- The Madhya Pradesh government has warned strict action against commercial electric vehicles found using unauthorised domestic or agricultural connections for charging.
- Lack of awareness and dearth of charging stations are among the reasons that such unauthorised practices take place, say EV experts.
- Domestic meter connections prove cost effective for two wheeler EV segments while for the e-rickshaws and higher segments separate EV connections with government rates are more economical.
Amid reports of domestic, agricultural and illegal power connections being misused for recharging commercial electric vehicles such as e-rickshaws and electric two-wheelers, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government announced last month, that commercial EV owners will be required to have a separate electricity connection to charge their electric vehicles and strict action will be taken against anyone using unauthorised metered connections.
This move comes as the central Indian state has been trying to streamline its electric mobility sector and is even expected to update its electric vehicle (EV) policy soon.
According to the state energy department, EV users need to install a separate electricity meter to charge their vehicles and pay the tariff as notified by the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Regulation Commission (MPERC). Domestic and agricultural meters are subsidised in the state. As per the latest notified MPERC tariff, domestic electricity tariff ranges from Rs. 3.34 per unit (up to 30 units a month) to Rs. 6.74 unit (more than 300 units a month). The tariff for commercial EV charging stations and battery swapping stations has been fixed at Rs. 6 per unit.
The commercial EV charging tarrif (Rs. 6 per unit) could in fact turn out cheaper for e-rickshaws, which use 48V batteries and around seven units per day. Using a domestic connection would be costlier by around Rs. 0.55 per unit as it would cost up to Rs. 6.55 (for 150-300 unit monthly consumption). Domestic connections do turn out to be cheaper for electric two-wheeler which usually accommodate 12V batteries and uses between 1-3 units of electricity per day.
Queries sent by Mongabay-India to Sanjay Dubey, Principal Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh’s Energy Department for more details on the issue remained unanswered.
Charging woes for EVs
Electric mobility sector experts have emphasised that Madhya Pradesh needs to do much more, including spreading awareness, to ensure steady growth of the EV sector. Sanyog Tiwari, founder and chief executive officer of EV Urjaa, an Indore-based battery swapping company, said that having a separate meter for charging commercial electric vehicles could help in reducing the load on the domestic consumers and can also help in reducing the threat of short-circuit due to overload.
“This is a welcome step to segregate the two different sections of EVs – commercial and residential. This also assumes significance when EVs are likely to grow around 5 percent per year and the fossil fuel-based engines are likely to take a backseat gradually. However, there is very little awareness among the main stakeholders on the issue,” Tiwari told Mongabay-India.
Experts who have worked in the government sector explained that if EVs are charged through unauthorised or illegal connections it could interfere with the power distribution and could also affect the tariff at which the domestic consumers are given electricity.
Anand Mohapatra, a power sector analyst based in Odisha, said Odisha too has a separate charging system for commercial EVs and they are charged under the general-purpose (public service) category. The single part tariff – a combination of fixed and variable cost – in the state, is at Rs. 5.50 per unit. According to the electric mobility portal of the NITI Aayog, the tariff for EV charging in different states ranges from the lowest of Rs. 4.0 per unit (Gujarat) to Rs. 8.05 per unit (Tamil Nadu).
“In Odisha, the general-purpose tariff is higher than the domestic and agricultural tariff. Thus, commercial EVs cannot be allowed to use domestic and agricultural connections,” Mohapatra told Mongabay-India when asked about the MP government’s order.
When asked how unauthorised usage of power can affect the tariff for other users, he explained that the loss of energy due to power theft is considered in the determination of tariff and the cost of power theft/loss is passed onto the consumer’s tariff notified by all the state electricity regulatory commissions in India.
According to reports, in Madhya Pradesh alone, power worth Rs. 5,000 crore (Rs. 50 billion) is either stolen or lost during transmission and distribution every year and the cost burden is usually passed on to the consumers. This also bears heavy on the financial health of the distribution companies (discoms).
According to estimates, in New Delhi, every year, the discoms lose around Rs. 150 crore (Rs. 1.5 billion) due to the unauthorised power being used illegally for charging of e-rickshaws.
The norms for domestic consumers of EVs are not as stringent as those for commercial EVs. According to the union power ministry’s guidelines, domestic users can charge their personal EVs at their homes with a domestic power connection.
However, some other industry players cited charging ecosystem hurdles faced by owners of electric two-wheelers or e-rickshaws that are used for last-mile connectivity. Anuj Jain, the co-founder of E-Savari, a Madhya Pradesh-based electric vehicle seller, who deals with two-wheelers and three-wheelers, said, “If the government wants to impose mandatory charging of lower EV segments like e-rickshaws, it must create more supporting infrastructure like public charging stations and battery swapping stations which could cater to the everyday charging needs of e-rickshaws.”
“For whom are these directions (guidelines) made? For e-rickshaw owners and other commercial drivers. Many of them are not literate enough. If they are likely to be penalised for charging in other meters, there must be a large-scale awareness exercise before taking stern action against them,” Jain told Mongabay-India.
Some e-rickshaw drivers agreed with issues raised by Jain, particularly about EV charging infrastructure. “Many of us are from economically poor backgrounds and live in small houses. The best option for any e-rickshaw driver is to charge it at night and use it during the day. The lack of public charging stations, or them being at distant locations and the downtime while they are getting charged at such charging stations are some of the hurdles that can affect transiting to new metered connections. The government needs to come forward to propose more solutions, making it convenient for us to charge our vehicles in nearby areas,” Mukesh Chauhan, a Bhopal-based e-rickshaw driver told Mongabay-India.
Meanwhile, the state authorities have announced their commitment to establishing more public charging stations. For instance, the Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited (BSCDCL), it has been reported, has planned about 100 new charging stations in the smart city. The Indore Municipal Corporation in December 2021 also announced 113 more EV charging stations.
Attempts to streamline the growth of EVs
The Madhya Pradesh government came out with an EV policy in 2019 which targetted 25 percent of all new public transport vehicle registrations by 2026, convert all government vehicles including ambulances, and commercial and logistics fleets to EVs by 2028 and convert all public transport bus fleet into electric buses in top five cities by 2028.
The progress on the policy has been slow and according to the news reports, the state is soon expected to unveil a new EV policy this year which would address a lot of issues faced by the electric mobility sector.
Bengaluru-based Deepak Krishnan, Associate Director (Energy), WRI India told Mongabay-India that the MP government’s directions were in accordance with the Union Power Ministry’s January 2022 guidelines on EV charging where it advocated for separate electricity connections and a slew of safety measures for charging commercial EV vehicles.
“It is good for the government for better revenue categorisation and collection when it comes to the operations of commercial EV vehicles compared to loading it to the subsidised domestic connections. Moreover, with the progressive government EV policies focus is now more on deriving power in such public charging stations through clean energy sources. So, if more clean energy-fuelled charging stations cater to the charging needs, the whole EV charging model could be more sustainable too,” he said.
Banner image: A solar-based public electric vehicle charging station in Hyderabad. Madhya Pradesh needs more supporting infrastructure to improve the EV ecosystem in the state. Photo by Manish Kumar/Mongabay.