The global transport market is undergoing a paradigm shift from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles to Electric Vehicles (EV). While EVs will be the primary driver of future mobility, technological advancement cannot stand alone. It must go hand in hand with other factors such as regulatory laws and guidelines, lucrative schemes to attract investment, development of international standard infrastructure as well as market creation. All these factors are correlated and give rise to a bunch of issues that may pose to be an obstacle in the way of making the EV market a reality. For example, in order to create demand, sales must be boosted, and in order to boost sales, proper infrastructure for charging EVs as well as laws for safer operation of EVs must be laid down. To put infrastructure in place, the government needs to attract investment which would only be possible if private players see profit and demand. Hence, the EV market poses difficulties similar to the chicken-egg issue.
In this blog post, we will closely look at the regulatory laws and guidelines in place for EVs in India. We would also analyse the areas of law which require immediate attention in order to effectively increase demand for EVs in India. While discussing these two topics, the interplay between infrastructure, investment, and laws, which heavily influences the EV market, will also be briefly discoursed.
An EV operates on a battery as opposed to a motor vehicle which requires petrol or diesel to function. The need for switching to EVs has arisen due to the highly polluting nature of motor vehicles and their reliance on non-renewable sources of energy which are rapidly getting exhausted.
What goes inside an Electric Vehicle?
There are four types of EVs: Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), and Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). When it comes to batteries, across the years, different kinds of batteries have been used in EVs, ranging from lead-acid to nickel-metal hydride. However, currently, lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion) are the most commonly used batteries for EVs. Constant research has led to the development of hydrogen fuel cells which could be the future of EV batteries as they have an energy to weight ratio ten times greater than Li-ion batteries.
There are numerous chemistries of Li-ion batteries available, but the most common types are the lithium ‘metal’ oxide (where the metal can be NMC [nickel-manganese-cobalt] or NCA [nickel-cobalt-aluminium], among others) and lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP). LFP batteries are generally much safer, but recently, Chinese EV makerBYD has claimed to have gone a step further and manufactured Blade Battery which has not only aced the nail penetration test but also passed other standard extreme tests for EV batteries without incidences of fire or explosion.
Following other nations, India has also commenced its journey toward transitioning from motor vehicles to EVs. The most prevalent EVs in India are electric rickshaws, electric carts, electric two-wheelers, electric cars, and electric buses.
Steps taken by the Indian Government to promote EVs
In2011, the Government of India, under the aegis of the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprise, set up the National Mission for Electric Mobility (NCEM) to promote electric mobility and manufacturing of EVs in India. The setting up of a National Board for Electric Mobility (NBEM) by the Department of Heavy Industry was also approved to act as the apex body in the Government of India for making recommendations in these matters.
Under the NCEM, Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) was launched in2015 with the objective to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and manufacturing eco-system. FAME, in Phase II, is currently a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, a National Mission document providing thevision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of EVs and their manufacturing in the country.
India aims to achieve 100% usage of EVs by 2030, proposed as by NITI Aayog Electric Vehicle Mobility Vision 2030. In furtherance of the above mentioned, the Government of India has also started to devise laws and guidelines for an organized market penetration of EVs.
Do EVs find a place under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988?
The inherent difference between the functioning of a motor vehicle and an EV makes it difficult to have the same set of laws for both. In this segment, we shall discuss a few differences between the two and understand briefly why EVs require a different regulatory regime.
As already mentioned, motor vehicles work on an internal combustion engine, whereas most EVs operate on a battery ;hence, the standards required to authorize EV’s operation are very different from motor vehicles.
Though laws for electric cars and buses are not envisaged under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (MV Act), laws applicable to e-rickshaws and e-carts are provided for.
Laws pertaining to E-Rickshaws and E-carts under MV Act
E-rickshaws and e-carts are a separate category under the MV Act, but the road to its regulation has been tumultuous, if not more. E-rickshaws gained prominence in India long back, however, they were highly disorganized. In 2016, no registration and licensing were required for e-rickshaws, thereby meaning that any person could get on the street with an e-rickshaw. E-rickshaw drivers did not even require a driving test. This resulted in a muddled database of e-rickshaws and their drivers, and in the event of accidents, it became difficult to hold the culprits accountable.
