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Op-ed: Electric Vehicles (EVs) in Pakistan

The author discusses the future of EVs in Pakistan, addressing the climate change effects and how CPEC can play its role.

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With the beginning of the new decade, there are severe challenges the world is facing today. Apart from on-going pandemic and emergence of novel diseases, with the world population growing there is a shortage of food, water, lack of education, health and housing facilities, the growing gap between rich and poor with wealth accumulating in few hands, how the energy needs can be met safely and efficiently to tackle the climate change issue.

On top of that, the pandemic has added more to the spice and the damage world economies faced during 2020, will take some years to recover. This has increased unemployment and uncertainty around the globe. Governments around the globe are preparing to counter these challenges in their own capacity and through global institutes but seem struggling to come up with a model that can facilitate the opening of the businesses and ensuring employees health.

To counter these challenges new steps from the governments are needed to adopt sustainable solutions. We are seeing drastic policies from the world economies in the form of stimulus packages to lift their small and medium-size business, vaccines are being developed at a pace never before to counter the Novel Coronavirus. Considering the challenges, we are facing today, there is much to do in order to meet the food, water, health, education and climate change.

Read more: Corona Pandemic: One Year of Lost Lives, Isolations, Destroyed Livelihoods

The situation in Pakistan is none different, we are also facing similar challenges and with a population over 200 million, there is a need to come up with solutions that can ensure economic growth providing basic necessities to its public, building new cities, highways, air and seaports, upgrading its current educational system to bring skill level to compete with other economies, and address the energy needs through sustainable solutions.

This piece will emphasize on how new opportunities for Pakistan can provide solutions to counter the climate change and pollution issue created by cars, trucks and busses running on gasoline. How our government can attract foreign investors, and what will help our youth to be more competent and stand ahead of other big markets.

According to NASA resources, Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. Burning fossil fuels releases gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and chemicals into the air, thus worsening its quality. This air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and methane raises the earth’s temperature. On top of that, bush fires across Australia and Amazon during 2020 exacerbate the situation.

Read more: Australia Burning: Bushfires kill countless people, animals, and forests

A big source of carbon and nitrogen content (NOX) in the air is the gasoline-run vehicles. In Pakistan, the total registered cars are more than 20 million, and thus offer a great source of air pollution. Like most of the countries are offering solutions in terms of Electric Vehicles (EVs), Pakistan also needs to speed up its transition from gasoline-run to electric cars.

However, it’s not going to happen overnight, as a great need for infrastructure is mandatory before we can enter the transition phase. Government has done the right thing to lay down its policy for EVs in the country and give concessions when it comes to customs duty. But these steps are just the beginning and much more to do in order to attract foreign investors.

We have China Pakistan Economic Corridor as a blessing and must take full advantage of Chinese investment for building this game-changer route. With the possibility of investment in other sectors, CPEC can also revolutionize EVs business in Pakistan. CPEC is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013. Originally valued at $47 Billion, the value of CPEC projects is worth $62 Billion as of 2020.

Read more: China, Pakistan determined in promoting CPEC construction: Chinese FM

CPEC is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones. Spreading over almost 1900 km length will bring high-tech infra-structure of railway and roads in Pakistan. Our government needs to take extraordinary steps in terms of attracting EV companies to ensure the country manages to extract the maximum outcome and utilize Gwadar port in its interest. CPEC would link Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea to China’s western Xinjiang region. This will continue further to Eurasia.

The government of Pakistan needs to send delegations to electric car companies and electric freight truck companies in order to gain their attraction for CPEC. Companies like Tesla, NIO, LUCID, Nikola, ZooX, Volvo, Iveco and Volkswagen group do not only build vehicles but also provide road infrastructure in terms of charging stations and battery swap and have joint ventures with other electric charging and battery companies.

CPEC will provide a great attraction for EVs and truck companies to install charging stations on newly built roads in comparison to old motorways or highways. The newly constructed road will also offer high durability of the vehicles. Most of the highways in Pakistan are badly ruined by jingle trucks which are always overloaded and carry freight throughout the country. With companies competing on how to increase vehicle mileage in terms of battery strength, Pakistan can offer new tech centers for research and development. Instead of conventional jingle trucks, it’s a need for introducing and developing aerodynamic truck and car structures through foreign investment.

Read more: Javed Afridi hints at introducing Tesla in Pakistan

EVs chassis are built with lighter material like glass fiber plastic or composites. These materials provide crashworthiness for the vehicle during a crash plus they are lightweight, this gives more mileage and lesser battery consumption. By using lightweight structural materials, vehicles can carry additional safety devices, and integrated electronic systems without increasing the overall weight of the vehicle. This will be a huge game changer for our local industry where customers pay millions of rupees to drive a luxury car, but do not even get very essentials of safety features.

