The vehicular traffic mainly depends on use of petrol and diesel derived from fossil fuels. The increasing prices of these fuels caused by decreasing availability of fuels combined with an increasing desire for a more ‘cleaner’ and ‘cheaper’ alternative for these fuels has led us on to explore the possibility and viability of ‘Electric Vehicles’. An electric car does not release any fumes or exhaust because it runs on electricity and thus are considered to be ‘cleaner’. But whether these cars are truly ‘clean’ is a fact that needs to be explored further.
The Indian E-mobility sector is undergoing a rapid growth, especially with driving forces of Ministry of Roads Transport who intend to achieve 100% electrification of vehicles by 2030. Accordingly, the Central Government is planning for multiple action plans like – subsidies on sales of E-vehicles, setting up charging infrastructure, facilitating recycling of vehicles and batteries at the End-Of-Life, to name a few. E-mobility is a massive step forward for the state of Kerala intended at ensuring sustainable development. The recent draft policy has a strong focus on the Electric Vehicle (EV) value chain as well as other associated production and infrastructure.
“Kerala aims at improving air quality, reducing emission of Greenhouse gases, balancing the peak and off-peak power demand, and also believes that it will increase the efficiency and savings for the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) services”
The Electric Vehicle Policy put forward by the Government of Kerala is a noteworthy step, through which “the state wishes to maintain its texture and ensure sustainable development for its people”. Through this EV drive, Kerala aims at improving air quality, reducing emission of Greenhouse gases (GHGs), balancing the peak and off-peak power demand, and also believes that it will increase the efficiency and savings for the KSRTC services.
The State expects that by introduction of electric vehicles – both buses and E-rickshaws, which provide a more comfortable ride will encourage more people to use these transport systems and this will in turn reduce the number of private vehicles on the road. The State plans to ensure the necessary infrastructure including availability of electricity at suitable prices by installing sufficient charging points and providing swappable batteries at suitable stations. The Government also targets to increase the production of electric vehicle components in the State and very ambitiously aims at Electric Vehicle Manufacture within the State. It also aims at setting up Centre of Excellence (CoE) for globally training professionals in the EV industry.
A technical committee “E-Mobility State Level Task Force” (e-MoBSLTF) has been set up to develop and monitor E-mobility in the State and define policies and strategies regarding the same. In addition, a high-level inter-departmental Steering Committee has also been set up for implementation of the EV roadmap and review the progress of the plans.
The E-mobility policy of the State government plans to integrate 1 million EVs on road by 2022, nearly 6,000 E-buses in public transport by 2025 and other necessary financial incentives as well as infrastructure for E-buses and government fleets, all in the purview of supporting shared mobility and clean transportation. The policy is also intended to boost operational efficiency and monetary savings for the public as well as private transport sector. It is also hoped that the new policy will act as a driver for forging and promoting new strategic partnership for hardware and software manufacturing to enable a rapid growth in E-mobility services. The State policy also tries to provide capacity building for all the stake holders and also build world-class training and skill centres for various EV professionals. NITI Aayog, the national Think-tank agency believes that Kerala is the front-runner in manufacturing all items needed for e-mobility while boosting a self-reliant system for the massive growth in the sector.
A SUMMARY OF KERALA ELECTRIC VEHICLE POLICY AND ITS INITIATIVES
Kerala State Electricity Bard Ltd. (KSEBL) and state power Distribution Companies (DISCOM) will be in charge of establishing charging infrastructure in the State. KSEB will be encouraged to set up Bulk Charging Stations and Battery swapping stations either on its own or through public participation. The Government is also exploring the possibility of KSEB setting up Public Charging Stations (PCS) and Bulk Charging Stations (BCS) in government buildings and public spaces. Initially, about 20 PCS, 20 BCS, and 150 swapping stations will be set up in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode for 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers.
“Both new and renovated commercial buildings, residential and non-residential complexes with more than 10 parking spots will compulsorily have EV charging facilities”
Charging facilities with Smart Payment facilities will be provided in public buildings and public parking spaces, and these shall be available to both Government and private vehicles. New commercial complexes, housing societies, residential townships with built up area more than 5000 sq. mts will compulsorily have Public Charging Stations. Non-residential buildings (new or renovated) having more than 10 parking spots, will be required to make atleast 20% of the parking spots with electric charging facility. At the same time, residential buildings (new or renovated) with more than 10 parking spots, will have to make all the parking spots available with electric charging facilities.
