Committed to the idea of sustainable mobility, PiEV with its novel solutions is focusing on strengthening the EV sector in the country
India's adoption of electric vehicle (EV) has gained significant momentum in recent years. It is driven by government policies, environmental consciousness of consumers, and technological advancements. However, despite these positive strides, India still faces significant challenges when it comes to establishing a robust EV charging infrastructure across the country. This is where companies like PiEV step in to play an important role. Founded by serial entrepreneur Iftikhar Ali in 2021, PiEV is working towards setting up a reliable charging infrastructure for EV owners in the country. They offer chargers for scooters, bikes, auto-rickshaws, mid-size cars, SUVs heavy vehicles. Besides, PiEV fulfils the charging needs of residential complexes, fleet operators, schools, offices, malls and hospitals. Ali spoke to Outlook Business about how PiEV is contributing to sustainable mobility in the country. Edited excerpts:
What was the vision behind setting up PiEV?
The vision is to accelerate EV adoption by creating an easily accessible and commercially viable EV charging infrastructure across India. The idea is to provide charging facilities for everyone and everywhere. India needs a robust network of chargers. There will be a big number of EVs by 2035 that will require charging. It is a solvable problem. Since there is a threat from global warming, I believe that the time to act is now. I thought about how I can contribute to the address the threat. I am not a manufacturer. It prompted me to enter the charging space since charging stations must be installed. Our vision is to be able to charge 1-3 crore EVs per day.
You aim to have 10,00,000 charging points across the country. How do you plan to do it?
We want to have these charging points in residential complexes, schools, highways, office complexes, and shopping malls across India. We would want electric vehicle owners to be able to drive from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. So we would like to have these chargers everywhere. As of now, we have 50 charging stations in Bengaluru, Pune, Parbhani (Maharashtra), Malda (West Bengal), Vizag and Hyderabad. The way to scale up to that level is to sign up EV hosts across India, set up chargers, and repeat. Of course, it also means a huge capex investment that we are trying to raise. We are overall looking to raise $125 million to support the expansion programme.
How do you stand out from your competition?
Our charging infrastructure is fully managed. That means, we monitor our charging facilities for demand and undertake upgrades. The charger we offer today may not be the ideal one in another two years, when demand increases. We will continue to monitor supply and demand and make improvements to meet changing needs. We offer the broadest variety of prices available on the market, allowing us to transport anything from bikes to large machinery. Our specialisation is fast DC charging for EV owners. Our Super Stations™ are patented engineering technologies that will be nearly carbon zero charging stations. We provide fleet owners with specialised solutions. Also, we don’t sell our chargers. We take on the entire capex. That is another aspect that differentiates us from our competition. In essence, we want to open up the EV world to everyone.
How have you integrated the principles of ESG into your business?
We have included UN SDG Goals 7 & 13 into our operations. Our goal is to use 30-50 per cent of renewable electricity in our operations during the next five years, and 80 per cent within the next ten years. Our objective is to switch to using 70 per cent sustainable materials when constructing the charging stations in order to further lessen the negative impacts of our activities on the environment and the CO2 footprint they leave behind. This project has a specified time frame of five-seven years.
One of our main areas of concentration will be to invest in R&D and work with important stakeholders to increase battery recharge cycles and decrease battery disposal in landfills. We will take a lead in implementing the circular economy principles in our operations, where a portion of the material used will come from landfills. We want to, at the very least, give these organisations the assistance they need to achieve their goals. With the aid of our technology, we can store the carbon credits of an individual, a company, or a fleet operator on our blockchain. It’s called CO2Chain™. Immutability, increased transparency, and assurance are all ensured by this. We are working on attaching 50 Acres of forest land (with approx about 200,000 trees) into its base credit program. Utilising the established GHG (Greenhouse Gas) credit standards such as NGRBC (National Guideline for Responsible Business) localized for India. All of our efforts should go towards lowering the carbon footprint of Indian transportation by more than 1 million metric tonnes over the course of ten years.
What are the key challenges in expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure in India?
The installation of chargers requires the owner's permission and cooperation. The place could be a piece of land, a store, a mall, a restaurant, an office building, a commercial plaza, etc. When we have to put up a charger, we have to either approach a residential complex, commercial complex, school, or college authorities. So, there is somebody that I need to approach. Space and understanding around the EV ecosystem are problems but I am sure they will get better with time.
The biggest challenge that we need to overcome is financial. How do we raise that capex? And we are aware that CSR has locked away a sizeable sum of money. Through this article, we want to connect with businesses that are interested in CSR and invite them to consider us as a partner. Additionally, I want to implore businesses to take CSR in relation to sustainability goals more seriously than they do.
Are there any specific regions or cities in India that have successfully implemented innovative solutions for EV charging infrastructure? What lessons can be learned from these examples?
We have great stories of successful implementation in Tier II and Tier III cities all the way into the deeper rural settings of India. We can generally see the adoption of EV penetrating deep through the layers of society. The awareness is tremendous. Our lesson is to accelerate and increase deployment into remote areas as well. It gives me a lot of scope when I see the penetration of EVs in these small towns. I feel there is a lot of scope for what we are trying to do.
How does the Indian government plan to promote the development of a robust EV charging network across the country?
There is a tremendous tailwind from the Indian government. They have been very supportive in facilitating the EV ecosystem in general. It is already doing a lot, which is heartening to see. The discounts on the electricity bill on the EV meter are one such example. We have approached the government to give us land on lease to set-up charging stations. Leasing the land on a long-term basis is going to help us a lot. From a charging point of view, we will probably need some of those facilitations. It will enable us to move faster.
What role can private companies play in the development of EV charging infrastructure in India, and what incentives are available to encourage them?
Private companies have a major role to play in complementing the efforts of the government and vice-versa. The opportunity is staggering and has room for a number of players to participate and form an ecosystem. Government attention towards speeding up the process of getting EV meters and providing additional clarity on the charges involved will further encourage investment in this sector.