Electric vehicle maker Ather Energy on Tuesday said that it aims to set up one of the biggest public charging infrastructure in India. As a part of the first phase of installation of what it terms 'Ather Grid', it aims to set up more than 135 electric vehicle chargers by December 2020. The company plans to launch in nine new markets—including Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata, and Mumbai—with these public fast charging stations. It already has 37 stations in Bengaluru and 13 in Chennai but the company wants to double the figure in two months.

India seems to be standing on the edge of an electric vehicle boom, with many state governments coming up with policy incentives to help the nascent market take off. The Delhi government, for instance, under its new policy, has decided to exempt battery-operated vehicles from paying road tax. However, one of the key deterrents to realising the full potential of electrification is an inadequate charging infrastructure.

Ather Energy, which was founded in 2013, is one of the first movers in the space and sees itself as one of the few companies in India to set up an electric vehicle ecosystem in the country. Ather boasts that its fast charging network can be used by all electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers. It also claims that the company's two-wheeler model, the Ather 450X, can be charged within 10 minutes at these charging points.

“What the market needs right now is more visibility of the charging infrastructure. With increased visibility comes mental comfort, curbing range anxiety. We do not need the density like petrol or CNG gas stations but increased accessibility and faster charging speeds," says Ravneet Phokela, chief business officer, Ather Energy.

Ather's public infrastructure will go a long way in instilling confidence amongst customers. "It’s a huge investment and we believe it’s a necessary one to improve the adoption of EVs in India," Phokela adds.

Experts point out that the electric vehicle market in India is poised for a major revolution. A recent report from Avendus Capital, which is the investment banking arm of Avendus Group, pegs the market to be worth ₹50,000 crore by 2025 in India. Within this, the report expects the two-wheeler component to witness a 9% penetration by 2024-25. Experts say that the electric two-wheeler has grown more than 20% in FY2020, as compared to the last fiscal year. The industry sold 1,52,000 units of electric scooters and motorcycles in FY2020.

The installations of the Ather Grid Points will begin before deliveries of the Ather 450X in November 2020. As part of Phase 1 of the rapid expansion, Ather Energy will install about 5-10 fast charging points before delivery in each of the new markets they are expanding to.

Ather Energy targets to set-up 6500 charging points across the country by 2022. Sohinder Gill, director general, Society of Manufactures of Electric Vehicles, says that some companies have found solutions around the need of the charging by providing portable modular batteries and home charging solutions and may, therefore, not need to invest into charging infrastructure. "One word of caution here is the need of standardisation of the charging sockets, plugs and the protocols so that the network is generic and usable for everyone. Easily accessible charging stations in enough density would indeed support electric mobility, particularly the e-car segment," he said.

"In two wheelers, e-bikes having fixed batteries cannot be charged in apartments or parking areas that have no access to a private power point. Such e-bikes would also need charging infrastructure in order to accelerate the adoption," Gill adds.

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