In this latest episode of the BPCL podcast, Subhankar Sen, Chief General Manager (Retail Initiatives & Brand) at BPCL sheds light on the rising popularity of Electric Vehicles in India and shares his insights on its growth prospects, challenges and the plans that BPCL has for the EV market at large, in the near future.
Sukhoon: As Siddharth packed up his family and prepared for a long drive from Chennai to Madurai in his new electric vehicle, he realised the importance of careful planning. Along with making sure their journey was comfortable with plenty of amenities along the way, he also needed to find fast charging points for his vehicle to ensure they wouldn't be stranded on the road. But Siddharth isn't alone in his concerns - with electric vehicle sales in India surpassing 1 million units in the last financial year, many EV owners are looking for ways to keep their vehicles charged on the go. With the growing adoption of EVs in India, the need for an extensive charging network has become more crucial than ever.
Welcome to today's episode of the BPCL Podcast! Today, we dive into the exciting world of electric vehicles and the fast-charging infrastructure that's making long drives a possibility. In this episode, we're joined by Mr Subhankar Sen, Chief General Manager (Brand & Retail Initiative) at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., who shares insights on the growth prospects, challenges, and initiatives supporting the electric vehicle ecosystem. Welcome to the BPCL podcast, Mr Subhankar!
Subhankar Sen: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Sukhoon: So, Mr Sen, before we move on to the bigger, tougher questions that need to be addressed, I wanted to ask you a quick question. Which vehicle do you drive and do you drive an EV yourself?
Subhankar Sen: No, I drive a conventional ICE vehicle.
Sukhoon: Thank you for that honest answer, Sir. Moving on to my actual question now. So today, electric vehicles are a very small percentage of total vehicles on the streets in India, and yes, I am aware that it is evolving, but what is the forecast of the demand that you predict for four-wheeler electric vehicles in short term and long term in the country?
Subhankar Sen: So, NITI Aayog has coined the phrase "30 by 30”. So, 30% of all four-wheelers, which are gonna be sold by 2030, are going to be electric four-wheeler vehicles. And say, if you take a midpoint of 25, so it's going to be, say about 10-15% or thereabouts. That's what we are aspiring to achieve by 2025. And, I think so far, so good.
Sukhoon: Amazing. That’s quite a broad plan by our nation, for the rollout of EVs in the next decade. Which brings me to my next question - Supply chain is a sensitive topic for EV industry. How do you look at the supply chain for batteries, which is the main source? We don’t have the raw materials, therefore we import it. Some of the source countries, we do not have friendly relations with, so the cost of acquiring them may not be very competitive. Would that hamper the growth of EVs in India? How OEMs can secure local, sustainable battery supply?
Subhankar Sen: So, you know, that's a good question. There is a big drive towards indigenisation in the country. And let me tell you this, a large number of components which go into an electric vehicle are actually being manufactured today in the country. And this is part of the government’s Make in India mission. There are some specifics about, you know, about the battery, the cathode and the anode, which are as of now, we are dependent on imports. But, that's how it is. I mean, and that's how it is across the world. And, we are no different. As of now, I think, there is enough and more in the supply chain to meet the current and emerging demand. But, at the same time, like I said, you know, there is, we have a great startup culture in the country and, we are quite sure that more and more indigenisation will happen in a rapid pace. And, India has the competency to quickly adopt the technology. As we all know, as we have seen in the case of the other technologies. So, that will happen. And it'll be a part of the evolution.
Sukhoon: That’s fair enough, Sir. I completely agree with you on that point. That it is true, India is equipped to adapt to that technology. But, moving on to the most important aspect, which does rule any kind of industry or any market or the globe for that matter- it is all about the money. Now, cost is a big factor for electric vehicles and India, we all know, is a price-sensitive market, especially in the lower segment, short-range vehicles. What efforts are being made to make EVs affordable to the masses? I would love for you to tell us, Mr Sen, how do you think this can be made possible?
Subhankar Sen: Yes. You know, for the first time in January, we have now a sub-1 million vehicle in the EV segment, with the launch of the Tata Tiago EV by Tata Motors. So I think, that mental barrier of 1 million or 10 lakhs has been broken. And, very soon we will see several other OEMs following suit. So, I mean, all the OEMs are aware of the fact that you know, they have to bring in an electric vehicle of the masses. But having said that, India is an aspirational country and vehicle owners are very aspirational. So, I don't really see the vehicle that we have in the price ranges. I don't really see that being a very, very big deterrent because we have very good vehicles in this sub-2 million bracket and those are extremely efficient. And, the total cost of ownership is already established. So, if you take the total cost and not just the acquisition cost, I think the EV owner, even today in India, is going to be very happy. Well, you know, it all depends on the features. It all depends on the range you want because the big factor is range. So the battery cost in an EV comprises about, you know, close to 60% of the cost of the vehicle. In anywhere between 50 to 60 per cent. So, if you are very particular about range, then of course you go for a slightly higher-end vehicle. But like for instance, the Tata Tiago EV has a 20-kilowatt battery and it's good to give you about 200-odd kilometres. And, I think for normal motorists, that's good. But, somebody who wants to go on a highway, you have the MG ZS EV. And we are actually partnering with MG Motors as well. So that has a 44.5-kilowatt battery and that gives you a higher rate. So it all depends on what the consumer wants, really. But there is a product range in that.
