Keeping in view the growing preference towards electric vehicles (EVs), Praveer Sinha, Chief Executive and Managing Director of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (a joint venture between Tata Power and the Delhi government), details how the company plans to set up 1,000 charging stations across its operational areas in Delhi over the next four-five years.
What are the focus areas of Tata Power-DDL regarding electric vehicles?
Electric vehicles are the key to a sustainable future. Shifting to them will solve several problems such as air pollution, reduction in oil import, reduction in carbon footprint and so on. Plus, it is economical. As the Indian government and its top think tank National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog are working on a policy for promoting EVs, they are certainly going to encourage and promote electric-powered mobility in the future. So, we are focussing on creating the necessary charging infrastructure and upgrading the network to meet the enhanced load due to the induction of electric vehicles. We are looking to provide an adequate infrastructure for EV transportation. As the numbers of electric vehicles increase, we aim to come up with distribution network upgrades and capacity additions to handle large charging loads at peak hours. We are working closely with all stakeholders, including automobile companies, battery manufacturers, regulators, the government, municipal corporations and consumers to develop an ecosystem for the same.
How do you plan to act as a game changer in this field?
We are planning to instal around 1,000 charging stations by 2021-22 to support the growth of electric vehicles in the National Capital Region (NCR). We are already in talks with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), shopping malls, commercial complex owners, office complexes and even residential blocks to set up electric charging stations in their parking lots. Parking lots are going to be one of the best places to provide this service. The revenue model for setting up these facilities on their land has not been decided yet. But we are ready to experiment with any arrangement, be it a partnership or a franchisee model.
Tata Power-DDL is also developing an end-to-end solution that will encourage consumers to opt for EVs. Besides charging infrastructure, we will ensure 24x7 quality power supply and time-of-day (ToD) tariff structure to incentivise off-peak charging. Then there will be web-based mobile applications offering multiple services such as locating charging stations, booking a slot, making payment, and providing customer support, billing data and analytics. One of the major cost components is battery and to tackle that, we are also looking at a battery leasing model, which will be cost effective for consumers.
Considering the increasing numbers of e-rickshaws in Delhi, we intend to provide them legalised connections and incentivise them through a unique business proposition. We are also evaluating collaborations with fleet operators. We see a huge potential in demand growth from distribution utility's perspective. We are also undertaking a study to develop a network planning model to mitigate grid-related challenges.
To demonstrate our leadership in EV usage, we propose to replace our operation's fleet with electric vehicles. We have already deployed EVs to our maintenance fleet that includes 60 e-scooters and eight e-rickshaws.
What about your exposure to EV so far?
We have set up five charging stations on a pilot basis to see what kinds of vehicles come and what kind of charging load is required. The aim of the project is to analyse the demand to prepare the infrastructure better. Today, consumers are sceptical about the viability of EVs due to the lack of support/charging infrastructure. We believe that more and more consumers will opt for those when the government provides financial and non-financial incentives. We have also deployed electric-powered vehicles - both two-wheelers and e-rickshaws - as part of our maintenance fleet. We have also provided free pick-and-drop service from metro stations during the second phase of the odd-even car restriction in Delhi.
Now that you have deployed EVs for the maintenance fleet, is there any plan to expand the fleet and operations?
Till now we have rolled out 60 electric vehicles. These include 60 e-scooters and eight e-rickshaws. In congested city areas, electric-powered scooters help people reach their destinations faster as they can be easily manoeuvred and parked without disturbing the traffic movement. These scooters can also travel to areas where cars and trucks are not allowed. We have deployed dedicated e-rickshaws to help carry out maintenance activities in the rural areas. We may increase their numbers in the coming months.
What are the key challenges you face while expanding the charging infrastructure? Are you roping in any key department/ministry/DMRC?
The key limitation is the high cost, which can be taken care of by standardising the chargers and achieving economies of scale. But initially, you need to look at the viability of fast chargers. Another challenge is the lack of regulations and tariffs to incentivise consumers to opt for outdoor charging. Tariff of charging electric vehicles is still classified as non-domestic. It means commercial rates of Rs 8 and Rs 9 (for non-peak and peak hours, respectively) are applicable. It is one of the reasons why the response has not been encouraging. We are now in talks with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Central government and Delhi government so that they would come up with a reasonable tariff. Unless that happens, people will not come to charging stations.
In line with the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) have set up an Inter-Ministerial Technology Advisory Group (IM-TAG), which has been split into several groups. Tata Power-DDL is heading the group that is developing low-voltage charging infrastructure, including device and hardware development for the charging station, software development and communication protocol and grid development.
Which international model will be most suitable for India to make electric mobility successful?
Oslo (Norway) has the maximum share of EV with more than 2,400 charge points and about 130 fast chargers per million people. That is a very extensive charging network. It also offers several incentives such as zero tax for purchase and import, 50 per cent reduction in company car taxes, free municipal parking and free electricity for normal charging. It has also taken extensive action to strengthen public transit and fleets in the city. All these can make a huge difference in the existing market mix in India, where there is a strong need to incentivise EV and related infrastructure.
What changes will you incorporate into the grid to meet the growing demand for EV charging?
You need to create an electric network backbone and infrastructure to develop the charging infrastructure. For instance, a fast-charging vehicle would require 8-20 kilowatt (kW) of power while a slower one would require 2-3 kW. Now, say, if a fast-charging vehicle requires 10 kW of power and 500 vehicles need to be charged, you need to have 5 megawatt (MW) of power. Similarly, if there is a bus depot, a typical bus would require a 100 kW connection. If 100 buses need to be charged, you would require 10 MW of power. For all similar requirements, we need to design the electrical network, along with the IT support, to manage and monitor the supply being given to the station in real time. The data from the station will also make sure that the charging does not affect the supply of the balance area and also fulfils the criteria for other consumers.