Rapid urbanization witnessed in the country demands for smart urban mobility solutions that are less taxing on the environment. In such a scenario, electric vehicles come as a possible solution. Instead, the conventional fleet of ve hicles in India is growing rapidly: total vehicle sales (including motorcycles) increased stood at 262677.83 bn in 2018-19, according to SIAM data (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers). The total number of vehicles on the road is expected to grow significantly by the end of the next decade. As part of its overall mission to address the challenges related to urban mobility, the Union Budget 2019-20 emphasized the very need to promote the use of electric vehicles (EVs).
Administrators at the centre, the states and the cities understand the pressing need to explore green fuel and zero-emission vehicles. This also means, in a decade, the government wants the cities to transition to options like electric vehicles. However, scrutiny of the current status of this ongoing transition in India reinforces the need for time-bound and impactful action towards this shift.
Why the push?
The rise in the use of EVs will in a way impact the development of our urban spaces and infrastructure. Here’s how:
With po licies and schemes in place for the introduction of EVs in both, the public and private transportation realms, the government is already working on a roadmap for setting up of supportive infrastructure across cities, around our homes and other places of importance such as educational institutions, community parking places etc. A key element here is the charging station infrastructure in the country.
Union Budget 2019-20 announcement incentivizes the use of EVs
“Phase-II of FAME ( Faster Adoption and Manufacture of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles) Scheme, following approval of the Cabinet with an outlay of INR 10,000 crore for a period of three years, has commenced from 1st April, 2019. The main objective of the Scheme is to encourage faster adoption of Electric vehicles by way of offering an upfront incentive on the purchase of electric vehicles and also by establishing the necessary charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Only advanced battery and registered e-vehicles will be incentivized under the Scheme with greater emphasis on providing affordable & environment-friendly public transportation options for the common man.”
The National E-mobility Mission Plan 2013 targets sale of 6-7 mn electric vehicles by 2020 and plans to a transition where 30% EVs has been envisioned on the road by 2030.
To promote the use of electric vehicles, the government will also provide additional income tax deduction of INR 1.5 lakh on the interest paid on loans taken to purchase electric vehicles.
What is required now?
A) Set up of a smart charging infrastructure: If we plan to use electric vehicles in a big way in coming decade and envision ourselves as the global manufacturing hub for electric vehicles, charging stations will have to be set up across all urban areas, and highways across the country to ensure assured and sustainable transition to electric vehicles.
The Ministry of Power, Government of India has rolled out the Guidelines on Electric Charging Infrastructure for EVs. In the list of cities that offer the most favourable environment to the shift to EVs are cities with high pollution levels and a population of greater than four million residents. These are Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat and Pune.
Setting up of charging stations will be a de-licensed activity and thus the rollout of these charging stations are expected to be quite rapid. The charging station will also be free to obtain electricity from any power company through the open access system. Once applied for, the charging station will also be given priority for an electric connection by the distributing agency.
Although the government maintains an optimistic stand when it comes to the transition to EVs, it must be borne in mind that charging infrastructure is key to the success of the desired shift. The size, type and capacity of the charging station, power requirements and inter-operability of charging stations set up at residential, commercial and institutional establishments are important criteria to be standardized, with an option for customization, for successful implementation of the plan. Different segment of vehicles (2W, 3W, PVs, CVs) may require a different type of charging standard (& connector), however, the charging infrastructure, at least at public places, should be common to the extent possible to reduce the infra cost.
The FAME Scheme and the phased Manufacturing Programme (by NITI Ayog) will soon facilitate easier and cost effective methods of setting up of EV charging stations by introducing norms and standards for Charging stations. There are currently only three acceptable global standards – the ones provided the Japanese, the Chinese and the European Countries. The standards will help project charging stations as a feasible model for the public as well as private modes of transport.
B) &nbs p; Spatial planning of EV charging infrastructure: Optimal locations for EV charging installations will change according to the type of equipment in use. For example, long-duration charging may be a good match for home or workplace locations, but is generally not recommended for shorter duration parking areas, such as grocery stores, commercial establishments, etc. The process for installing EV charging at a particular location will depend on the property ownership and type of land use. Availability of power, constructability, environmental conditions, barriers or mounting options, signs and markings to designate sites and restrict the use and suitability are the attributes to be looked at.
On similar lines, amendments have also been made to the URDPFI Guidelines 2014 (Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation Guidelines) to make provisions for and ensure smooth accommodation of EV public charging stations within the urban setting.
Considering that the optimal locations for EV charging infrastructure in most cities with a tight land supply are difficult to obtain, it is significant to assess carefully, the planning of these sites in metros. Utilizing existing space within crowded cities is key here. This being said, if cities wish to reap the vast benefits of the shift to EVs and improve public health and quality of life, they will need to plan for the dramatic expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
What is the immediate requirement?
We need to prepare a master list of locations within the city and connecting highways, where the charging infrastructure for public as well as private modes of transport will be set up.
Regulating how land is used in a community is one of the most powerful tools that the local government has. On the infrastructure side, the states can use its zoning laws to allow extension of the electricity grid, installation of charging infrastructure, vehicle parking, and the creation of charging hubs.
The building bylaws can be used to permit charging points in existing construction and encourage or require it in new construction. Town and Country Planning Organization, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, GoI has made amendments in the Model Building Byelaws 2016 (MBBL – 2016) to make provisions for ‘Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure’ / Public Charging Stations (PCS) in urban areas.
Finally design and collaboration matters
However, we must bear in mind that ‘design’ matters. Bad charging station design can deter EV adoption rather than stimulate it. Good station design can help make it highly visible, easy to access, pleasant to sit at, and unlikely to be blocked by other vehicles. Working such features into EV charging station regulations and plans in cities can ensure that we move EV adoption forward.
It is important that governments and the private sector coordinate their deployment activities to ensure that convenient, affordable, and reliable public cha rging infrastructure is available to all EV drivers. There is still much more work to do. All including the centre, the states, the public level bodies and the private sector have to join hands to develop a robust charging infrastructure network.