Sukhoon: Even, I truly believe that Mr Sen. I truly think Indian consumers are supremely conscious and aware when it comes to spending money and they definitely wouldn't mind the cost if the vehicle has quality and is efficient. Now, Mr. Sen, I just wanted to ask you about the most important factor when one picks up an EV - Charging. Now this was a point which my family and I also did think about when we were trying to, you know, pick an EV last year and which is what sort of made us take a backseat -the charging points. Now, the charging infrastructure network is one area of concern, especially at public places. Now even for the owners who prefer to drive within the city, say 30 to 40 kilometres range - everyone may not have the access to a dedicated parking place with a charging facility having the right load, especially those who live in lanes and by-lanes of towns and cities. Like I know I live in one. So it's been a concern. Now, another concern is the range anxiety of EV owners when they drive out on highways. There is a genuine need for a safe and clean space with fast chargers and a place to spend time and take breaks while the vehicle is charged. Therefore, my next question, is how BPCL with its nationwide network of fuel stations, are supporting the EV industry by setting up charging stations and what is the future plan for expansion?
Subhankar Sen: You know, this is the classic “chicken and egg” story. But, you know, BPCL has taken it upon itself to actually do its bit to hasten the adoption of EVs in the country as part of the country's energy transition plans. And, we have now set upon creating a network of fast charging stations across the country, more importantly on the highways and we have launched a proposition called the Electric Vehicle Fast Charging Corridors. And these are across the major highways of the country, which are connecting major cities, and major economic centres, and actually take care of three anxieties that a current EV owner or a prospective EV owner has. The first anxiety that he has, is range. How far can I go in an EV? Second, is discovery. Where can I find a place to recharge my vehicle? And third, is time. How long does it take to charge my vehicle? So what our plans are - is that an EV consumer before he leaves home can get onto the ‘Hello BPCL’ app, which is our unified app. We have our EV proposition is branded as E-Drive. And you can plan your complete journey on E-Drive. So, if you are travelling from, say, for instance, from Bombay to Delhi, or Bombay to Bangalore or anywhere, you can plan your journey. You can plan your recharge stops. You can even, you know, in the near future, we will have a provision where you can even book slots that, you know, I'm going to be here at this point in time, and I want to charge my car for half an hour. So we are setting up a complete network of EV chargers and these chargers will be at a distance of 50 to 100 kilometres from each other on that same highway so that the EV owner does not have to alter his journey plan. So, if he is set out to go to Bangalore from Bombay, he can just be on NH4. He does not have to go anywhere. He does not have to go into the city to charge or go to any distributorship to charge. He just has to be on the highway and at every 50-100 kilometres, you will find a BPCL E-Drive fast charger in one of our retail outlets. This actually, we are now calling it the ‘Corridors of Confidence’. It's all about giving confidence to the EV owner, that he can travel anywhere without any of these three anxieties, having to worry about any of these three anxieties - range, discovery and time. And, these are all fast chargers so you can just top up for about, you know, in about 20 minutes, you are good to go for another 100-120 kilometres. By which time, in any case, you would like to take a break, you top up your vehicle by say another 20-30% or 40% of charge in the next 20 to 30 minutes and then you're good to go on your journey again. So, that's the whole value proposition that we have through our fast-charging corridors on the highways. Likewise, we are also setting up fast charging stations in cities and that exercise is underway. We will be starting with the major cities where, as of now, the population of EVs is higher, and slowly will be rolling out in all the major markets in the country. So, very soon you will have a network of EV charging solutions, that we call them because, we are also mindful of the fact that, you know, what does the customer do when he's charging his EV for say, 20 minutes to half an hour? And in some of the places we see that the customer is there for about an hour because he wants to completely recharge his vehicle to 80%. So, how do we allow him to gainfully use his time? So, our retail outlets offer a host of amenities. We have clean and hygienic washrooms because that's a very big need for the customers, especially if you are on a long-distance trip. We have financial services, micro ATMs in most of our outlets, through our partnership with Fino Payments Bank. In several of our outlets, we also have refreshments and we are also setting up cafes under the brand name B-Cafe, in our EV charging stations. So, the consumer is going to get - for him, it's going to be a package. It's going to be a solution so that, his time is gainfully spent. And, as you know, the BPCL retail outlets are the safest place because we are open 24 hours on the highways. In the cities, we are open for extended hours. These are very safe. They're all PESO approved. Well-illuminated. So safety, which today is of paramount importance, is absolutely assured in the BPCL Network.
