Maharashtra’s Environment Minister, Aditya Thackeray, believes that there is no reason to get unduly worked up over the recent spate of electric scooter fires.
He told Autocar Professional on the sidelines of the recently held Alternate Fuel Conclave (AFC) in Pune that all electric vehicles in the state compulsorily go through stringent safety checks. These are carried out by responsible bodies such as the ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India).
Thackeray said it was important to look at the larger picture and not allow such incidents to act as a dampener to adoption of EVs. “I am confident that with the latest technology, we can address these concerns. Alternative fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels will help the country save foreign exchange,” he added.
According to LocalCircles.com, 21 per cent of Indian households are reluctant to buy an EV due to issues relating to safety, performance and infrastructure concerns. Sachin Taparia, CEO, said customers are also confused with so many EV players cropping up in recent times. “The thought that a vehicle can go up in flames is also worrying them," he added.
In this backdrop, the good news is that EV sales in Maharashtra were up 153 per cent between April and December 2021 to touch 57,368 units. The state is promoting electric aggressively and has now added to its basket of goodies 50 new charging stations, allocation of parking lots in malls and office complexes for charging, and lower tariffs for night charging.
Maharashtra is pushing for a dual energy tariff structure, with Rs. 5.50 per unit chargeable for daytime usage while night tariffs can be lower at Rs 4.50 per unit between 10 pm and 6 am. The charging rates for other states vary from Rs 10-15 per unit.
The government also plans to earmark 30 percent of parking slots in offices, commercial complexes and high end malls as charging points. Urban local bodies will also be encouraged to offer property tax rebates to residential owners for installing private charging infrastructure
Maharashtra also plans to have in place an ancillary cluster in Chakan and Talegaon, an EV venture capital fund to handhold startups as well as a scrappage policy for handling EV waste.
Interestingly, of the 958 e-buses operating on Indian roads, nearly 50 percent are in Maharashtra alone. Last month saw 150 Olectra buses added to the public transport fleet to complement the 150 already operational for the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal. Laxminarayan Mishra, Chairman, said the corporation will soon scrap its 41 diesel buses and shift to an all-electric and CNG fleet.
Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, recently said the state was planning to lease 1,000 CNG and 2,000 e-buses based on the ‘pay-as-you-use’ model adopted by BEST Mumbai for MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation). BEST will soon have on lease 900 AC electric double decker buses.
According to Aditya Thackeray, the fuel expenditure bill incurred by public utility bus services of Pune and Mumbai have fallen three times following the electrification drive. The government, he added, plans to have 10,000 e-buses operating on hydrogen, biofuel and electricity by 2027 while e-autos could also take over from the traditional versions in course of time.
State energy minister, Nitin Raut, said MahaVitaran would be the nodal agency for EV charging stations. As part of the asset monetisation model, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL), Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company and Maharashtra State Power Generation Company will form a JV with oil marketing companies to set up EV charging stations within petrol pumps.
MSEDCL has also launched a mobile app, PowerUpE, for users to access the closest charging point. As part of the pilot, 50 EV charging stations have been planned across Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, Solapur, Kolhapur and Amaravati. “The next step would be to have charging stations within school and college premises for students,” officials said.
The state has set itself a target of 5,000 new EV charging stations of which 1,500 would be set up in the Mumbai metropolitan region. Energy department officials said that with battery technology coming of age, swapping stations, AC/DC sockets etc will contribute to a “positive EV community” in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) is going the extra mile to provide incentives to EV companies. P. Anbalagan, CEO, said the first 250 EV charging stations for two-/three-wheelers, cars and buses will get 25 per cent capital subsidy for equipment and machinery costing up to Rs 10 lakh.
"MIDC proposes to increase the number of EVs to five lakhs and generate investments of over Rs 25,000 crore,” he added. MIDC will also offer solar power support for charging networks. Thackeray has directed MIDC & MPCB (Maharashtra Pollution Control Board) to collaborate and support new industrial investment in the state. The ancillary industry, he said, would aid EV growth and this was precisely why it was getting a host of fiscal sops.
Keeping in line with the theme, Anil Parab, Minister of Transport & Parliamentary Affairs, flagged off an EV rally comprising two-/three-wheelers, cars, e-cycles and one hydrogen bus in Pune. The event also saw Sudhir Mehta, chairman of EKA and Pinnacle Industries, unveil the company’s first electric bus.
It plans to make 1000 vehicles at an investment of Rs 2,000 crore. “Pinnacle is in talks with a clutch of investors to raise 100 million from sovereign funds to have the project up and running,” said Mehta.
Private companies like Tata Power have already indicated their intent to collaborate with realtors such as the Rustomjee Group to provide charging solutions across its residential and commercial projects in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Tata Power has also inked a similar deal with Lodha Group both in MMR and Pune. The underlying message is that private players have a huge role to play in the EV drive.
"The larger plan is now to take this movement to Kolhapur, Nagpur and Marathwada and have a completely electrified green Maharashtra. We are doing our best to tie everything together. Several companies are planning to expand and start new facilities. Pune will lead the EV revolution and rest will follow,” said Thackeray.
The AFC conclave had bigwigs present, a list that included Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman of Niti Ayog (virtually); senior state cabinet ministers; Girish Wagh, Executive Director, Tata Motors; Anish Shah, Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Group; Diego Graffi, Chairman CEO and MD, Piaggio Vehicles; Sulajja Firodia Motwani, CEO of Kinetic Green; and BS Dhillion, Head of Audi India.