“Public Charging Stations and Bulk Charging Stations to be established by KSEB and smart payment facilities will be available. Charging will be cheaper during off-peak hours”
Public Charging stations and Bulk Charging Stations will collect charges based on the Time of the Day. Two and Three Wheelers with swappable batteries which can be charged at BCS will have preference over conventional vehicles with built in batteries. Battery swapping facilities will be provided at charging stations. One charging station is to be provided in a grid of 3km x 3km, and a charging stations along every 25km on side of highways and major roads. Subsidies are planned to be provided for setting up the first 100 charging stations and the first 50 swapping stations upto a maximum of Rs 10 Lakh.
“Atleast one charging station in every 3km x 3km grid and atleast one along every 25km on side of highways”
The State wants to promote and localise E-mobility related manufacturing in the State through the setting up of E-auto manufacturing facilities under Kerala Automobile Ltd. (KAL), productions of parts of Electric Drive Trains, Power electronics, Battery systems for EV etc.
Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) will be available to public to locate the nearest charging/battery swapping point, schedule a time-slot for charging, making payments for charging etc.
Awareness Programs and Incentives
“Incentives to EV owners include exemptions in road tax, discounts, reduced GST of 5% on EV’s and income tax deductions on loans for EV’s”
- The Government is considering to provide an incentive to new electric vehicle owners by exempting road tax on new EV for 3 years
- Expos will be organised for EV manufacturers to showcase their products
- Commercial areas of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode; tourist locations like Kovalam, Munnar; Technoparks and Infoparks etc will be promoted as E-Mobility zones. These regions will demonstrate and set an example as to how electric vehicles can be implemented, used and managed. E-bikes and E-scooters, E-buses, and e-autos will be promoted in these places.
- Discounts of upto Rs. 30,000 will be offered for 3-wheelers procured from selected vendors and reduction in state taxes and road taxes, toll charge exemption, free parking etc will also be provided.
- Incentives have been offered by the Central Government such as reduction in GST of electric vehicles from 12% to 5%, and an income tax deduction upto Rs. 1.5 Lakhs on loans taken out for electric vehicles.
- During initial three years, electricity shall be offered at lower rates at Public/Bulk charging stations. This reduced rate shall be 75% and 50% during off hours and peak hours respectively. However, concessions may not be provided during 6 pm to 10 pm, in order to regulate consumption.
“Centres of innovations to be established in Kerala, EV technology to be incorporated in appropriate technical schools and engineering syllabus”
- Centres of innovation and excellence to be established for research and development to Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle components
- Upgradation of curriculum in technical and engineering schools to incorporate such emerging technologies
- Skill training to be provided for hands-on-learning to professionals
- Testing facilities to be set up in the State for safe testing of electric vehicles and connected technologies
The Time of the Day (ToD) charging can encourage customers to plan and charge their vehicles during off-peak hours and so this EV policy can go a long way in balancing the peak and off-peak demands in electricity of Kerala. However, this should ideally be combined with a study to ensure that the State has sufficient electricity to economically sustain this technology in the future.
The reduction in GST on EV’s by the Central Govt and income tax deductions on loans taken out on EV’s can encourage customers to move towards purchasing such vehicles instead of conventional fuel-based vehicles. This initiative when combined with road tax and toll exemptions will further encourage such a move.
Setting up of Centres of Innovations, upgradation of curriculum to incorporate such EV technology, ramping up of production of EV and EV components and batteries will further promote and develop EV technology and reduce dependency on sources outside the State. This step in the long term will hopefully help in reducing the cost of such technology which is presently too expensive for common people to take up.
Setting up of E-Mobility zones in selected areas to study and demonstrate EV technology is also a good step. This can help in resolving and troubleshooting any possible issues before the EV policy is rolled out extensively.
FAME PHASE-I AND PHASE-II
Faster Adoption and Manufacture of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME) is a initiative launched by Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in 2015 which aims to promote eco-friendly vehicles like electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. The first phase of FAME was started in 2015 and was extended up to March 31, 2019 with a budget of Rs 895 Crore.
FAME Phase II was launched on April 1, 2019 and will extend over a period of 3 years. A total budget of Rs 10,000 Crore has been allocated for this mission of which Rs 8596 Crore is allocated for incentives and Rs 1000 Crore for developing charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Incentives shall be mainly offered in form of reduced prices for purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles. Categories of vehicles eligible for these incentives include E-buses, 4-wheel vehicles (Electric and hybrid), 3-wheel electric vehicles including E-autos; and 2-wheel vehicles. This scheme will be mainly provided for public transport vehicles or those registered for commercial use. However, 2-Wheeled vehicles which are privately owned may also be covered under this scheme. It is to be noted that only vehicles satisfying the criteria specified by FAME will be eligible for these incentives.