Today, e-rickshaws and e-carts are fairly regulated. The law which permitted non-requirement of license and registration for e-rickshaws has been repealed and unfollowed. Different states in the country have different guidelines for e-rickshaws, with the safety of customers as the prime objective. At present, most e-rickshaws have to comply with the standards laid down by the Automotive Research Association of India and in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules. Only e-rickshaws with a maximum speed of 25km/h and running at 250 watts are exempted from this compliance.
Under the MV Act, Section 2A defines e-rickshaws & e-carts as follows:
“For the purposes of this section, “e-cart or e-rickshaw” means a special purpose battery-powered vehicle of power not exceeding 4000 watts, having three wheels for carrying goods or passengers, as the case may be, for hire or reward, manufactured, constructed or adapted, equipped and maintained in accordance with such specifications, as may be prescribed in this behalf.”
Section 27 of the MV Act provides the Central Government with the power to make rules relating to e-carts and e-rickshaws, while Sections 7 and 9 lay down the law to grant a driving license to the driver of an e-rickshaw or an e-cart.
Regulatory Framework of EVs in India
In recent times, the Government of India has not only come up with new laws and guidelines to regulate the EV market but has also suitably amended existing statutes to promote the EV revolution. We shall discuss these laws below.
Vide this clarification dated 13.04.2018, the Ministry of Power clarified that during the activity of charging the battery for use in an electric vehicle, the charging station does not perform any of the activities, namely transmission, distribution, or trading of electricity, which require a licence under the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003 (Electricity Act), hence the charging of batteries of EVs through charging station does not require any licence under the provisions of the Electricity Act.
Under the above-mentioned Regulations, vide an amendment to Regulation 2, the definition of ‘charging point’ and ‘charging station’ was added. As per Clause (da) of Regulation 2, a charging point means a facility for recharging batteries of electric vehicles for private or public non-commercial use, connected at 415/220 Volts. While as per clause (db) ofRegulation 2, a charging station means a facility for recharging batteries of electric vehicles for commercial use and shall also include multiple charging points for non-commercial public use and capable of transferring power from electric vehicles to the grid.
In February 2019, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, through the Town and Country Planning Organization, came out withamendments to Model Building Bye-Laws for the addition of norms for charging infrastructure provisions in Development Control Regulations and enabling provisions for installing “Charging Infrastructure” in the building premises and core urban areas of the cities. It was agreed upon that to address the quantum of emissions from the “Transport” sector powered by fossil fuels, “electric vehicle” is considered a viable option for short distance / inter-city trips with adequate “charging stations” available. Hence, it was necessary to make provisions for establishing Public Charging Stations (PCS) in the local areas, including urban CBDs for, vehicle re-fuelling/recharging.
Under these Regulations, the definitions of ‘charging point’ and ‘charging station’ as defined in the Central Electricity Authority (Technical Standards for Connectivity of the Distributed Generation Resources) Amendment Regulations, 2019, were added. Also, ‘electric vehicle’, ‘electric vehicle supply equipment’, ‘socket-outlet,’ and ‘supply lead’ were defined under Regulation 2 (1). In addition to the above-stated definitions, the Regulations also provided for general safety requirements for electric vehicle charging stations, earth protection systems for charging stations, firefighting systems for charging stations, testing, inspection, and periodic assessment of charging stations, and the maintenance of records and international standard of safety for charging stations.
Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989
In 2018, the Ministry of Road, Transport, and Highways issueda notification under which it mandated the exhibition of coloured number plates for EVs (yellow colour on green background for transport EVs and white colour on green background for other EVs) so that they can be distinguished from the traditional vehicles on roads and would also help the authorities to provide EV drivers assistance, reduce toll taxes, etc.
Further, as per the initial law, an EV must consist of a tyre repair kit, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), and an additional tyre. Under thenew amendment made in 2020 by the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highway to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, a vehicle installed with a tyre repair kit and TPMS can do away with the requirement of an additional tyre. This rule would be beneficial for the functioning of EVs as by removing the need for an additional tyre, extra space would be created for accommodating a larger battery.
