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Robust public charging infrastructure is a must for mass adoption of EVs

When consumers discover that there are chargers available in their vicinity, their decision to buy an EV gets boosted. The need for a public charging network that any EV user can access at any time remains paramount, says Awadhesh Kumar Jha, Executive Director – Fortum Charge & Drive India.

Robust public charging infrastructure is a must for mass adoption of EVs
The need for a public charging network that any EV user can access at any time remains paramount, so to speak.

By Awadhesh  Kumar Jha

The automobile industry is gearing up for a paradigm shift. The internal combustion engine (ICE), the prime mover of the industry for more than a hundred years, is letting electric vehicles (EVs) drive in the high-speed lane. The appeal of EVs to the general public can be appreciated by the fact that in 2021 we saw a sale of 6.6 million cars globally which was twice of that in 2020.

Compared to 2019, just prior to the pandemic, the market share of EVs increased four times in 2021. Close to 5 million plug-in EVs have been sold till July 2022 which is close to 80 percent of total sales for entire year of 2021. In our country also, sales of EVs has been increasing at a very high rate.

In FY2022 sales of EV across segments jumped threefold compared to FY2021. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has estimated that EVs would make up 40 percent of new car sales by 2030 and 100 percent by 2047. This milestone date coincides with 100 years of the country’s independence. A robust public charging infrastructure particularly for 4W PEV would be required for the mass adoption of EVs.     

Need for public charging

A report from McKinsey and IEA indicates that India will need more public charging than private charging because of its higher population density. When we compare the adoption of EVs and the share of public charging among nations like Norway, the United States, the Netherlands, China and Poland that were early adopters of EVs, this is further supported.

In terms of the ratio of automobiles per charging station, countries with larger population densities have a denser public charging infrastructure measured in the number of vehicles to charge point (VCP). Netherlands (~450 person per km2 ) has VCP as 4, China (~150 people per km2) has 6, and the US (~36 person per km2 ) has 79. 

When consumers discover that there are chargers available in their vicinity, their decision to buy an  EV gets boosted. The need for a public charging network that any EV user can access at any time remains paramount, so to speak. 

In a densely populated and space constraint country like ours, having a reliable and widespread public charging network is the optimum utilization of national resources. One unit of space equipped with chargers would serve many EVs compared to private charging.

Besides, public charging is also optimal from a grid point of view as it would allow the capacity created to be utilized to the maximum extent compared to home charging where capacity shall be used only for a few hours. Though home charging would be preferred by end users during the initial period when public charging network is getting developed, on system level this would be sub-optimal use of resources.

For multi storied apartments, it would be prudent to go for community charging instead of individual charging in each parking. As a country, we need a rethink on pushing for home charging in each parking spots. 

Today fast charging technology has evolved to offer the same/similar experience to EV users in terms of time as one ICE user would get at the gasoline station. CPOs have started offering charging at 150-350 KW level which can charge a compatible car in less than 10 minutes to give 125-150km.

Recently China and Japan have joined hands together to develop high-power chargers which can deliver power upto 900KW which can theoretically pump enough power to the battery in less than 5 minutes to drive for more than 400 km. As average charger capacity continues to increase, it becomes more efficient and less costly, thereby reducing recharging time.

Another development that is taking shape at the global level in the 4W EV segment is wireless charging. This would be very helpful for the fleet, particularly at locations where drivers are waiting in queue for their turn like at the Airport. Wireless charging will offer continuous charging to the vehicles while they’re waiting and moving in the queue. 

As the use of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles have been ingrained in our habits due to its adoption over the last 100 years, we need to give time to let EVs become part of our habits. Thanks to pandemic-induced changes in working habits, acceptance of digital mode of interaction augurs well for EV adoption as one can use the time effectively while their EV is getting charged.

As quoted by Mahatma Gandhi, action precedes habits, word leads the action, thought heralds words and belief precedes thought. Today EVs have become part of our belief system and soon it will be part of our habit. This change is inevitable. 

The author is Awadhesh Kumar Jha, Executive Director – Fortum Charge & Drive India

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.

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