Buying an EV? Check If Your Electrical Grids Can Handle It

By Debarati Dasgupta Mon, 15 Jul 2019
Buying an EV? Check If Your Electrical Grids Can Handle It

Buying an EV? Check If Your Electrical Grids Can Handle It

Automakers and governments across the world have invested billions of dollars to develop battery-electric vehicles, having committed their future economic, social and environmental goals to the advancement of this technology.

For instance, Kerala’s electric vehicle policy has set an ambitious target to introduce one million EVs on the roads across the state by 2022. A pilot fleet of 3,000 buses, 100 ferries, two-lakh two-wheelers, 50,000 three-wheelers, and 1,000 goods carriers are planned as part of this. Not just the states, but even the Government of India has decided to waive registration charges for electric vehicles. The draft notification was issued to amend the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989. According to the Ministry of Road and Highways, battery-operated vehicles will be excused from the payment of fees for issue or renewal of registration certificate and assignment of the new registration mark.

However, before we roll along with this ambitious plan, we need to ask ourselves an important question – how well-prepared are our electrical outlets that will fulfil this dream?

India will need a serious overhaul of its power grids to be able to provide dedicated capacity for the EV industry. For that, the government will need to push special initiatives for the sector. According to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report, India has only over 350 public EV chargers compared with around 57,000 petrol pumps. Compare this to China which had over 200,000 charging points by the end of 2016.

According to another report, by 2030 a city like Delhi might require around 300,000 fast chargers, presuming a 30% EV penetration into an estimated car parc (number of cars or vehicles in a given area) of 10 million. An EV with a daily commuting distance of 30–40 km needs 6-8 kWh of energy, equivalent to the daily power needs of a small household. This will undoubtedly put immense pressure on existing electric grids, which is already under stress due to power theft, pilferage, and huge subsidies to certain industries and even consumers.

Financially, too, the solution doesn’t seem very feasible. A report by the Ola Mobility Institute, the company’s research wing for mobility solutions, says that “although the cost of electricity shrunk significantly post the implementation of special EV tariff in October 2018, it continues to be unfavourable for the economics to work.”

For commercial EVs, a lot of the electricity will have to be sourced from our overburdened power grids. Moreover, it still won’t be 100% clean energy, since the power currently being generated is through the coal (which again is a scarce resource).

All these challenges present an opportunity for companies and the government improve their financial strength, plug leaks, and integrate power generation from renewable sources with conventional grids to meet the power demand for EVs. They will have to prioritize and incentivize the modernization of India’s electrical infrastructure, otherwise, all the work on electric vehicles that the auto industry has completed will be for nothing.

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