Kerala chiefly depends upon power sourced from other states. Statistics from 2016-17 shows that nearly 70 – 80% of the electricity consumed in the State was sourced from thermal power plants located outside the state. The remaining power requirement is met from hydel power plants and to an extent, diesel power plants operating in the State. An assessment can be carried out to determine whether there be enough electricity (both generated and purchased) in the State to reliably meet the increased demand for electricity once electric vehicles are implemented at large scale. The KSEBL may have to increase the power generated by the Diesel power plants in Kerala. This may result in an increase in pollution produced by these thermal power plants. This scenario may lead to the loss of the primary objective of reducing dependency on fossil fuels. However, such situation may be prevented by ramping up generation of electricity from renewable sources.
“More than 70 – 80% of electricity used in Kerala is sourced from outside the State. Will the large-scale use of EV’s be sustainable in the long-term?”
Heavy rainfall, thunderstorms or flooding can cause power outages for several hours. In a State which receives rainfall for nearly six months every year, very often to electricity is cut off especially at night in the event of a thunderstorm and the power returns only at dawn. A user who plugs in his vehicle for overnight charging will be completely affected by this.
At present, it is more convenient to simply fuel the car at a petrol pump rather than wait for a significantly longer time at a charging station. For this attitude to change, there needs to be a significant focus on establishing fast charging stations.
“Need for more fast charging stations, charging of EV’s at home, reliable battery swapping facilities. Charging stations need to incorporate renewable energy sources like solar energy as back-up/storage sources during power cuts”
Transport from the charging station to home/workplace of the user is another factor which needs to be considered. A user might park his private vehicle for overnight charging or while he is at his workplace. Unless he has a reliable transportation mode to reach his destination while his vehicle at the charging station, charging will become a major hassle for him to the point that he will be discouraged from making a move towards private electric vehicles.
A private electric vehicle user will obviously prefer to charge his vehicle at home. KSEB charges a non-telescopic tariff above 250 units. Thus, an increase of one additional unit may result in a much higher tariff being imposed upon his electricity usage. This can lead to the generation of huge bills which can deter a user from using private electric vehicles.
The definition of a PCS and BCS has not been well defined in the policy release by the State Govt. More clarity is needed as to what these stations are and who can use them.
The batteries of EV’s use components containing lithium, nickel, manganese amongst others. These metals are difficult to extract, available in limited quantities and so is quite expensive. In addition, these materials are also toxic and pose a risk if not disposed properly. The policy may be extended to include the handling and disposal of batteries at the end of their life.
- Installation of solar panels at electric charging stations will increase reliability of power supply for charging vehicles.
- Studies needs to be conducted whether the State can reliably meet the increased demand for charging electric vehicles. Increasing the number of electric vehicles operated by KSRTC, and even enforcing E-autos in the State is a risky step without ascertaining whether the State has the required power to meet demands for the near foreseeable future too.
- Incentives can also be given to a private vehicle user for setting up a solar panel at his home for solely charging his vehicle. This will decrease the chances for inflated electricity bills.
- Incentives can be also given to residential and non-residential building owners, townships and other building owners for setting up solar panels for charging vehicles.
- Transportation facilities needs to be arranged from a charging station to the destination (workplace or home) of the vehicle owner so that he is not inconvenienced while his vehicle is charging. This may be in terms of a simple slip which makes him eligible for travel in an auto/bus/metro at reduced rates while his vehicle is parked at the charging station.
- Presently there is a significant apprehension among people to adopt a new and emerging technology. People prefer to wait and see how new technology will work, to understand what possible issues could be there and how the technology is accepted by others. More incentives need to be offered to people investing in EV’s both for private and public transport.
- A detailed cost-analysis showing financial savings in owning an electric vehicle as compared to a conventional fuel-based vehicle could go a long way in promoting use of electric vehicles KSEBL can publish rate sheets so that people can be aware of how much it costs to charge vehicles. Such data could be widely published through media and social networks to reach a greater spread among people.
- KSEBL in co-operation with KSRTC during the initial period can offer reduced ticket rates for E-buses and E-Autos. This will encourage people to use these services more and make them realise the comfort and convenience of such modes of transports. A price rise could be incorporated later after people start using these modes of transport.
- The EV policy may be extended to include regulations regarding the handling, disposal and recovery of metals from exhausted batteries. Regulations preventing batteries from entering landfills, incinerators, or even scraps can ideally be formulated and enforced.