EVs can also beregistered and sold without batteries. This is subject to approval being given by the testing agency. The motive behind selling EVs without batteries is to reduce their selling price.
The Ministry of Power issued guidelines and standards for charging infrastructure for EVs in 2018, which were amended twice, first in 2019 and later in 2020. The Ministry has again amended the guidelines and come up with the ‘Revised Consolidated Guidelines and Standards for EVs’ in the year 2022 (Revised Guidelines). The objectives of these guidelines include: (i) Boosting the adoption of EVs in India by providing a safe, reliable, accessible, and affordable charging infrastructure and eco-system; (ii) Supporting the Electrical Distribution System to adopt the EV Charging infrastructure System; and (iii) Providing for affordable tariff chargeable from charging station operators and electric vehicle owners, amongst others.
Interestingly, the Revised Guidelines also include provisions for the captive charging station and battery swapping station. In consonance with the concept of a captive power plant under the Electricity Act, a captive charging station shall be stationed exclusively for the EVs owned or under the control of the owner of the charging station and shall not be used for the commercial purpose of charging other EVs. On the other hand, battery swapping stations will enable the customers to replace the discharged or partially charged batteries of their EVs with fully charged batteries.
The Revised Guidelines also provide for the nomination of a nodal agency by each state government for setting up charging infrastructure. The State Nodal Agency could be the state DISCOM or a central/state PSU.
Apart from the various regulations and guidelines issued at the central level, each state government in India has also issued its own electric vehicle policies.
The Revised Guidelines also consist of the minimum requirements to which a charging infrastructure must adhere, such as giving adequate space to vehicles for entry, exit, and charging, establishing different charger models to cater to the charging requirements of all sorts of EVs, having options for various charging speeds, setting up kiosks/boards and if possible, setting up kiosks for additional chargers, availability of washrooms, etc. The government of India has also advised maintaining standards prevalent within international manufacturers while constructing charging infrastructure: Combined Charging System (CCS) or A DC Fast Charging Standard (CHadeMO). Guidelines have also been devised for the maintenance of database of charging stations, tariff policy, service charges, etc.
Areas that require Legislative Attention
There is often a debate regarding the safety of EVs. Some researchers claim it to be secure, while others say that it might catch fire easily, making it heavily unsafe for mass usage. The government and legislators need to lay down reliable guidelines, standards, and testing procedures to prevent any accidents. Currently, all EVs have to mandatorily take approval from the Automotive Research Association of India and also have to undergo RTO registration except for the e-bikes, which have low power and low maximum speed limits.
EVs must also have strict safety standards to accelerate their development. EU follows Global Technical Regulation No. 20 on EV Safety (GTR) and also has its own set of safety standards. This provision includes laws to prevent electrocution through direct or indirect contact, mandatory insulation of live parts of the electric system, protection from frame faults and uncontrolled operation, emergency switches, battery safety provisions, and compulsorily installing acoustic vehicle alerting systems, etc. India may also take inputs for its EV-related safety regulations from the regulations already in place in other countries.
EVs in Public Transport
With one of the largest transport systems in the world, guidelines and regulations need to be either freshly formulated or formulated under existing statutes such as Environment Protection Act, 1986 so as to shift public transport in India from motor vehicles to EVs.
In this regard, Ola launched ‘Mission: Electric’ in 2018 with the commitment to bring 10,000 EVs on the road in the next 12 months in order to attain sustainable mobility. Further, as per an official statement given in December 2021, in its bid to check vehicular pollution, theDelhi Government is soon going to ask all aggregators such as Ola, Uber, Zomato and Swiggy to fully switch to EVs in the next few years. Similar steps are expected from other state governments as well in the future. To date, only Flipkart, FedEx, and DHL have set upworldwide targets for converting their delivery system from motor vehicles to EVs.
