging Infrastructure: A Key Constraint to EV Adoption
According to the estimates of the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, as of March 2021, there are 1,800 EV charging stations for approximately 16,200 electric cars in India, including the fleet segment. The charging infrastructure continues to be a key constraint in the wider acceptance of EVs among the Indian public. This is because of the high cost involved and lack of pay-outs. Owing to risks and return on such investment, operators are averse to investing in EV charging infrastructure. Moreover, there is limited awareness among operators/players about the government’s EV charging policies.
Understanding EV Charging
EV batteries are larger in size and take longer to charge. While a typical EV 2-wheeler has a 2-3Kwh battery, a 4 wheeler battery usually ranges from 30kwh to 45 kwh. This is the current scenario in the country. As technology evolves, the EV batteries will get larger and also become more efficient. In such a case, a Level 1 charger plugged into one’s home can take 15hours + to charge an electric4-wheeler. This is the major hindrance in the adoption of EV vehicles by the public in the country. Hence government initiatives in the form of subsidies to install L2 smart chargers at offices, homes and retail locations are the need of the hour. These chargers take 5-7 hours to charge a typical electric 4-wheeler.
Further, DC fast chargers can charge 80% of an electric 4 wheeler’s battery in just half an hour. However, these chargers are expensive not only in terms of cost but also, deployment due to the huge amount of power. They can be installed for inter-city travel at oil filling pumps.
Making Charging Infrastructure a Viable Option
To make EVs scalable and a sustainable solution as well as to explore the future potential of charging infrastructure, following points are important:
- Mobile Charging Units: Such charging units can be installed at multiple locations across the country to help users charge the vehicle at any location in case the vehicle battery gets fully exhausted.
- Wireless Charging: The vehicle can be parked on a particular spot where there is a charger on the ground. It will easily charge the vehicle’s battery wirelessly.
- Charging-as-a-Service: EV charging service stations can be a great help for vehicle owners. The service providers can pick up the discharged vehicle from the specified location, charge it and bring it back to the user for a fixed charge. This will make EV charging as easy as filling petrol/diesel tank of normal vehicles.
Due to the fear and threat of COVID, people are expected to avoid travelling in public transport as there are high chances of contamination. Over and above this, the fossil fuel charges keep increasing with multiple increases within a month at times. The only alternative in such a scenario is EVs. It is both an economical as well as a safe mode of transportation. Therefore, the government must initiate financial stimulus packages to enable a green transition pathway and also, set up more charging stations for EV vehicles so that more people buy them for their personal use. This is important for a clean, resilient, green and least-cost energy transition.