There is an increasing push for adoption of electric vehicles — as fuel prices continue to inch up and also as an environmentally friendlier option. But what are the issues EV users face?

Ather 450Ather EV scooter
Money EV Friday, October 22, 2021 - 16:50

Vish Ganti, an electric vehicle (EV) two-wheeler user in Bengaluru, faced a rather bizarre situation recently when he was forced to take his EV scooter to the fifth floor of his apartment complex for charging. This, because the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) allegedly refused to give permission to install an EV charging point in the parking bay of his complex. 

In a post about the incident, he wrote that his apartment community wouldn't let him install an EV charging point, and he had been trying to convince them to let him do so for the past four months. He decided to take his vehicle to his home and charge it in his kitchen. Vish, who is Vice-President & General Manager at AutoGrid India, added a word of caution to other EV owners who were looking to do the same at home, warning that there are real risks from shock and fire. 

There has been an increasing push for the adoption of EVs — as fuel prices continue to inch up and also as an environmentally friendlier option. The Union government’s FAME 2 scheme and subsidies by certain state governments are aimed at making EVs more affordable for buyers. There is a market for these EV vehicles as well, with more manufacturers entering the Indian market and several automobile companies now investing in building an EV division.

However, what does it actually mean on the ground for the people who buy and use these vehicles? What are the issues they face?

Lack of regulations, infrastructure

Speaking to TNM about the incident, Vish says one of the problems EV owners face is a lack of charging points in apartment buildings, calling it a systemic issue. “The problem is there are no regulations that mandate apartments to prioritise EV charging. When you approach the apartment RWAs, they basically say there are no regulations. ‘You are only the second guy in the apartment (to have an EV) so we cannot do something for you’. But in the next year, there might be 10 of me, so what do you do? You can’t basically keep saying the same thing," he says.

Chennai-based Dr Balakrishna Shankar, who uses EV scooters, points out that there’s a lot of hype around EV mobility but infrastructure-wise there is no preparation. 

“One of the basic challenges is that some of the plug points that we have in our house are not suitable to use to charge the electric scooter and we have to buy an adapter. The other issue is to do with how much electricity the battery consumes,” he says.  

There is no clarity on battery replacement, charging point costs either. “As of now, the charging cost gets added to the electricity bill, so we don’t know how much is going specifically for EV charging since in flats the external plug point comes under the common maintenance charges,” he says.  

Servicing an EV vehicle is a challenge as well, adds Dr Shankar because there are not enough trained mechanics to handle such vehicles. Further, he says that private financiers are not ready to finance an EV because they are not sure about the depreciation /resale value of the e-scooter. 

Another EV user in Bengaluru, Aneesh Sharma feels there is a need for more charging stations since the number of EV scooters on the road requires infrastructure to be set up on a larger scale. 

The way forward

On how to address the issue of lack of charging points, Vish says that if it’s a new building under construction, then from the design perspective, charging spots should be included at different locations within the complex and in the cost of the building. That actually would promote the adoption of EVs more and accelerate the process. 

However, the problem is really for the existing buildings, he adds. “We could have this option where if they have common EV charging meters, you could charge it and it would just get added to your maintenance bill,” he says.

Nilay Chandra, Director, Charging infrastructure, Ather Energy, says the biggest impediment to EVs is the lack of awareness of the need for a home charging network in apartments.

“Most consumers’ knowledge extends to only the 4-wheeler charging equipment and they feel that it can only be put in a common area and needs a lot of space, whereas a two-wheeler home charging system is just like a 5 Amp plug point. So, it can actually get installed at distributed points in an apartment complex. But I think awareness around this is not something that apartment complexes, management committees and owners in general have,” he says.

Speaking to TNM, an industry insider says there are certain legislations that are already in place by the Union government for making sure that buildings have charging infrastructure, however, the challenge is the whole process of NoCs (No Objection Certificates) and this is where the issue arises. “While there is intent from the government to allow people to set up charging points at their residence, the problem is societies are run by society bylaws and it has not somehow percolated down. These are teething challenges in the quest of going EV.”

Nilay adds that India is right up there when it comes to the speed of adoption of EVs. “Over the next 5-6 years, we see penetration of around 40-45% in the scooter category. At an overall level, maybe India will probably move to 15-20% which is going after the goal that the government has set for itself to get to 50-60% overall electrification by 2030,” he says.

However, for that to happen, the infrastructure and environment have to be conducive for owning EVs. 

“If you become the barrier for early adopters, and we are in Bengaluru that is considered the tech capital, then think about everywhere else, what kind of problems people will face there,” adds Vish. 

The two-wheeler that Vish ended up carrying to the fifth floor was an Ather scooter. According to him, Ather’s CEO Tarun Mehta reached out to him and sent a team to speak to the RWA. He adds that they have finally agreed to install common charging points in the apartment and Ather said they will install them for free. 

In the meantime, he continues to charge his Ather scooter in his kitchen.