Bigger problem in India is not installing EV charging stations, but finding them: Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Charzer

Bigger problem in India is not installing EV charging stations, but finding them: Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Charzer

Despite India aiming to take a significant lead in global zero-emission mobility drive, the number of EV charging station installation in the country is only 0.1% in the world. Several startups are taking the lead in the growth of this segment. What are the challenges faced by them? How are they trying to overcome those challenges?

As electric vehicles are witnessing slow but steady growth in the Indian market with every passing month, the requirement for a strong EV charging infrastructure too is growing. As it is said by PWC in a report, the ‘On-the-go’ charging is key to the growth of electric vehicles and electric mobility. The EV charging stations in India are scattered, and only available in metro cities or urban areas.

India has not so far standardized the requirements around private or public electric vehicle charging infrastructure and instead has allowed numerous charging connector standards for fast chargers to be utilized by the automakers. This means that EV charging stations may provide one, a few, or all its connector options to the electric vehicle users on a common board or kiosk.

As the Indian EV market is nascent and utilization of green vehicles is low, most of the network operators find the economic situation challenging, and seek to be paid through the utility or government without regard to utilization. However, according to experts, utilization is not always necessary to be the best metric to gauge success. An alternative metric could be the ratio of the EV charging stations to the number of EVs in the applicable geographic region.

Among the one million public EV charging stations installed around the world, about 0.1%, are in India. For a country that is aiming to increase its EV adoption to 30% by 2030, the network of EV charging stations needs to be ramped up exponentially. Along with government agency like EESL and few automakers, several startups are taking the lead in the expansion of EV charging station network across the country through different business models. One such startup is Charzer that is aiming to expand the EV charging station network through its business model that aims to make the Kirana (small shop) shop owners become the aggregator, while it will provide the device and app support.

Autofintechs spoke with Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Co-Founder, Charzer, where he describes the challenges of the EV charging station ecosystem in India, the startup’s business model, expansion strategy etc.

Edited excerpts below.

EVs cannot become a mainstream transportation option until we have an extensive public charging infrastructure.

The EV charging network in India is too scarce and not available in an organized manner. How do you see the scenario shaping up by 2025?

We have been in the EV domain with our previous startup FAE Bikes since 2016 even when EV wasn’t a buzzword. Though clean mobility is slowly gaining momentum, there are a number of hurdles in the way of faster adoption. Range anxiety is one of them. EVs cannot become a mainstream transportation option until we have an extensive public charging infrastructure.

Over the last few years, there has been a growing focus on improving the charging infrastructure. There is a significant change in the perception of using sustainable mobility options, both among the general public as well as the government. Efforts like incentivising EV, introducing new policies, campaigns and initiatives by private companies are playing a catalytic role in promoting the adoption of electric vehicles.

However, one of the main concerns lies in the lack of easily available charging infrastructure. Though there are a number of players who are working towards this, there are significant gaps that are limiting the industry from thriving.

In 2020, 7.3 million chargers have been installed globally, out of this 6.5 million were private.

~ IEA

Q. What do you think are the challenges ahead of the development of EV charging infrastructure?

As per an IEA report, in 2020, 7.3 million chargers have been installed globally, out of this 6.5 million were private, light-duty vehicles, slow chargers in homes, workspaces and multi-dwelling buildings. This shows the need for public charging infrastructure across the world.

Now compare this number with the growing number of EV owners in India. We would require at least 1 charging station per 3 km radius to provide for a densely populated country like ours. This is a humongous challenge altogether, the problem of space, let alone cost, is a crucial one to solve. There are charging stations available at big petrol pumps or they have been randomly installed at open spaces. The true challenge is to help EV owners find the nearest station.

Although the growth in charging stations is an incentive for people to buy electric vehicles, the numbers are not enough to fulfil the growing needs of the EV population. Many charging companies are tying up with petrol pumps to bridge the gap, but the overall penetration leaves something to be desired. The bigger problem here is not installing charging stations, but finding them. People are relying on petrol pumps, but there is no guarantee that every pump will have a charging device installed. The shortage of space is the biggest roadblock that the EV industry is facing in a country like India. Building a robust infrastructure is going to be a big challenge for the government.

The only solution to this problem is to enable public participation combined with cutting-edge technology. Commercial spaces like Kirana stores, restaurants, hotels, parking zones, malls have under-utilized spaces. Some of the most highly populated areas in Tier-I and Tier-II cities have ample space available for setting up charging stations. The numbers of charging stations that can be installed here would make a huge dent in the mountain of problems that this industry is facing.

People won’t have to worry about their next charge if these public places were equipped with the right charging infrastructure. Solving this problem will accelerate the adoption and help the industry boom.  The more charging stations there are, the more people will come forward to buy an EV. This will in turn help in reducing air pollution and provide the much-needed push for clean mobility.

EV charging station
Left to Right: Yugraj Shukla, Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Dheeraj Reddy.

Q. If you can explain Charzer’s EV charging business model for our readers.

A host has to purchase the Kirana Charzer from us and it will be made visible on the Charzer app. We are selling Kirana Charzer at Rs 15,000. We take a 20% margin on the transactions that happen through our platform. Our host can be anyone on the road including Kirana Stores, grocery stores, food joints, restaurants, malls, and any other retail establishments.

An EV owner can download the Charzer app on his phone. The app is a single stop solution for his charging requirements. Using the app, he can locate the nearby charging stations, reserve a slot in advance, navigate, pay-for, and operate the charging stations.

Cost and Revenue model

  • Kirana owners and other small business owners can install a Kirana Charzer for Rs 15,000.
  • A revenue share on charging in the Charzer network ( 80% for Kirana owners and 20% for the company)

Q. If you are trying to partner with Kirana stores for Charzer’s business model, a majority of them are not very accustomed to technology, especially in lower-tier cities. How are you dealing with this challenge?

So far we have not faced any challenges in convincing the Kirana store owners to install the charging station. The response has been very positive. We have made the process of installation and usage extremely simple and easy to use. The charging station has a one-time installation fee of Rs 15,000, works on single-phase electricity connection and can be installed without upgrading existing grid connections.

The EV charging station hosts can set the availability, pricing and get a daily report of power consumed, bookings and earnings through the app. They can also use the ‘withdraw money’ feature to transfer their earnings to a bank account.

By 2022, there will be at least 5.3 Million EVs that require approx. 5,30,000 public EV charging stations in which, more than 95% will be Type 2 AC charging stations.

Q. Can you tell us what would be Charzer’s business expansion strategy in the coming future?

The current number of electric vehicles in India is approx. 1 Million,  out of which around 99.5% of EVs are 2 wheelers and 3-wheelers who are our ideal users for Kirana Charzer. According to global standards, there should be a public charging station for every 10 electric vehicles. According to conservative growth estimates (CAGR of 43.13%), by the end of 2022, there will be at least 5.3 Mn EVs that require approx. 5,30,000 public EV charging stations in which, more than 95% will be Type 2 AC charging stations.

We plan to expand our business through a few strategies.

  • Become an aggregator of all the public charging stations where anyone with any charging station hardware will host in Charzer platform and become “The Public Charging App” for all the electric vehicle users in India. We aim to acquire all the existing charging hosts and manufacturers in India by mid-2021.
  • Become the leader in all sorts of charging hardware including public charging stations, private charging stations (Residential, Workplace etc.)
  • Build a strong Pan-India sales channel for charging stations reaching even small towns and villages of India.
  • Enter the global market and establish a presence in APAC countries, Europe and America.

Also Read: Need for recycling of lithium-ion batteries in India

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