Opinion: Open collaboration is the key to faster EV charging ecosystem growth in India – ET Auto



Charging infrastructure in India has also grown significantly over the past 3 years. It might surprise most Indians to know that EV chargers already outnumber CNG stations in the country.

An EV revolution is sweeping through India, the 4th country after China, USA and Germany, with over 2 million battery electric vehicles on the road, including 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers. In 4 wheelers, India is looking at a total industry volume of over 100,000 EVs in FY24, more than 10x from 3 years ago.

The government’s clear intent to leverage EVs to address urban pollution, drive towards net zero, and enable India to become a global EV manufacturing hub, has created a strong momentum towards EVs across the entire auto industry. Indian car buyers have also emerged as among the most positively disposed towards EVs in the world, with a whopping 70% of tier-1 car buyers willing to consider EVs as their next car. In short, India is now a global hotspot for EV adoption.

EV chargers

Charging infrastructure in India has also grown significantly over the past 3 years. It might surprise most Indians to know that EV chargers already outnumber CNG stations in the country. As of November 2023, India has over 7,000 public chargers versus approximately 6,000 CNG stations. Charging infra is also widespread – 85% of national highways have at least one charger in a 100 km stretch and in most metros, there is an 80% probability of finding a charger within a 4 km radius.

In addition to public chargers, there are nearly 70,000 private home chargers, serving over 90% of EV charging requirements. It is no wonder that 75% of the EV owners use their EVs as their primary car, and several enthusiastic EV owners have already done cross-country trips that hardly anyone would even attempt with ICE vehicles. It is also a fact that charging infra in India should further evolve to meet the needs of the median auto buyer.

Though nascent, India’s charging infra ecosystem is vibrant with dozens of Charge Point Operators (CPOs) – including electricity distribution companies (Discoms), fuel retail companies, global energy players, auto OEMs, and ambitious startups. Combined, these players intend to drive India’s charging infra multifold to over 22,000 chargers by FY 2024. In this highly competitive market, charging infra players are innovating technology, business models and customer experience to discover competitive edges that would ultimately benefit EV owners.

While robust competition in the charging infra space will unlock great value for EV owners in the medium-term, it constrains charging infra growth and user experience in the near-term as each player hopes to ringfence their own turf. A few symptoms of these near-term constraints include poor discoverability of chargers, complex digital journeys, uneven customer experience, and poor RoI for CPOs. To a neutral party, it would be clear that the current constraints are a direct result of knowledge gaps and limited cross-compatibility within the broader EV ecosystem.

Open collaboration

EVs and charging infra have a symbiotic relationship. It is in the Interest of EV players and EV owners alike to maximize charging infra growth. In this context, auto OEMs have a collaborative role to play in the development of charging infra, without interfering with the competition between individual charging players. An “open collaboration” approach would bridge knowledge gaps and drive greater compatibility, without affecting competition.

Open collaboration would entail sharing of insights that would enable CPOs deploy chargers where the customers are asking for it, and co-development of protocols that make systems compatible for EV owners across the country. Lessons from countries with high EV adoption show that the EV charging infra space will remain fragmented even in the long-run, and thus, this level of compatibility and interoperability are vital for the sustenance of CPOs.

The stakeholders for charging infra also include state governments, municipalities, Residents Welfare Associations of housing societies, owners of large commercial premises, mall operators, parking lot operators, real estate developers and more. Open collaboration can create frameworks for advocacy and drive action across stakeholders, which no individual player alone can manage effectively at the scale that is needed. Thus, open collaboration can also create new opportunities for CPOs and OEMs.

Tata Motors has kick-started a journey of open collaboration with multiple leading CPOs, by sharing insights from over 100k EVs on Indian roads to identify hotspots for charging installation, and by helping create common protocols for discovery and payment processes. All other charging infra players are welcome to join this movement with the intent to grow the EV ecosystem in India, and to accelerate our nation’s path to zero emissions.

In conclusion, charging infra is a critical enabler for the growth of EVs in India, to enable India to reach its potential as a major EV hub. India’s vibrant charging infra ecosystem should come together in the spirit of open collaboration to address the existing constraints and accelerate the growth of charging infra in the country. Doing so will accelerate India’s path towards net zero emissions, while creating a thriving EV ecosystem that benefits EV owners, auto OEMs and CPOs alike.

(Disclaimer: Balaje Rajan is Chief Strategy Officer at Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles and Tata Passenger Electric Mobility. Views are personal.)

  • Published On Dec 27, 2023 at 01:44 PM IST

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Opinion: Open collaboration is the key to faster EV charging ecosystem growth in India - ET Auto



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