The Government of India is betting big on electric cars to reduce the country’s fuel import bill, a bill that puts a big strain on the country’s exchequer by increasing the fiscal deficit. The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan(NEMMP) 2020 that was launched earlier this year by the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, has a few ambitious plans to boost electric vehicle penetration in the country. Once such plan involves the setting up of electric car charging points at petrol bunks across the country. Given the fact that the government owned oil marketing companies control most petrol bunks across India through the franchising model, setting up electric car charging infrastructure in these petrol bunks makes a lot of sense.
The Indian government plans to freeze the investment needed for setting up the electric car charging points across the country over the next two months. Also, the charging stations set up by the Indian government could make use of solar energy for the production of electricity that will in turn be used to charge the batteries of electric cars. Given that India is a power starved nation that has plenty of sunny days throughout the year, the idea of using solar power makes eminent sense. The charging stations at petrol bunks are expected to be operational over the next couple of years. The funds for this ambitious electric car charging infrastructure is expected to come from the 13,000-14,0000 crore rupee budget that the government plans to contribute to the NEMMP 2020.
Although the Indian government’s proposal to set up electric car charging stations is laudable, much more needs to be done to make the electric car a viable alternative to the car powered by the internal combustion engine. Charging an electric car’s batteries takes about 5 to 6 hours while charging the batteries to 80% takes about 30 minutes. So, charging outlets at petrol bunks might not be very effective as an electric car owner might not have 30 minutes to spare at the petrol bunk on a daily basis. Therefore, the system of swapping batteries at charging stations would be a more viable alternative, one that has the potential to make the electric cars as practical as petrol/diesel powered ones.