By Sarthak Takyar
A Mumbai-based company, Magenta Power created a buzz last year with the launch of India’s first solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station. This pilot started discussions in the industry about the cleanest energy solution in the EV space.
Magenta Power was founded in 2016. The company focuses on generation, adoption and utilisation of clean energy. In the generation segment, the company’s primary focus is on rooftop solar systems. It has a portfolio of 1.5 MW, which includes residential, commercial and industrial rooftop projects. The company is currently setting up projects in the engineering, procurement and construction mode, but is also planning to set up projects based on the opex model in the future. Apart from providing turnkey solutions, the company undertakes operations and maintenance of rooftop solar projects.
For the adoption of clean energy, the company has a separate business, Magenta Infomatics, which focuses on developing technologies and applications. The company has developed the MeraBill app, which helps consumers with rooftop solar systems monitor their energy generation and consumption on a daily basis. It has also developed an open platform of charging stations, called ChargeGrid, which aggregates all charging stations within a 500 metre range of the EV user through a mobile app. Currently, the company is developing a blockchain platform for microgrids.
Through Infomatics, Magenta Power has resolved numerous issues in the EV billing system. “The foremost issue in the country was the non-availability of tariff for EV charging. We worked closely with Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) to lay the groundwork. Later, in collaboration with MSEDCL, we launched India’s first billing meter, through which electricity was provided at a subsidised rate of Rs 6.50 per unit,” shares Maxson Lewis, managing director, Magenta Power.
For the utilisation of clean energy, Magenta Power is setting up EV charging stations. The company launched this business arm after a year of research on the challenges prevailing in the Indian EV market. Its aim was to find the cleanest solution to the problem of limited charging infrastructure in the country. “The adoption of EVs will not solve the problem of pollution. It just transfers the problem from the tailpipe to the chimney stack. The answer is supplying electricity to the charging station through renewable energy sources,” says Lewis.
Clean energy for clean mobility
On June 13, 2018, Magenta Power set up India’s first solar-based EV charging station in Mumbai. Despite being a clean solution, the solar-powered charging station faced challenges in the development of modules that provide an interface between the solar system, the charger and the net meter, to ensure that the power is taken first from the rooftop system and then from the grid.
Moreover, the uptake of such a concept will be slow owing to the high cost of setting up a rooftop solar system, making it an unviable business model. According to Lewis, “Currently, the payback period for a rooftop solar system is three years. The payback period to cover the capex cost of charging infrastructure will be another two years. This is based on the current tariff of Rs 15 per unit.”
A 15 kW rooftop system currently charges five cars a day and still has surplus energy, which is sold to the grid. When more cars start using such facilities, the company will have to start spending more on solar modules to avoid purchasing costly power from the grid. This catch-22 situation makes the business model less attractive. “The company has the opportunity to make 90 per cent of its EV chargers solar powered. But at this point, with limited EVs on roads, the solarisation of chargers will make the system financially unviable,” says Lewis.
Mumbai-Pune EV highway
There are a large number of EVs in Mumbai and Pune combined, but the lack of EV charging stations on highways makes intercity travel a challenge. To overcome this challenge, Magenta Power started setting up charging stations on the Mumbai-Pune highway and launched an EV highway on the lines of the Colorado EV highway project on August 13, 2018. Two charging stations on this highway are solar powered.
By March 2019, Magenta Power plans to deploy over 100 chargers across states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Telangana. The company has set a target to deploy over 450 chargers by March 2020.
In the rooftop solar segment, the company aims to reach among the top 10 over the next three years. According to Lewis, “The innovations we are bringing in the microgrid segment with respect to blockchain will propel us forward. My prediction is that in the future, the grid will become redundant in line with the developments in Malaysia and Australia.”
In line with its growth plans, Magenta Power has partnered with Mahindra Susten to increase the latter’s reach and customer base in the small-rooftop segment. The partnership will also allow the interchange of customer data, which will allow both companies to serve customers better. It also involves the development of solar carports along with EV charging stations. Meanwhile, the company is working on two off-grid charging station pilots in Maharashtra, which will draw power from renewable energy sources.
In the e-mobility space, Magenta Power is looking to capture a 25 per cent share in the overall EV charging business in India by 2022. “We believe that 40 per cent of charging in India will be through the ChargeGrid platform. To achieve this goal, we are working extensively with distribution companies, original equipment manufacturers and EV users,” says Maxson Lewis.
The company has reported an impressive growth of 400 per cent in terms of revenue over the past year. A smaller base makes this growth possible. Over a span of two years, the company has scaled up its operations in several states.
Going ahead, significant capital will be required to achieve the company’s ambitious targets in each business segment. To this end, Magenta Power has started pitching to investors to raise capital. But more importantly, the company needs to find an investor that shares its vision.