The National Capital at present has more than 70 EV charging stations, but how many are operational? We visit a few of these stations for answers.
- The electric 4-wheeler segment is still growing with a handful of options available.
- The charging infrastructure requires special attention, planning, and strategy.
- While manufacturers provide home chargers, chances are you will rely more on public charging stations in your city than the one installed at the residence.
Due to the rising pollution and the increasing provision of financial incentives by the government, the sale of electric vehicles is booming in India. Out of 1.56 lakh electric vehicles sold in FY20, 1.52 lakh were two-wheelers, 3,400 cars and 600 were buses.
The growing sale of electric 2-wheelers is driven by the availability of a wide array of models in the country, their affordable prices, and their ability to serve as excellent alternatives to the traditional fossil fuel-powered mopeds.
Similar is the case with electric 3-wheelers. However, the electric 4-wheeler segment is still growing with a handful of options available, but the fact that there’s at least one option for every Rs 10 lakh, as well as the increasing year-on-year sales only resonates with the increasing faith in these products.
The point that I am trying to make here is very obvious. EVs are the in-thing today. Yet, many believe they are expensive and a maintenance nightmare, but in the longer scheme of things, it is an investment that benefits you from the first month of ownership.
It has fewer moving parts than your conventional car, so trips to the mechanics will be fewer, and fuel stops will be a thing of the past. A customary check-up of an EV takes less than an hour, and to curb range anxiety, newer cars offer fast charging which juices up the battery within a few minutes. But for the industry to survive, the charging infrastructure requires special attention, planning, and strategy.
While manufacturers provide home chargers, chances are you will rely more on public charging stations in your city than the ones installed at your residence.
At present, the Central Government is focused on research, development, and consumer incentives, while state governments support the infrastructure locally. EESL, an energy service company of the Government of India, installed a total of 172 public charging stations in the Delhi- NCR region, of which, 89 chargers have been commissioned.
The capital alone has 71 charging stations spread across its 1,484 km2 area, so we decided to test a few of these charging stations. We compiled a list of 8 charging stations in South Delhi and parts of the Central Delhi region. Few of these charging stations are located at places with a high influx of the populace as well as vehicles throughout the day.
We decided to locate these stations, charge our long-term Hyundai Kona Electric for a certain amount of time and gain the first-hand experience of these public charging stations before moving on to the next location.
Akin to fuel pumps, locating EV charging stations in and around the city is more trouble-free today than the initial day’s thanks to the ElectreeFi app, developed by EESL. Locations of active chargers can be accessed through the mobile app and are compatible with both Android and iOS devices.
We started from some of the busiest streets of Sarojini Market to Yashwant Place, and NDMC market in Malcha Marg, to even the high-street Chelmsford Club on Raisina Road, continuing to Akashwani Bhavan, and Palika Kendra, then to Safdarjung Enclave, before retiring at the commercial centre of Connaught Place.
A quick search on the ElectreeFi app revealed most stations are equipped with a single charging unit, so finding it free would be a matter of luck. After punching in the first location on the Kona’s 7-inch touchscreen via Android Auto, we moved towards Sarojini Market, which is about 15 minutes from our start location at Safdarjung Enclave.
The area was in frenzy for the most part of the day, but as we arrived at our destination, we spotted a Mahindra e-Verito already juicing up with 45 minutes left to free the spot, so we headed for the next location, which was about a 1.5km away at Yashwant Place.
Much to our relief, the only charging spot was free. However, the station was not in operation, so we promptly moved to the next location at Malcha Marg, near NDMC market, about 3km away, but were instead greeted by two cars blocking the path to the station.
After loitering around in hopes of someone moving the wrongly parked vehicles, we made our way to Chelmsford Club on Raisina Road, which is at walking distance from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The charging stations here happen to be India’s first public charging plaza that can charge 14 e-cars simultaneously. Located on an extended curb, the layout was pretty self-explanatory, and much to our relief, the area had a separate path for pedestrians which left us with sufficient room to slip on the Kona.
Once parked, we accessed the ElectreeFi app and followed the mentioned steps to pre-book our spot for a 20-minute charge. A soft beep and incessant vibration on the app indicates the end of the stipulated time.
We unplugged the Kona with an additional 28 per cent charge over the initial 40 per cent on the plug-in, consuming 8 units, which cost us Rs 80, at Rs 10 per unit, was enough for us to drive to our next locations. The process was hassle-free, and the app worked seamlessly.
After our first taste of success, we decided to explore the accessibility of the remaining locations. Next up was Akashwani Bhavan, which again shared its reserved spot with a cluster of two-wheelers. The story was completely different at Palika Kendra and Connaught Place. The area doubles up as a nightlife and tourist destination apart from being a commercial hub, which meant that charging spots were occupied by either four- or two-wheelers. The one at Safdarjung Enclave, however, is well-maintained and operational.
After spending the day doing the rounds of these charging stations, we realized that electric mobility in India is at an embryonic stage, and in spite of the government’s guidelines, signal, and significant monetary support, the EV market development remains on a bumpy road.
Lack of accessible and operational charging stations is one of the primary reasons why customers often refrain from purchasing EVs. However, India has a lot to gain by converting its ICE vehicles to EVs at the earliest.
Its oil-import bill would be considerably reduced, and the alternative will definitely improve air quality. What this industry needs is a policy change that encourages access to the latest technologies and a concerted effort by the Indian automobile industry to compete with the global competition in developing sustainable charging infrastructure.Live TV