Monday, May 20, 2024

EV battery swap policy stuck a year after draft

NEW DELHI : Even as global investors make a beeline for clean mobility projects, encouraged by India’s decarbonization goals, the electric vehicle industry is still waiting for the battery swapping policy, announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the budget for 2022-23.

The policy is expected to offer solutions to the lack of space in urban areas, and to reduce the downtime for charging a vehicle, especially commercial two- and three-wheeler EVs. It is nearly one year since the draft policy was released by federal think-tank NITI Aayog, besides several rounds of stakeholder consultation involving battery swapping and charge-point operators, and vehicle manufacturers.

The widespread pushback by industry players against the inter-operability standards, which mandates swappable batteries with specific set of outer dimensions to avail the incentives, has stalled the release of the policy. “The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which was entrusted with formulating the specifications, was asked to not release the standards as the industry believes they are skewed towards one particular original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and standardizing the battery dimensions will involve lot of changes to the platforms that operators and OEMs have built and will not be feasible in the current business case. Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, who chaired many meetings with the industry, took a decision that the interoperability standards will not be released,” a senior government official close to the developments said on the condition of anonymity.

The Prime Minister’s Office was also approached by a government agency requesting his intervention to urge the Niti Aayog and the BIS to either release the policy without the interoperability standards, or initiate another round of discussions with Department of Science and Technology (DST), and all stakeholders to take a call on how inter-operability for customers can be achieved without fixing uniform battery pack dimensions, the official added.

To be sure, the battery swapping policy standards are not mandatory for all OEMs, but were to form the basis of FAME-II-like incentives for customers, buying vehicles with swappable batteries, and allowing a level-playing field for both direct charging and swappable battery solutions. The delay could be detrimental for the confidence investors have so far shown in the nascent industry, which is dependent on clear government guidelines to scale up. “Investors who are looking at India as a favourable destination are asking swapping operators for policy clarity,” Kaushik Burman, general manager and managing director, Gogoro India, a unit of the Taiwan-based battery swapping major Gogoro said. “A policy which is equitable and drives more certainty towards infrastructure creation will enable this battery swapping to emerge as a viable proposition for customers,” he added.

Incentives should be disbursed to every battery swapping operator, like they are for direct charging.

“India will need an investment of at least a $100 billion and nearly 450,000 swap stations to handle existing requirements for two- and three-wheeler vehicle parks. So, it is a capital-intensive business and needs incentives and a firm policy direction,” Burman added.

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