By Deepsekhar Choudhury
Slow adoption of electric vehicles (EV) is often seen as a Catch 22 situation: which problem to remedy first – sale of EVs or the lack of charging infrastructure? Recently, the Delhi government came out with an EV policy to promote large-scale EV adoption even as the city grapples with rising pollution levels. Apart from subsidies for the purchase of electric two-, three- and four- wheelers, the government will also subsidise EV chargers up to Rs6,000.
One startup trying to solve the problem of EV charging is Delhi-based EVI Technologies. Founded by IIT-Delhi alumni in 2017, it recently raised Rs1.5 crore in funding from an investing arm of auto parts supplier Napino. The startup has two products—a battery for electric two- and three-wheelers and a charging point which can be set up at both public places and homes. EVI’s battery is swappable, meaning an EV can use it by paying Rs1.5 for every unit of charge. The charger costs Rs6,000 and can be purchased free of cost in Delhi now as the state government’s subsidy is pegged at the same amount. The company charges Rs100 per month for management and upkeep of the same.
Founders Vikrant Aggarwal and Rupesh Kumar at first had set out to start an EV spare parts company. But they soon realised that the EV charging space was ripe with the central government’s push towards electric mobility. Kumar says that on a study trip to Germany in 2016 he picked up the nuances of EV charging protocols and technology standardisation. By mid 2017, the company was ready with its tailor-made charger for Indian conditions.
“You can’t just import or mimic the EV charging infrastructure from another country. For instance, India’s temperature conditions are different which impacts how the batteries work here,” says Kumar. The temperature difference also affects how fast an EV can be charged. EV chargers can be categorised into two types – AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current). In India, it can’t be done faster than around one hour even for the more-efficient second kind. The startup has more than 200 charging points in 16 cities across the country. Some of these are in rural areas of Chhattisgarh and the hills of Shimla. While 60% of these chargers are the fast DC type, 40% are the slow AC ones.
The cost of setting up a public charging station is Rs25 lakh-Rs90 lakh as land prices can drive up costs. Even though GST on EV charging was slashed to 5% from the earlier 18%, pick up has been slow.
Kumar says that there has been a gradual technology standardisation in low category EVs as the battery size and voltage specifications have become uniform even without government intervention. This has attracted several players to the nascent sector such as Delta Electronics and Exicom. Aether Energy has set up charging points for its own electric scooters.