Nimbyism is proving to be an obstacle to India’s EV revolution

Charged up.
Charged up.
Image: EUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
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India’s lofty plans to revolutionise its electric vehicle ecosystem may face setback on an unexpected front—local residential societies.

On Sept. 13, Bengaluru resident Vish Ganti took to LinkedIn to share his unusual experience of having to charge his EV scooter in his kitchen after the residents’ welfare association (RWA) of his apartment complex did not allow him to install an EV charging point at his parking bay.

“My apartment community in the so-called EV capital of India (Bengaluru) wouldn’t let me install an EV charging point, after trying to educate them and fighting an uphill battle for 4 months,” he said in his post.

A screenshot of Vish Ganti’s LinkedIn post.
A screenshot of Vish Ganti’s LinkedIn post.
Image: Screenshot/ linkedin

This isn’t a lone incident in Karnataka’s capital, where US-based EV auto major Tesla in January registered its India office. Roshan John, an IT engineer also faced a similar experience this month with his housing society in the city, he told the national daily Economic Times.

RWA’s issues with EV stations have been reported from other parts of the country as well.

In December last year, a resident of  a housing complex in Mumbai faced similar issues with his RWA. He told Mumbai Mirror that the society officials did not allow him to set up a charging station on the premises as it would look “shabby.”

Can societies say no to setting up an EV charging station?

The RWA’s resistance comes at a time when there is already visible anxiety among the customers over not having a sufficient infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Experts have often expressed their worries that India’s insufficient charging stations will discourage potential customers from choosing EVs, making it difficult to achieve the Narendra Modi government’s goal of have EV’s make up 30% of all vehicles sold in India by 2030, in any case a tall order. And now the unexpected reaction from the housing societies will only add to the problem.

Government guidelines recommend that there should be a public EV charging station in every 3 sq km area in cities, and located every 25 km on highways. “Any individual/entity is free to set-up public charging stations, provided that such stations meet the technical as well as performance standards and protocols, that are laid down by the Ministry of Power and Central Electricity Authority,” the government had stated in its guidelines (pdf).

Despite the guidelines and the government’s strong push towards EV adoptions, electric vehicle owners continue to struggle with new challenges every day.

To deal with the struggle with RWAs, Amitabh Kant, CEO of government think tank Niti Aayog suggested the government tweak building bylaws and add a mandatory inclusion of EV charging in residential buildings.

“…It is state governments and local authorities that need to pass the requisite bylaws and ensure their enforcement. Several states, as part of their EV policies, have already announced that EV charging would be a mandatory requirement for new buildings—especially large-scale buildings. It now remains for this to be included in the bylaws and other relevant regulations and legislation to ensure it becomes enforceable,” he said in an interview with the Economic Times on Sept. 19.