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Hero Future Energies to set up solar charging stations for electric vehicles

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livemint
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Hero Future Energies Pvt. Ltd, a company promoted by the Munjal family, plans to enter the battery storage business and set up charging stations to tap India’s emerging electric vehicles (EV) market, chief executive officer Sunil Jain said.

The plan comes at a time when the ‘Bharat Charger’ specifications for electric vehicles are being firmed up. The department of heavy industries (DHI) has submitted its report on these specifications for charging stations to a government committee on EVs.

“Technology is changing very fast. We are looking at solar charging stations,” Jain said in an interview.

The plan involves charging batteries and then providing them to vehicles with drained batteries after they complete a trip.

Interestingly, Ather Energy, backed by India’s largest two-wheeler company Hero MotoCorp Ltd, also plans to enter the charging infrastructure business in India. Pawan Munjal-promoted Hero MotoCorp in October 2016 picked up a 26-30% stake in the Bengaluru-based electric scooter maker Ather Energy.

India’s EV push has attracted many companies. India’s first multi-modal electric vehicle project was inaugurated last week in Nagpur along with an electric charging station by cab aggregator Ola.

“The specs for Bharat Charger are being done. There is a lot of interest,” said a person involved with the government’s EV plan, requesting anonymity.

Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the ministries of heavy industry, road transport and highways and new and renewable energy remained unanswered.

India has ambitious plans for a mass shift to electric transport by 2030 so that all vehicles on Indian roads by then—both personal and commercial—are powered by electricity.

Hero Future Energies, which is planning to put up one large grid-connected solar plant of up to 100 megawatts capacity in South-East Asia, apart from expanding in Africa and India, plans to be present across the solar energy value chain.

The firm is setting up solar roof-top pilot projects along with storage. The idea is to get into businesses such as integration of batteries and manufacturing them in the long run. However, there is no plan to manufacture cells.

“After 2020, the battery price is going to become one-third of what it is today,” Jain said.

With storage being the next frontier for India’s clean energy push, the batteries in EVs offer a potential solution. India’s EV programme would help with grid balancing, besides complementing the government’s push for solar power, which is generated during the day and can be stored in EV batteries.

The government plans to put an electric vehicle policy in place by the end of this year. Its intent was articulated by the goods and services tax (GST) Council, which has set a 12% tax rate for electric vehicles, compared with 28% plus cess for petrol and diesel cars and hybrid vehicles.

The government think tank NITI Aayog has recommended fiscal incentives to electric vehicle manufacturers and discouraging privately-owned petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles.

The EV plan has also found its fair share of naysayers including the country’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

It will be impossible for the auto industry to shift to electric vehicles immediately, Maruti Suzuki CEO Kenichi Ayukawa said earlier this month, in the context of the government’s plan to have an electric vehicle policy in place by December.