Fixed Charge Waiver for Power Connections to Boost EV Charging Infra: Interview

Government can help by creating a plug-and-play model for EV charging stations


While direct and indirect tax incentives have propelled the growth of electric vehicles in India, the government can augment electricity infrastructure to ensure the setup of charging stations smoothly, Awadhesh Kumar Jha, Executive Director at Fortum-Charge and India Drive India, said on the sidelines of Mercom India Renewable Summit 2023.

He added that waiving off fixed charges for power connections could play a pivotal role in the proliferation of charging stations.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

What are your EV charging service offerings currently?

At Fortum, we are setting up the public charging infrastructure primarily for the car segment. We currently have around 472 charging points in 20 cities and 15 states nationwide.

Some examples are DLF Malls in the Delhi-NCR region, Nexus Mall in Bengaluru, and metro stations in Hyderabad. Our main aim is to enable city drivers and fleet users to drive without having any range anxiety.

What advantages do the users have while charging at public places like malls compared to charging at home?  

When you go to a mall, you don’t go there for charging. You go there to spend your time and use the opportunity to also top up your battery juice.

This reduces range anxiety. Also, many users don’t have dedicated parking at home, so they can’t set up a charging infrastructure.

They can go to places where they can spend some time and also charge their vehicles in 30-45 minutes. It’s not the charger that determines how much time it will take to charge a car; it’s the battery.

The original equipment manufacturer determines how long it would take to charge the battery. So, we provide them with a viable alternative.

What is the cost for individual users using your charging stations?  

On our charging stations, the running cost is close to ₹2 (~$0.024)/km for fast charging.

What are your future plans, and how many charging stations do you plan to install in the near future?

The EV space is evolving quickly, and it is hard to target any number. We depend on the number of vehicles being sold in the country.

Last year we targeted 200 charging stations, but the vehicle demand picked up, and we had to double that number. Also, we don’t want to keep our charging stations idle, waiting for the vehicles to come.

Do you plan to have any tie-ups with the government going forward? 

We don’t have any direct partnership with the government and are also not drawing any subsidy from the government.

We plead with the government to enable the regulatory framework so the business can move on. We don’t have any partnership for seeking subsidies and incentives from the government.

What are the regulatory steps the government has taken to foster the growth of EVs in the country?

The best thing the government has done is the imposition of 5% GST on EVs, compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, where it ranges from 29-53%.

Another important step is the incentive for individual buyers. If you buy the vehicle on loan, you will be eligible for a ₹150,000 deduction in the income tax. This would foster the growth of EV sales in the country.

Another significant step is that the state governments have come up with policies under which they provide subsidies for the first 1,000 or 2,000 EVs. This can make a lot of difference in making EVs mainstream.

Also, the government has delicensed the setting up of charging stations. They have created a separate consumer category for charging stations, which is helpful.

What more needs to be done on the regulatory side?

One of the areas which is a cause of concern is the inadequacy of the electricity infrastructure. In most places, we have to augment the capacity, which adds to the infrastructure cost. If the government can create some kind of a plug-and-play model, that would help.

Another concern is the fixed demand charges concept. If you have a 100 kW connection, you will have to pay a fixed charge, which makes the business economically unviable.

The government should wait four to five years until the vehicles become mainstream, and then they can introduce the fixed charges.

In the current scenario, I request that the government lower the fixed charges or keep them in abeyance for the next four to five years.

(Note: Sections of the interview have been paraphrased for better reading. Check out the video for a full chat)