India’s oil marketing companies IOC, BPCL and HPCL are gearing up for the electric vehicle era with over 22,000 charging stations within the next two-three years. While Indian Oil [IOC] is planning to set up 10,000 stations, Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. [BPCL] is targeting 7,000 charging facilities and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. [HPCL] is setting up 5,000 outlets.

“We are converting our pumps into 'energy stations', offering at least five fuels — petrol, diesel, gas, flexifuels like ethanol, and electricity charging stations. These 7,000 outlets will cover 80% of business volume from our pumps,” says Arun Kumar Singh, chairman and managing director, BPCL.

HPCL, which already has 322 retail outlets with charging facilities, is planning to set up 5,000 more outlets within the next three years, says M.K. Surana, CMD, HPCL.

“So far, growth for electric vehicle sales in India has not been aggressive due to many factors. A number of issues need to be addressed such as cost, infrastructure, range anxiety, performance, battery issues etc before EVs become a threat to oil. It may take at least two-three decades,” adds S.M. Vaidya, CMD of Indian Oil.

Today lithium-ion batteries have to be imported since the metal is not available in the country on a large scale. Taking that into consideration, IOC has tied up with an Israeli company to develop aluminium air oxide batteries, since India is the largest producer of aluminium in the world. “Now trials are going on in Israel and we expect very positive results. The Proof of Concept has already been done and once field trials of vehicles happen, we will set up manufacturing units in India to make aluminium air batteries. It will be an 'atma nirbhar' initiative,” says Vaidya.

According to Singh of BPCL, it is not clear how much time it will take for the EV transformation to happen in India. “But we need to be ready. It also makes sense for us to pursue this besides being environment friendly. So it is a win-win situation for both sides.” BPCL has over 20,000-21,000 pumps in highways and a huge land bank, which can be converted into any kind of retail business in a scenario when oil is no longer needed for transportation. “After all, who knows mobility better than us and we are ready for any future,” adds Singh.

HPCL’s Surana says the more than 100-year-old company has adapted to many transitions and challenges as an oil marketing firm. “Numerous changes in business happened and we have grown and evolved over the years. In the last five years itself, we added gas, petrochemicals, biofuels, CBG and CNG in our portfolio. So, we will keep on evolving,” he adds.

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