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Should own a Charging Station over Petrol Pump: Abhijeet Sinha shares future viability

File photo Abhijeet Sinha, Project Director, NHEV
File photo Abhijeet Sinha, Project Director, NHEV

An interview of a technocrat by a New York Weekly reveals the most painful challenge of the Indian E-mobility industry – ‘Ease of Doing Business’ deficits in financing charging infrastructure.

Monday in an interview with Ryann Pierre, Editor-In-Chief, New York Weekly, Indian financial technocrat – Abhijeet Sinha, National Program Director of Ease of Doing Business and Project Director of National Highway for Electric Vehicle (in additional charge) revealed a pressing industry needs related to financing E-mobility charging infrastructure and gave a couple of straight-forward answers to critical industry questions.

Still from India Gate – Agra TECH Trial Run Ceremony

Still from India Gate – Agra TECH Trial Run Ceremony

His new financing tool Annuity Hybrid E-Mobility (AHEM) has turned tables around to fund National Highway EV prototype ‘Charging Stations’ between Delhi-Jaipur-Agra and convince investors from Govt, PSUs, NBFCs, Banks OEMs and private entities too are lined-up to take charging stations like gas stations/ petrol pumps today. When questioned about this new investment in‘Charging Stations’ over petrol pumps shall continue on other highways too? OR It shall remain an eye-candy prototype on golden triangle only like majority of other EV infra installations in Delhi? 

He said the tag of 4th largest automobile market in the world has not come easy for India. Likewise, the bouncy road to ‘Electric Mobility’ adoption in the country also has faced lots of difficulties and is currently piled up with pressing business challenges, many copy paste models from various continents of globe has failed in in India during last decade. Since, India is India not China, Europe, America or Africa! It has its own unique rural and semi-urban ‘Economic’ structures; where PCO (phone booths) have been a rural business and getting a ‘Petrol Pump’ license is an income guarantee for the next generation.

But in 2018 Govt of India, Ministry of Power clarified that there is no license needed for setting up tomorrow’s ‘Fuel Pumps’ means EV ‘Charging Stations’. It was a big bold Ease of Doing Business reform from Modi Govt to clarify clouds. But do people even know about it? – No! It’s not because people aren’t interested to own a ‘Charging Station’ or there is dearth of potential investors in transport or infrastructure sector. It’s because there is no foot-print and system to process, validate, fund and support; if actually people, companies, institutions start filing applications for setting up ‘Charging Stations’.

What all we hear in E-mobility space are future projections or recently announced subsidies. But what all need are pilots to prototype all possible captive and institutional adoptions with its components together and financially establish it’s breakeven for investors. So that people get their rightful Ease of Living in mobility and India gets the entire nation’s participation in its transition to achieve ‘Circular Economy’ with green and clean surface transport.

File Photo : Abhijeet Sinha, Program Director, Ease of Doing Business

File Photo: Abhijeet Sinha, Program Director, Ease of Doing Business

Let’s hear in Abhijeet Sinha’s words about the directional mistake he referred on question of poor charging infrastructure financing in India.

‘I was asked to give honest insight of EV Charging infra financing and I responded frankly. We accept it or not but charging infra has a civil, electrical, digital and per-square meter business preposition of a real-state unit. This EV transport support utility is in direct competition with all other possible structures and businesses can be done in that space. If we do not keep revenue mathematics simple and growing for investor, they shall shy away from charging stations. EV is a simple technology in comparison to complex IC engines, but projected and marketed as a complex thing to adopt in day to day life; may be to avail subsidies from govt to cushion initial assembly line CapEx of EVs as it looks like govt was solely responsible for everything related to the adoption.

Still From India Gate: NHEV TECH Trial Run inaugural ceremony

Still From India Gate: NHEV TECH Trial Run inaugural ceremony

What I referred as directional mistake is that we have been using many battery operated golf-cart type EVs in green campuses, large hotels, spread properties, cantonments, shipping yards, ports, airports etc. But following European trends, instead of focusing on all possible institutional and captive usages upgradation first into EVs where there are no brand or much features needed and mostly vehicles are for industrial usages. Indian EV market witnessed a premature jump of OEMs in frontline retailing of EVs to individual users, where it came in direct competition with existing Diesel / Petrol / CNG and Hybrid Vehicle; that too without sufficient charging infra in place. And disparity arising out of this wrong equivalence were thrown on the government as business barriers to grow and need to addressed in the sector.

This unfortunately makes charging infra business looks like a concurrent loss making venture and the government is solo player spending without calculating it as losses to justify its responsibility into e-mobility sector to create a level playing field for both IC & EV players through subsidies and public charger installations. Financing EV infra or projects in such volatile situations is obviously negative for NBFCs and Banks; until there are numbers and without numbers investing in charging infra was another loss making business thrown on govt as a public sector responsibility. Unknowingly we created a deadlock and without bold reforms for Ease of Doing Business in its absolute sense; it seems impossible to break this deadlock. Especially when spending from the government budget into E-mobility in the past 10 years pushed mass-adoption or EV financing nowhere on global stats.

Govt. of India Officials, Minister, Dignitaries at NHEV program at India Gate

Govt. of India Officials, Minister, Dignitaries at NHEV program at India Gate

Annuity Hybrid E-Mobility (AHEM) is not only an exception in the row of financing tools but 2nd proven model after Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) 2015 with robust utilization dynamics and funding options. But I am glad to see that we have graduated from this directional mistake and now focusing on various captive convertible opportunities first; like highways and fixed routine traffic between cities. Also projects like NHEV has started keeping potential individual buyers in center as beneficiaries to earn confidence and experience before they buy their own EV.

NHEV has been a promising pilot in the E-mobility sector with capability of paradigm shift – that e-mobility can be a sustainable business from day one and a profitable business from 3rd year post breakeven. Its scalable model has pulled in private investor’s interest to take up charging stations with CapEx. But prototype has given preferential opportunity to PSUs. NBFC and Banks have already enabled rural applicants and MSMEs with collateral free credits up to 5 Crore to own these stations like petrol pumps and scale up at state highways.

Project Director elaborating NHEV features to Dignitaries

Project Director elaborating NHEV features to Dignitaries

You can connect with Abhijeet Sinha on Facebook – Abhijeet Sinha


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