THE COURAGE and conviction India has displayed in transitioning rapidly to EV-based mobility — despite massive protests from vehicle manufacturers — is sorely missing in resolving the great divide and incompatibility in the EV charging ecosystem.
It represents just what all is terribly wrong: lack of coordination between the Centre and charging infrastructure players, between vehicle makers and the Centre and between the Centre and states or even within government's own departments.
At the heart of this lies a grim reality — that while EVs have been sold in the country since 2001, and the first charging station was set up in 2017, regulations continue to trail fast-changing sectors such e-commerce, cryptocurrencies, digital payments — even EVs. Despite 3 million EVs plying on the roads, India did not zero in on the charging standard it must follow. Hence, the Chinese, the Japanese, the European, the fast-charging standards — all have been deployed with unbridled impunity. The Ministry of Power responsible for finalising the standard left it open-ended. Niti Aayog, the nodal agency tasked with charting a roadmap for the growth of electric mobility in India, has been holding meetings but hasn't announced the definitive India standard either. Hence, vehicle manufacturers are producing with their choice of standard, while charging infrastructure companies continue to set up charging points of their choice.
The absence of a defined standard is breeding incompatibility between vehicles and chargers. If you are an EV owner, chances are that at your next halt at an EV charger, you may encounter an incompatible gun, a defunct charger, server or power outages or a non-standardised app. As a result, a number of India's 9,878 charging stations are either defunct, in disuse or are being used way below global average. China — the world's largest EV market — pre-empted this chaos with its own standard. India didn't. Karan Dhar and Astha Oriel dig deep into this mess in India's EV charging infrastructure.
The other area where intent and actions must converge — but haven't yet — is the country’s ₹90,000 crore Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC). It was conceived in 2005-06 as greenfield high-speed railway line to transport goods to and fro eastern and western ports on dedicated tracks to avoid delays. It was India's solution to pare the 6% higher logistics cost importers and exporters had to bear which made our trade globally uncompetitive. Despite accelerated work on DFC in the past eight years, only 2,196 km of the total 3,381 km corridor is complete. But what's keeping user industries on tenterhooks is not so much the DFC completion. Instead, it's the freight tariff. DFC's bulk movement, double stacking, and double length trains ought to have slashed tariffs. But DFC continues to follow Indian Railways' traditional freight pricing which is pegged higher to subsidise passenger travel. Read Ashutosh Kumar's account of what's holding up a DFC-specific goods tariff regime.
The special package this issue is the 2023 edition of Fortune India's much awaited annual offering — India's Richest. The most definitive listing of India's growing breed of dollar billionaires (with wealth of ₹8,217 crore). As the list expanded to 157, India added 15 new dollar billionaires in the past year despite a near 3% fall in the value of rupee against the dollar. India's billionaire club worth ₹69.30 lakh crore is equivalent to 25.39% of the nation's FY23 GDP of ₹273 lakh crore. Read V. Keshavdev's overview of the club.