India's latest investment in EV charging infrastructure could help spur more sales of cars like the Tata Nexon, the country's top-selling electric vehicle.
One of the biggest hurdles to electric vehicle ownership is the limited charging infrastructure in much of the world. In an ambitious plan, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) plans to add an electric vehicle charging station every 40 to 60 kilometers. With over 40,000 kilometers of national highways, that’s nearly 700 chargers total. This action could help further EV sales and have a ripple effect on the industry.
In an interview with ThePrint, NHAI Chairman Giridhar Aramane said the agency plans to add other roadside amenities as well. “We amended the concession agreement for the wayside amenities to include electric vehicle charging facilities also. Besides, there will be a restaurant, toilets, drivers’ resting rooms, and petrol and diesel dispensing machines, etc.”
The NHAI is taking proposals for these projects, Aramene said: “We have bid out 100 wayside amenities and got a tremendous response. Each wayside amenity has received at least six [or] seven bids. Once the bids are awarded, [the work] will take six months to complete.”
Electric vehicle sales in India more than tripled from April 1 to September 30 of this year, with 118,000 units sold. Although this is a relatively modest figure given the size of the Indian market, it does show considerable growth in that period. At the same time, a significant semiconductor shortage has hindered the sales of internal combustion vehicles.
Experts attribute the growth in sales to various factors, including government incentives, expanding charging infrastructure, falling battery prices and outreach by manufacturers. In 2019, the Indian government announced it would lower the goods and services tax on EVs from 12 percent to 5 percent.
In addition, the consumer base is getting wider, whereas in years past it was primarily businesses purchasing EVs. “With better awareness and acceptance for EVs, there is traction even from the rural markets in the non-commercial segment too,” Sulajja Firodia Motwani, CEO of Kinetic Green Energy and Power Solutions, told the Economic Times, an Indian publication.
The top-selling electric vehicle in India is the Tata Nexon, an SUV and one of two EVs that the Indian automaker Tata Motors manufactures. Tata Motors has aggressive plans in the EV market and recently announced raising $2 billion from private equity firm TPG to further pursue electric vehicles.
"The aim is to lead the EV charge in the market," Shailesh Chandra, head of Tata Motors' passenger vehicles business, told Reuters. She added that to achieve this, the company will work with investors focused on a "carbon-free world."
Tata Motors plans to release 10 new battery electric vehicle models by 2025, said Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran. “In India, EV penetration in our portfolio has now doubled to 2 percent this year, and we expect the penetration to increase exponentially in the coming years. Tata Motors will lead this change in the Indian market,” he said while addressing shareholders in the annual report for FY 21.
A booming EV market relies on several key factors converging and is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Consumers want a reliable charging infrastructure to ensure they can travel without too many constraints. Government incentives help offer price parity with internal combustion engines, furthering EV sales.
Yet an investment in a charging infrastructure seems illogical if there isn’t a certain amount of EVs on the road. This makes India's plans to develop a national highway charging corridor very appealing for the future of the EV market and the clean transportation movement.
Image credit: Tata Motors
Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.