In India, Can Petrol Pumps Install EV Charging Stations For Electric Vehicles?
kazam
Nimit Arora

It is no secret that a major barrier to increasing the penetration of EVs in India is a lack of charging stations. In order to improve EV charging infrastructure in India, the government is planning to install charging stations at various petrol pumps across the country. The aim is to set up at least 22,000 EV charging stations at the 70,000 petrol pumps across the country. The three public-owned entities Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum & Indian Oil are jointly targeting this figure.

Tata Power has signed an agreement with Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL), to provide EV charging stations at HPCL’s petrol pumps in multiple cities & major highways across the country. Under the agreement, Tata Power will set up the necessary charging infrastructure at these pumps for EV users. The charging will be assisted by the Tata Power EZ charge mobile application.

Indian Oil currently has 448 EV charging stations across the country. It has collaborated with Tata Power, NTPC, Fortum, etc. for setting up EV chargers at its petrol pumps.

Ola announced installing more than 4000 fast-chargers at Bharat Petroleum pumps. These will be free for use for a limited period for Ola e-Scooter buyers.

A joint venture of Reliance Industries and energy major British Petroleum (BP) announced the opening of their first petrol pump that offers multiple fuel choices, including EV charging infrastructure. To create an unmatched customer experience, they have implemented value proposition ideas such as dynamic pricing, instant discounts, happy hour schemes, implementation of flexible and uniform digital payment across the network.

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A newly formed joint venture between French major Total & Adani will soon apply for permission to open petrol pumps in India. The company ‘Total-Adani Fuels’ will offer petrol, diesel, CNG & EV charging facilities.

India's new liberalized petrol pump licensing norms allow the setting up of EV charging stations & CNG outlets even before the start of petrol & diesel sales. Ministry of Petroleum eased norms for setting up of petrol pumps by new entities. The order provides for petrol pumps selling one new generation alternate fuel like CNG, LNG or EV charging points alongside retailing petrol and diesel.

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Arguments against the motion:

According to a study done by ‘India Smart Grid Forum’, a public-private initiative of the power ministry, petrol pumps are not the ideal place for creating charging infrastructure. The study states that EVs manufactured today need 30 minutes-3 hours for charging. So charging EVs at petrol pumps will block the charging stations for long durations and will result in a long line of vehicles, creating jams.

Setting up charging stations for EVs at petrol pumps may not be a sustainable model due to space constraints & charging time. Parking areas would be the ideal place. This model of setting up charging stations at existing fuel stations is rarely being considered in other countries that are adopting EVs. Apart from the space constraint, this latest ‘solution’ is dangerous as well!

The idea looks sensible on the face of it. Petrol pumps provide fuel to automobiles, so going with the same logic, they can recharge electric vehicles as well. Further, they have real estate, numbers and reach across the country.

A petrol pump handles liquid fuel which is highly inflammable. There may be instances of sparks, wiring faults etc., which can cause havoc. Some say having an EV charging station at a petrol pump is like transporting matchsticks with petrol tankers to save on costs. The same pumps at where even speaking on mobile phones are discouraged, for the risk of micro-sparks igniting a fire.

Arguments in favour of the motion:

However, there is an opinion that a national network of hybrid stations (conventional fuel & charging) would be a confidence-booster for potential EV owners in India. New pumps can be designed in a way that they serve both EVs & conventional vehicles. Coexistence of fuel dispensing & charging means oil firms can capture gains from current & future business. This model can be more robust since it helps hedge risks. But these hybrid pumps would require more investment than an ordinary petrol pump. In the initial years, the return on investment would be less as well (since there are fewer EVs on road at the moment). Government subsidy becomes very vital to sustain in initial years.

As for existing petrol pumps, by stepping up now, station owners can make their business future-proof, gain first-mover advantage in the fast-growing EV charging market and increase their customers’ loyalty.

Petrol pumps are strategically placed in locations according to driving patterns. The installation of EV chargers at these locations will create a network that will be convenient for drivers, no matter where they are. Often, there is no need for major changes in layout and customers are likely to spend more time at the station when charging EVs than when filling petrol. This allows owners to add additional streams of revenue by introducing restaurants, cafes or departmental stores where EV owners can relax or shop while their car charges.

EV owners typically charge at their homes or offices over long periods. Petrol pumps should offer fast charging for quick charge ups. This will make sure the pumps are not congested for longer durations, although this would require upgrades to the power infrastructure at and near the petrol pump.

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