One of the primary reasons for late adoption of CNG was the absence of requisite infrastructure in terms of filling stations. While the government introduced CNG as an environmentally friendly alternative, long lines at CNG pumps—it would take 35-40 minutes of waiting time—ensured not many bought into the government’s rhetoric. In fact, sales of CNG vehicles only took off when the government compulsorily mandated commercial vehicles to have CNG. While this boom has ensured enough infrastructure, the government, it seems, has not learnt its lesson.
India is bullish on electric. The present dispensation has been talking about an all electric future. While the government has a plan to push for 30% electric vehicles and green mobility by 2030, charging is being ignored. It recently announced a new policy for EV charging stations, where in it is mandated to have one EV station every 25 kms and within a grid of 9 sq km in cities, the problem is space and expense. For one, electrics are an expensive proposition, if the cost of charging is also added that may deter a lot many buyers from plugging into government’s narrative. Two, space is a constraint. And, for metro cities, where the government plans to setup enough stations within the next 1-3 years, it may be a bigger issue, as infrastructure costs are high. Besides, even if it asks pumps to have a mandatory charging station, many may just flout the norms in absence of enough vehicles.
Even if people do buy into the government rhetoric, parking spaces are limited. Societies cannot provide charging stations for all vehicles, and for many who park their vehicles on the road, there will be no charging. Most automakers adopting slow charging batteries—fast charging is still expensive—is another hassle.
The new entrant to join the electric bandwagon is Bajaj. The company recently launched a redesigned version of Chetak in an electric avatar. While Bajaj is playing more on nostalgia—Chetak may be priced at Rs 1 lakh which will put it out of the reach of many buyers—the gambit is more of a long shot given the absence of electric infrastructure. One idea is for the private sector to go for infrastructure or for electric charging points to be setup with pay as you charge model, but who would want to wait 45 mins to go 45 kms.