'Network of charging stations a key challenge': Mobility industry bosses on path ahead for EVs

By AMANJEET SINGH Oct 05, 2023

Top executives from across the electric vehicle (EV) industry emphasised a common issue limiting consumer interest in purchasing EVs in India: inadequate charging infrastructure.

While underlining exponential growth of EVs in India, the industry leaders spoke of both achievements and pitfalls, at the VoltAge EV conclave, organised by WION in partnership with the Indian School of Business (ISB) at its Hyderabad campus. 

During a fireside chat, Vijaya Sunder M, Assistant Professor (Practice) and Academic Director at the Centre for Business Innovation at ISB, asked Virendra Goyal, Head of Business Development for EV Charging at Tata Power, about the state of infrastructure in the country, particularly concerning home charging.  

Goyal responded, "A challenge lies in obtaining permission in residential societies, where dedicated car parking can often be scarce, hindering the installation of charging stations."

Virendra Goyal, Head - BD, EV Charging, Tata Power sharing his views on charging infrastructure in India in conversation with Vijaya Sunder M, Assistant Professor (Practice) at ISB

When asked about the EV ecosystem in India compared to countries like Norway and China, which are more advanced on this count at present, Goyal said, "The EV charger is the key driver of e-mobility in its early stages. Examples from other countries, including China, show that there is exponential growth after reaching a 5% penetration rate. Therefore, in the next 2-3 years in India, we expect to achieve a 5% penetration rate, a target set by the government, which is projected to increase to 30% by 2030."

Akash Deep Tyagi, Technical Lead at the EV charging network firm Statiq, likened the question of EV charging infrastructure to a “chicken-and-egg problem”.  

"People used to ask whether we should buy an EV first or wait for enough charging stations. The solution is that both things will happen simultaneously,” he said.

From the users’ perspective, he cited what Statiq has done, "Besides strategically installing charging stations on highways, we have installed 50-60 fast chargers in Gurugram. Now, residents have enough options. Our approach is to target Tier I cities initially and then expand to Tier II and Tier III cities."

Aditya Jairaj, Deputy Managing Director at Stellantis India, shared insights from buyers of its EV hatchback Citroen eC3. He said that only those who believe the range is sufficient for their needs purchase EVs.  

Jairaj noted, "One of the first questions customers ask us is, where they will find chargers. We have a simple solution for it. We have a mobile phone app on which you can find chargers within our interface, as well as other chargers available on Google.”  

He also spoke of how to make people more comfortable with the overall feel of an EV. “We should provide prospective customers with long test drives spanning up to 2-3 days to help them understand the range and the experience... and where it fits into their lifestyle."

However, practical challenges arise when establishing home charging points in gated societies where parking spaces are primarily in basements.  

Gopalakrishnan VC, Director of Automotive & EV at the Government of Telangana, mentioned that following a recent fire incident, it has been decided that chargers will not be allowed in basements but on the ground level, where multiple charging points can be installed. But the experts agreed that once the “sticky effect” or having seen larger number of EVs on the road kicks in, apprehensions and outsized risk assessments will subside too.