India’s EV Charging Network Lags, Faces Quality And Budgetary Challenges

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  • India’s public charging station (PCS) network is dwarfed by the European Union’s, comprising less than 3% of the latter’s infrastructure. 
  • Under the FAME-II EV subsidy scheme, India has received only 15% of the budget of Rs 10,000 crore.

In the realm of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in India, the spotlight has long been on the economic challenges that hinder its growth. However, beneath this macroeconomic concern lies a web of more minor yet equally significant issues, encompassing the government’s role in promoting public charging stations (PCS), the strategic placement of these stations, and the quality of the network. The stark contrast between Karthikeyan Palanisamy’s Zeon Charging network and the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) PCS expansion program serves as a microcosm of the pivotal role that strategic planning plays in shaping India’s public charging infrastructure.

Zeon Charging has carved out a formidable presence with a network spanning 160 chargers distributed across 100 strategic locations in South India. In contrast, KSEB, the state utility in Kerala, is ambitiously embarking on installing nearly 250 fast chargers at 62 PCS sites throughout the state. Remarkably, Kerala’s EV charging expansion ranks second only to Delhi in EV sales. One of the key differentiators between charging networks is the choice of connector standards. Zeon employs the CCS2 connector, the bedrock of Europe’s PCS, in its chargers. Meanwhile, KSEB’s chargers predominantly utilise an older Chinese standard known as GB/T, which is scarcely supported by modern EVs, according to industry insiders.

Karthikeyan Palanisamy, the visionary behind Zeon Charging, emphasises the quality and strategic placement of his charging units. “All of our locations are of high quality and strategically positioned, offering top-notch amenities, including restaurants and restrooms,” he stated. Zeon’s charging portfolio encompasses destination chargers with slower 22 Kw units, typically found in malls, hotels, or resorts, catering to users who aren’t in a hurry. However, Zeon primarily focuses on imported chargers along highways, serving transit users with fast DC units boasting up to 120 Kw charging capacity.

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India recently witnessed the launch of its largest tender for EV chargers, spearheaded by state oil companies, encompassing a staggering 7,432 units. This initiative, though ambitious, raises eyebrows due to the unreliable operation of existing chargers installed under the FAME II subsidy scheme. It underscores a troubling trend where quantity often supersedes quality, thereby affecting the economic viability of charging infrastructure. India’s journey towards establishing a robust EV charging infrastructure involves multifaceted challenges, ranging from economic viability to connector standards and strategic planning. While expanding the network is imperative, a holistic approach that prioritises quality and aligns with international standards will be pivotal in fostering sustainable growth in the EV sector.

 

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