This will bring more competition in the market and will also challenge the monopoly of the few. Moreover, our existing roads full of pits and potholes are not suitable for such vehicles with a reduction in vehicle lifetime and low mileage. We will not be able to attract foreign investment on our current infrastructure. It’s highly important that every new highway or motorway project must be built keeping in mind the need for electric car and truck charging stations. CPEC newly built road can provide a great attraction for EV companies in terms of setting up their charging stations.

EVs can also help to a great degree in improving our air quality. With our bigger cities rated among the most polluted in the world today, Pakistan is fifth in the list of countries to be most affected by this environment changing phenomenon and just imagine how things will be worse in the coming 5-10 years. We strictly need regulations to gradually phase out gasoline run cars, vans, busses and rickshaws. For gasoline run vehicles, direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the fuel system, and during the fueling process.

Read more: CM Buzdar: Punjab to introduce electric buses to fight smog and air pollution

Direct emissions include smog-forming pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides), other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide.  As a first step towards this transition, Plug-in hybrid vehicles should be encouraged and can provide a solution in the short run. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which have a gasoline engine in addition to an electric motor, produce evaporative emissions from the fuel system as well as tailpipe emissions when operating on gasoline.

However, because most PHEVs are more efficient than comparable conventional vehicles, they still produce fewer tailpipe emissions even when relying on gasoline. On the other hand, all-electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions, which specifically helps improve air quality in urban areas.

Geologically we are in a region which will become an economic and technological hub in the next 5 years, and there is much for us to learn and implement in order to make sure we do not lag, it’s our great fortune that our future is linked with the economic growth of China. We can provide access to Central Asia, Russia and China to the warm waters which is a long-awaited dream of these nations and electrifying this route will bring new business opportunities for us.

Read more: Nestle announces plan to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050

It’s equally important for our engineering universities in  Pakistan to introduce in their curriculum the skills of building road infrastructure for EVs, battery technology, lighter but crashworthy vehicles, using state of the art engineering tools, and above all creating a junction between modern industry and school. This will create skillful students who will help our country to stand tall and ahead of the other regional economies.

China will be the world’s new Silicon Valley. It has the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles. In less than a decade China’s new electric vehicle market has become the largest in the world. In 2018 more than a million electric vehicles were sold in China, more than three times the number sold in the US. According to the business newspaper Nikkei Asia: China sees a strategic economic opportunity in EVs and wants to lead in a new technology that most analysts expect will dominate the global transportation market.

The EV market grew on the back of Chinese industrial policy: a reliance on subsidies and explicit and implicit local government protections made mandatory for each Chinese manufacturer and importer to build or import 12% of EVs apart from their normal gasoline run vehicles by 2020, plus tax exemptions for EV buyers. China plans to make all new vehicles sold in 2035 “eco-friendly,” part of a goal that promises to give a tailwind to Japanese automakers like Toyota Motor, which specializes in hybrid engines.

Read more: Javed Afridi all set to launch ‘affordable’ British SUVs in Pakistan

Of all new vehicles sold that year in the world’s most populous nation, 50% are to be “new-energy” vehicles – electric, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell-powered. The other half are to be hybrids. Meanwhile, the only gasoline-powered vehicles sold in 2035 are to be hybrids. The goals are to raise the ratio of hybrids to 75% of all gasoline cars by 2030 and to 100% by 2035 and to stop manufacturing and selling conventional gasoline vehicles.

It’s a great need that the government of Pakistan should give more incentives and create ease of business as China did and enforce its EV policies strictly for existing manufacturers and importers. The Automotive Development Policy 2016–2021 and the launch of CPEC have been encouraging foreign investments for the new automobile brands to enter the Pakistani market. But more steps are needed to be taken to bring EV companies to Pakistan.

Our government does not only need to be an administrator or regulator but needs to take risks and bring out of the box solutions for the challenges we are facing today. To spread awareness a media campaign is needed during the prime time and educate the masses the need of transition to EVs, how CPEC investment can boost and what opportunities it can bring, how this will help to improve our air quality. It’s the time, every citizen needs to highlight these challenges in his or her capacity, and to bring solutions that can help the nation for a better and prosper future.

Anees Ur Rehman is currently working as a lead engineer in ALTEN group the US which is a consultant company for engineering services in automotive, aerospace, energy and pharma industry. He also has a master’s degree in automotive engineering from Sweden and worked for 10 years in the automotive sector. Twitter account: https://twitter.com/AneesUr33652105. E-mail: aneesawan@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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