Battery Disposal Laws
Mass deployment of EVs might become harmful to the environment even when they have been introduced to protect nature. The battery life of an EV is a few years, after which it has to be disposed of. In India, the disposal of these batteries is done in a careless manner. The batteries, which are inflammable, are discarded irresponsibly in the landfills, which may lead to explosions. Additionally, the lack of proper record of the number of EVs on-road makes it even more difficult for the authorities to make suitable disposal of these batteries. Currently,E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2018 lay down the manner in which these batteries must be disposed of. However, they do not provide cohesive rules regarding the disposal of Li-ion based batteries which most EVs utilize thereby, exposing the environment and humans to a much greater risk.
In India, the number of Li-ion recycling plants is less and as already discussed, the laws are unclear about the disposal of these batteries, which is a major discouragement to entering the business. InEurope, the laws lay down a step-by-step process to dispose of these batteries, starting with the process of collection. India may look forward to devising strong regulations and establishing a good market for battery disposal and recycling.
India is currently in the process of framing abattery recycling policy for Li-ion batteries under which tax sops are offered to recyclers. The concerned policy is expected to provide benefits to the companies setting up recycling facilities and make it compulsory for producers to collect used batteries. In furtherance of this, the Indian Government is contemplating to imposing ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’, which is similar to battery disposal laws in place in Germany, under which the producers would be obliged to collect the waste batteries and deposit them in recycling centres. A committee may also be set up to monitor the recycling centres, and the duties of producers in recycling and persons not adhering to these regulations may be appropriately penalized.
Other Important Laws
Separate places will have to be demarcated for the safe parking of EVs. Buildings, malls and other public spaces must have laws that administer the safety of EVs in parking lots. Instances of EVs causing accidents has been worrying.EU has asked the manufacturers to install a safety device in EVs which makes noise while speeding up and speeding down. This will help to signal the commuters about the EVs’ speed. Even though most states are charging low road tax from EVs because the EVs haven’t become as common as ICE cars and buses, the laws regarding road taxes are still unclear.
A huge investment would be required to develop EV infrastructure; hence, initially, the Government of India must step in to stabilize the market. However, once the market is a bit stable, like with other major industries, private players will have to be encouraged to make an investment. In such a circumstance, the public-private partnership model would be ideal wherein the Government of India might have ownership while the private player operates the project. However, this difference in ownership and operation can also possibly lead to conflicts.EU identified this issue and has proposed to devise rules and duties for owners, and operators and the Government of India may follow.
It is pretty evident that boosting infrastructure through policies, laws, and investments is important. Successful operation of EVs will not only require charging infrastructure, battery swapping stations, maintenance centres, battery manufacturing centres but Li-ion warehouses and recycling and disposal hubs too. Government must push for infrastructural development on all fronts equally. The EV market is expected to attract94,000 crores investment in just 5 years.Indian Oil Corporation has been building 22,000 Charging Infrastructures across India for over 5 years.Companies like Skoda, Hyundai, Yamaha, and Mahindra have also decided to locally manufacture EV cars, EV bicycles, and batteries. 500 EV startups in India focusing on manufacturing have gained investments from several banks such as ADB Ventures, International Finance Corporation, and Green Growth Equity Fund. Othercompanies like TVS Motor Company, Tube Investments India, Simple Energy, and Zion International have also signed MoUs with various Indian states to carry out EV-related businesses. To sum up, comprehensive government policies accompanied by vast investment opportunities will surely provide a good scope for EV market growth in India in the coming years.
About the Authors
Ms. Anandini Sood is an advocate based out of New Delhi with almost 6 years of experience in dispute resolution and contract management along with regulatory and commercial advisory in the infrastructure, power and energy sector.
Kopal Kesarwani is a third-year law student at the Jindal Global Law School, NCR, and an Associate Editor at IJPIEL.
Managing Editor: Naman Anand
Editors-in-Chief: Jhalak Srivastav and Muskaan Singh
Senior Editor: Gaurang Mandavkar
Associate Editor: Kopal Kesarwani
Junior Editor: Parishti Kaushik
Preferred Method of Citation
Anandini Sood and Kopal Kesarwani, “Electric Vehicles in the Indian Legal Domain” (IJPIEL, 11 May 2022)