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E-car charging at pump to rev up green future

February 23, 2013 10:10 IST

The government plans to leverage the distribution network of oil marketing companies (OMCs) to set up charging stations for electric vehicles. The aim is to launch a number of charging points at OMC outlets across the country over the next two years. This, the government hopes, will increase consumer confidence and provide greater acceptability for electric cars.

The programme being outlined under the aegis of the ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises is part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 to put on road six-seven million electric cars and two-wheelers by 2020.

Electric car manufacturer Mahindra’s Reva sells around 20-25 units every month. It sold 700 units in 2011-12. Sales have fallen due to the withdrawal of subsidies for electric cars.

In India, auto majors such as Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors have announced plans to introduce electric-powered vehicles on introduction of a clear policy by the government to promote such cars.

A senior official in the department of heavy industries said: “To increase acceptance of electric and hybrid vehicles, it is crucial to build consumer confidence through creation of requisite infrastructure. In every city where there is a sizeable population of electric vehicles (EVs), we will provide charging points following a grid pattern. OMCs can set up charging infrastructure. It is an economically viable proposition.”

He added that the details of the investment required for setting up the charging infrastructure for EVs will be frozen over the next two months. “We are also developing a model through which we can use renewable energy for charging EVs. We can set up solar panels at charging stations and charge the cars without eating into the electricity supply. In the next one-two years, these public charging stations would be put in place”, added the official.

Currently, the three state-owned OMCs, Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation together have 42,000 petrol pumps operational across India. At a later stage, the government might also permit private entrepreneurs to put in place charging stations for EVs on lines similar to operations of the erstwhile public call offices.

Overall, the government has earmarked an investment of around Rs 12,250-13,850 crore (Rs 122.5 billion - Rs 138.5 billion) to create infrastructure and promote the use of environment friendly electric vehicles in the country over the next eight years. The investments will be made under four heads for demand generation, research and development works, infrastructure creation and provision of subsidies to support sales of electric vehicles.

Individual schemes would be announced in the next few months.

Another ministry official said, “The operating costs of an electric vehicle are one-third of that of a petrol car. For a petrol car, which costs around Rs 500,000, the cost of an EV is Rs 750,000. If we assume that a car is driven 10,000-12,000 km every year, it would take six years for a consumer to recover costs on an electric vehicle. We are planning to reduce the recovery period to half at three years. The exact amount of the subsidy provided by the government is being worked out and will be finalised by April.”

The industry, in the meantime, will invest to develop products and create a manufacturing ecosystem to realise the National Mission for Electric Mobility. According to a study done by Booz-Allen, investments of up to Rs 45,000 crore (Rs 450 billion) are required to be made till 2020 to set up manufacturing capacities for hybrid and electric vehicles.

In recent times, many countries have been upping investments to promote the use of environment-friendly vehicles in light of growing global pollution. While France aims to invest close to $400 million to bring on-road two million battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, Japan has planned investments of $250 million for two million EVs by 2025.

Image: A woman touches a cord charging an electric car. | Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

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Sharmistha Mukherjee in New Delhi