KARACHI: Pakistan is not well known for adopting new technology, let alone coming up with innovation.
The country is often late to the party and is behind on a number of benchmarks – barring population and its growth.
One other area where Pakistan is also very likely to lag behind is the adoption of electric cars and moving towards an environment-friendly fuel alternative.
While the world is fast moving towards cleaner sources of fuel, Pakistan has only started exploring coal. Similarly, while the rest of the world gives its businesses a deadline to halt the production of diesel- and petrol-run vehicles, Pakistan is seeing a greater number of traditional vehicles on the road.
France, China, India, and the UK have all vowed to end production of diesel- and petrol-powered vehicles by 2040.
Pakistan’s two giant neighbours – China and India – have also been trying to develop alternative fuel vehicles to help control air quality issues. Pollution is a serious concern there.
As Pakistan experiences one of its fastest growths in retail consumerism and middle-class population, the country is set to see a lot more pollution, traffic congestion and environmental issues.
“We have always been vocal that, as a country, we must have long-term plans – this is why the industry (local players) pushed the government for the Auto Policy,” said the spokesperson at Indus Motor – the makers of Toyota Corolla in Pakistan – in response to a query on the country’s potential move towards electric cars. “Yes, the government should establish holistic carbon reduction plans, not limited to electric cars.”
The local industry agrees that the demand of four-wheelers is bound to go up and the future cannot be oil-based.
“Of course, with a growing economy and automotive industry, it is inevitable that one adopts clean energy vehicles,” the spokesperson added.
While Pakistan does import various hybrid vehicles, none are in local production.
Hindrances to the road with electric cars
Industry officials say there are several roadblocks in the path of electric cars -globally, and in Pakistan. Foremost is the lack of infrastructure, power outages, lengthy charging time and finding an environment-friendly way of battery’s disposal.
“The main problems are lack of good infrastructure and electricity outages,” commented former Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts and Accessories Manufacturers (Paapam) chairman Mashood Ali Khan.
In addition, it’s the viability of an electric car for a longer journey that deters potential consumers. Globally, the best range, technically possible, so far is 300-400kms after a charging time of 45 to 75 minutes. Research is under way globally to develop a battery that could charge in less than 10 minutes and enable the car to move more than 700km.
Some say that the benefits would be very limited, ranging from their use limited only to smaller cities, and not on urban roads like those in Pakistan.
“Any attempt to bring electric cars into Pakistan without refueling infrastructure, low range and long charging time will be only a cosmetic attempt to take undue favours in terms of government subsidies,” Indus Motor spokesperson said. Instead, Pakistan should wait for the technology to mature abroad with at least a 700km range with a charging time similar to the one it takes filling a petrol tank.
Not many people know that a Chinese company that bought land in Gwadar intends to produce electric cars in Pakistan. But it take may take another four to five years until the country can see a ‘made in Pakistan’ electric vehicle.
Nishat Group chairman Mian Mansha – one of the richest men in Pakistan with a net worth of over $1 billion – has already showed an interest in assembling electric and hybrid vehicles. The group is teaming up with South Korean giant Hyundai Motor Company, but it may take at least two years before any plan reaches the maturity stage.
Some industry analysts believe that Pakistan may end electricity outages in the next few years.
“With projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under way, electricity outages are expected to resolve in the coming years. So there is some hope,” Khan added.
There is one other reason why electric cars make sense, especially for an oil-importing country like Pakistan.
With a bulk of its import bill constituting oil shipments, it would make sense for Pakistan to bank less on the commodity in the coming years. Words like sustainability and environment-friendly also come to mind.
Just like India, Pakistan’s major cities are some of the most polluted cities in the world. Vehicle emissions are one of the few top sources of air pollution, which also cause different respiratory diseases. With a growing number of cars, Karachi and Lahore could soon join the list that features New Delhi and Beijing – the two cities that have made global headlines for their worst air quality in the world.
As far as electric cars are concerned, Pakistan needs massive investments in outdoor car charging stations to encourage customers. Pakistani policymakers can also take help from the Chinese who are world leaders in electric vehicles’ technology.
Chinese authorities have already impressed critics by slowly and gradually building a strong infrastructure for all-electric cars. By providing heavy subsidies to the sector, fast registration and free car parking, Chinese authorities have already succeeded in taking their plug-in vehicle sale to over 500,000 units per year in 2016.
Let’s hope Pakistan can learn a lesson in value from Chinese counterparts in matters other than just CPEC.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2017.
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Source: Tribune News | Why it makes sense for Pakistan to adopt electric cars soon