EV Charging Stations may well be sustainable but are they viable?Ather Energy co-founders Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain have an ambitious plan. The IIT grads on Monday launched AtherGrid, a of 19 charging points across four locations in Bengaluru. In the coming months, they want that number to go up to 30.

“One of the main challenges to adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in India is the lack of charging infrastructure that is convenient to those using them,” said Jain, explaining how the company is looking at it as a separate business opportunity in future, along with manufacturing electric scooters.

According to the Karnataka Electric Vehicle & Energy Storage Policy 2017, Bengaluru is slated to be the EV of India. One of the key objectives of the policy is that the state maintain a lead share as the preferred destination for attracting investments in the segment.

To encourage the use of EVs, companies like Ather are now looking to first build a charging infrastructure as a means to reduce the stress on the end user. “The experience will be seamless, with features like wallet integration, fast charging and locations like cafés, malls, gyms, parks,” Jain adds.

In a similar bid last month, Sun Mobility, led by Chetan Maini, launched its interoperable mobility solution for two- and three-wheeler electric vehicles at a technology development centre in Bengaluru. The company will begin to set up the infrastructure towards the end of the calendar year.

In future, the solutions will offer modular smart batteries that will customise to vehicle type, interchange that can be installed across a city and a smart network that will allow customers to locate and make payments via an app, according to a company statement.

But even though charging infrastructure is an important conversation in the scheme of promoting EVs, their viability remain a question.

While the government has provided subsidies in terms of electricity tariff and policy framework in building them, low volumes of EV users and a limited range of vehicles make it difficult to turn it into a profit-making entity, according to Sanjay Krishnan, co-founder, Lithium Urban Technologies.

Currently, the company operates 70 charging points for its internal fleet of electric cars used for corporate transportation. “Right now, opening our charging points to everyone is not a viable option. In future, if the number of electric vehicles go up in the city, we may consider it,” he says.

According to urban infrastructure expert, Ashwin Mahesh globally less than % people go to charging stations since users have the option of charging vehicles at home. “For businesses that invest in the charging infrastructure, there is no money to recover. Such stations may not be an economically viable solution for the producer unless there are volumes. In future, we may have self-powered electric vehicles or ones that run longer, making this completely redundant,” he adds.

In its move to battle pollution and to encourage the use of electric vehicles, the power regulator in Karnataka has fixed a tariff of Rs 4.85 per unit the electricity consumed by electric vehicle-charging stations.

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