WESD 2023: Taking stock of e-mobility experience in India
At the World Energy Storage Day (WESD) 2023 global conference held on September 22, speakers representing key companies across different sectors within the Indian EV ecosystem spoke on their experiences and learnings in the domestic market so far and put to spotlight critical learnings and amends to further EV adoption in the country.
The session, dedicated to discuss on the e-mobility trends in the R2 region including India and SAARC nations, was moderated by Gurusharan Dhillon, Director - eMobility Services, Customized Energy Solutions, India, who called the 2023 as the momentous year for EV adoption in India, with the electric vehicle sales crossing 1 million mark in just nine months this year, a feat that took almost the entire stretch of 2022.
Endorsing the positive outlook arising for electric vehicle in India, Swapnil Jain, CTO, Ather Energy, agreed that e-mobility is the biggest revolution happening in the country at present. "India is becoming a manufacturing hub for EVs, led by robust local manufacturing and innovative ecosystem. Not just in terms of assembly, the country is spearheading innovation in the engineering and R&D front as well, especially in the E2W space, primarily led by the domestic demand".
He identified government subsidies as the strong push for EV adoption in the country, although higher capex cost deters buyers from opting for battery vehicles. "It's just the fear of unknown that continues to haunt potential buyers", he said. Earlier, Swapnil presented the journey of Ather in developing a smart, affordable and connected e-scooter platform for the local market, with high-tech value additions that are garnering appreciations from his customers.
Noting that electric vehicles are also good for economics, not just good for environment, from a fleet operator point of view with appreciable savings in fuel costs, Anmol Jaggi, Founder, Blu Smart, opined, "Electric cars in India have undergone transformational improvements in the last four years since we started our operations in 2019, in terms of battery technology, driving range, and lower upfront costs".
Disagreeing to Swapnil, Jaggi argued that lack of adequate public charging infrastructure prevents buyers from going for EVs in India. "People are able to do the math and even ready to pay high to reap the benefits of the EVs, but lack of charging stations inevitable brings range anxiety", he said.
"As a ride-hailing firm, we considered this as an opportunity when we started and built out own charging network that now stands at 1,200 fast chargers (800 + CCS type) and 500 slow chargers, entirely powering our Blu Smart fleet at different locations", he added. Jaggi further declared that this network will soon be opened up for other users including ride-hailing companies.
Asked on other critical challenges to EV adoption, Anmol Jaggi questioned the irrational taxation on charging equipment and charging services in India. "Why is GST levied at 18 percent for EV charging equipment and charging (as a service)? I'm sure we also pay an additional 18 percent GST on the cost of electricity used for charging", he said.
On the question of EV inceptives in India, he opined that the industry is not voicing its concerns clearly on the phasing down of subsidies. "The recent cut in FAME II incentives has set a very bad example and is impacting the EV industry. Phasing down of subsidies may be inevitable, but this cannot mere be overnight decisions. There should be a proper de-roll plan in place to phase out subsidies in a more streamlined manner", he replied. Such a roadmap on policy and subsidies on EVs will help investors to plan ahead as well, he added.
Yet another speaker at the session was Anant Nahata, MD, Exicom Tele-Systems Limited, who stressed on the importance of developing a very robust charging infrastructure in the country. Commenting on the current progress of EV charging equipment industry, he said "India is witnessing a lot of in-house R&D to make the products more reliable and offer higher uptime. The current focus is to be on improving the reliability of chargers and enhance remote management and servicing of EV chargers".
Nahata agreed with Anmol Jaggi on two critical points, namely the lack of charging infra as a primary bottleneck for EV adoption in India and on the tax rationalization for EV charging. "GST on charging equipment and services at 18 percent is very high. Delhi, for instance, has got better EV charging infrastructure simply because of subsidized price of power and lower taxation", he noted.