Breaking Down EV Myths in India - Charging

Reading time: 3 minutes
7 August 2020

By Maxson Lewis, Managing Director, Magenta Power – ChargeGrid  

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been in a zone of misconceptions and myths for a while now. The last 100 years of living with gas-guzzling and polluting vehicles have made people think that electric mobility is a far-fetched idea whose time is yet to come. However, we have come to realise that many of these myths are primarily due to the lack of information at best or due to deep-seated biases at worst. This is the first of a series of blogs that attempt to break down EV myths by laying out the truth on electric vehicles, specifically in the Indian context. 

One of the first questions that comes to mind when thinking of EVs is – is EV charging reliable and accessible? Let us explore and unpack some of the popular myths around EV charging:  

Myth #1: India has only recently started to have cutting-edge EV charging technology 

What we have found is that EV charging has been around long enough for it to be tried and tested in India. Unknown to many, the electric vehicle industry in India started with Chetan Maini's brainchild, REVA, in 2001. This was followed by the famous ‘Yo bike’ which was launched in 2006 by Electrotherm India Limited.  

These initiatives were led by the hope that electric mobility would kick off with great flare in India. However, this attention had failed to materialise until recently, when attention on EVs re-emerged. While reasons such as the lack of technical infrastructure or interest by customers were cited for the slow kick-off, one of the major issues was the lack of intent from the Indian government to push the clean mobility revolution until 2017. 

Myth #2: EVs do not have adequate range to be used for everyday travel 

The average Indian travels approximately 16 kilometres on a two-wheeler and 50 kilometres by car every day. The EVs currently available in India with the shortest-range can easily travel more than this number (for both two-wheelers and cars) before needing to be charged. This shows that effectively 60-70% of the daily commute (home to office and office to home) could transition to electric immediately.  

Myth #3: The cost of DC chargers is high, and so the transition to EVs is not practical  

Thinking of charging in the way that we see refuelling ICE vehicles is a mistaken view. Charging typically happens where the vehicle is logically stopped and shouldn’t require one to go out of the way to a dedicated charging station every time one needs to charge. Regular home and destination slow AC charging infrastructure, which has nominal costs, should suffice. Specialised DC/fast charging is required only in the case of highway charging, or commercial charging where vehicle utilization is high and expected vehicle idle time is low. 

Globally 70% of EV charging happens at homes and offices using AC slow charging. A similar trend can be expected for India. The development of robust public charging networks for urban use as well as for highways can make up for charging while on the road. This infrastructure is already underway and will provide a thorough safety net for ‘top-up’ charging requirements.  

Myth #4: EVs are slow machines 

Electric vehicles are, in fact, faster than petrol-powered counterparts. An electric motor generates 100% of its available torque instantly without any lag like in a typical ICE engine. This makes EVs perfect for start-stop city traffic. Most EVs are however speed limited to conserve battery.  

Myth #5: EV chargers have many protocols and I don’t know which to choose 

There are five different DC charging protocols globally and a few more for AC charging. These charging protocols are decided by the EV manufacturers. Global protocols are moving towards merging and reducing the number of protocols - to ensure cost optimisation and efficiency of charging infrastructure.  New technology is also backwards compatible in many cases.  Overall, one would only need to decide the electric vehicle to purchase - the selection of charging protocol would simply follow based on the manufacturer. As adoption increases, the market is moving towards consolidation and is aligning to a single protocol which will become generic anyway. 

Myth #6: Getting an EV charging meter is a long process 

There are several ways to approach EV charging meters. If you want to install an EV charging meter yourself, you can take the benefit of the subsidised rate of electricity from your electricity distribution company (DISCOM). The process is simple - similar to applying for a new meter connection. However, it is important to check available subsidies and packages under state EV policies with your local DISCOM. Alternately, there are several companies that support individuals and companies with these processes. 

What next? 

Exploring these myths brings to focus how close we are to completely transitioning our mobility systems to electric. Any new technology naturally generates doubts or hesitation before mass adoption, as is the case with EVs. However, as we have seen here, we have the information, technology and increasing investment for the EV auto sector to drive market confidence and uptake. Moreover, the recent government move to prioritise electric mobility is giving the market its long-awaited push to kick off.  

What we need now are for early movers to speed up the mass adoption of EVs. The uptake of EVs by prominent businesses in India can be an important push for the EV auto industry. We are already seeing leading businesses such as Wipro, State Bank of India and BSES Yamuna Power take the first steps by committing to transition 100% of their fleet to electric through The Climate Group's EV100 initiative. These companies, as well as incumbents set to join the fray, are leading the charge on generating a high initial demand for EVs as well as charging infrastructure. Moreover, as EVs gain steam, new enterprises with innovative solutions and business models are bound follow fast. 

This article was originally published in ET Energy World.

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