Sukhoon: Now, this is an exciting thought and an insightful strategy you have, Sir, with regards to the EV charging stations, micro ATMs, refreshments and safety solutions. I mean, that's pretty much what a family or set of friends who are out on the highway would look for. Now, charging stations are definitely the need of the hour for present and future EV owners, and I can't wait to see this happen. And this brings me to my last question before I let you go. According to a report by the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), the EV industry in India will create over 9 million job opportunities by 2030, including exciting opportunities for EV engineers who will play a critical role in EV design, production, and maintenance. Now, with your experience and expertise, I would love for you to tell us how do you see the Engineering Colleges’ curriculum evolving to develop the EV engineers?
Subhankar Sen: Yeah, that's another brilliant question. Actually, that’s the brighter side about this, this new energy form factor. We are opening up opportunities, for not just job creation, but a whole lot of value addition that is happening. I'll just give you an example. You know, we’ve been supporting an event called “Baha” by SAE India, and it's a rally for all-terrain vehicles. Participants are from all engineering colleges across the country. And, you know, they manufacture the All-Terrain vehicle, themselves. And, there is a competition which is run every year in a place called Pithampur, which is close to Indore. So for the last, we've been supporting this event since 2007. So for the last 14 years, it's all been ICE vehicles. The All-Terrain vehicle has always been a petrol vehicle and we've been supporting them throughout branded fuel speed. For the last year and this year, they have now introduced a very popular category. And that's the electric vehicle. That's the electric All-Terrain vehicle. All the colleges and I can tell you this, they are, it has become so popular and there is so much of passion amongst the students of all the engineering colleges, and you have close to, 300 colleges participating in that program, in that competition. So, these are the top-notch engineering colleges across the country. And, we've been interacting with the faculty. We've been interacting with the students and, it's very heartwarming to know that the engineering colleges in the country are already alive to the fact that, this is the future. We need to equip our students, our future automobile engineers with the latest in EV technology. So, you know, that's already happening in the academic space. In the startup space, there is a lot of work happening, you know, from Startup India, Invest India support. We also support the startup space in the EV segment. And there again, we see a lot of youngsters, looking at R&D, looking at various components in the EV value chain. So there is already a lot of work which is happening in the knowledge space. So, knowledge of technology, knowledge of BMS, you know, that's the Battery Management System. It is the heart of the electric vehicle. So there is a lot of work happening on that in that area. There's a lot of work happening in the styling, in features. So, you know, India is all set because we have the, you know, and there is a reverse brain drain that's happening today. And we are all a witness to that. So I think it's all happening in India. So, knowledge, acquiring new skills - I think all that is happening in a big way in the country. It's all good for our economy, and it's all good for the country.
Sukhoon: Impressive, sir. I can already tell that with the way things are and plan for the next decade. India's definitely on the path to being an all-EV country, and I for sure am definitely charged to be a part of this revolution and see what the country turns out to be.
Subhankar Sen: Absolutely. We are looking forward to that and, we would like to play and be a major participant in this very important energy transition. We are in the space of providing energy for mobility. And whatever form factor the energy comes in, rest assured BPCL is going to be there. It's electric now. Tomorrow it could be, we are already in CNG as you know, and tomorrow it could be Hydrogen. But, we will always be, BPCL will always be a major participant in any form of energy for mobility.
Sukhoon: Absolutely. With you on that one as well, Mr Sen. It is all about easy access to buying an EV and making sure it causes no trouble. Thank you so much for being here on the podcast today. I do know our listeners have gained some value insights especially since we spoke about EV charging and safety solutions and the plan for the technology in the startup space in the EV segment in the next decade or so. It's been absolutely wonderful talking to you, Mr Sen.Thank you so much for your time.
Subhankar Sen: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Sukhoon: That was Mr Subhankar Sen, Chief General Manager (Retail Initiatives & Brand) at BPCL.
Do subscribe to BPCL PODCAST - Unlocking Possibilities, Empowering Lives, wherever you are listening to it from, we have more episodes up!
Meanwhile, check us out on: https://www.bharatpetroleum.in/.
You can also follow us on all major social media platforms too!.
BPCL PODCAST - Unlocking Possibilities, Empowering Lives.
Subscribe to this podcast and also follow us here.
For more details contact: