Embracing EVs

Pakistan’s speedy transition to green energy is an imperative of which EVs will be a significant component.

Led by China, the global sales of electric vehicles continue to show a strong upward trend. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) projections, in 2023, the sales of EVs were to register an increase of 25 percent, with every fourth car sold in Europe being electric. Outside of the major EV markets, electric car sales were to be 50% higher than in 2022. The electric vehicle landscape in Pakistan is also abuzz. Many automobile manufacturers are introducing hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), all-electric vehicles (EVs) as well as two and three-wheeler EVs.

The future for electric vehicles in Pakistan appears promising, notwithstanding the challenges posed by the high costs of automobiles, the lack of EV infrastructure, and expensive electricity. With well-considered policies, attractive incentives, and foreign and local investments, Pakistan can accelerate its transition to electric mobility. Close collaboration among all stakeholders including the government, private sector, and consumers is essential to harness the benefits of cleaner, greener more economical, and sustainable transportation.

Electric vehicles rely on several key components and technologies. These include traction motors for propulsion; battery packs that typically consist of lithium-ion cells, and components like inverters, converters, controllers etc. Importantly, EVs require charging infrastructure to replenish their battery energy. The electric vehicles produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles.

The Engineering Development Board (EDB) has recently issued 34 licenses to manufacturers of two- and three-wheelers within the framework of Pakistan’s Electric Vehicles Policy for 2020-2025. In Pakistan, two and three-wheeler manufacturers are emerging as the vanguards of a new era of green mobility. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), only nine percent of households in Pakistan own a car while 53 percent own a motorbike.

Several countries are switching to EVs at impressive rates. The top 5 countries with the highest share of EV sales are Norway (EVs made up 80% of vehicles sold in 2022), Iceland (41%), Sweden (32%), the Netherlands (24%) and China (22%). China has emerged as a leader in the EV market in the world. China factor is important for Pakistan, as the Chinese automakers are beginning to give tough competition to their Japanese and Korean rivals.

The world’s transition to electric vehicles largely depends on the three largest car markets namely, China, Europe and the United States. Jointly, these three markets account for 60% of all global car sales. China’s EV sales are more than double the global average. Europe’s EV sales are slightly above the global average. The share of the United States EV sales is about one year behind the global average. Today, China is by far the biggest player in EVs. In 2022, 22% of vehicles sold in China were all-electric, around 4.4 million EVs sold. That was higher than the 3 million EVs sold in the rest of the world combined.

Several developing countries have also made significant strides in adopting electric vehicles (EVs) to address urban pollution, reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, and promote sustainable transportation. Our Eastern neighbour India has set ambitious targets for electric vehicle adoption, aiming for 30% of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. Kenya, Colombia and Brazil are also good examples of embracing electric vehicles as an important component of their efforts to build green transportation systems and pave the way for a cleaner and more efficient mobility future.

At present, the private sector seems to be dictating the introduction of EVs in Pakistan. Driven purely by quick and big profits, a few automobile groups have already introduced very expensive EVs, way beyond the reach of middle-class consumers. Recently, BYD (Build Your Dreams), the world’s leading EV manufacturer, which has overtaken Tesla as the biggest seller of EVs, has announced that it will enter the passenger vehicle market in Pakistan in cooperation with local partner Mega Conglomerate Pvt.

Pakistan’s speedy transition to green energy is an imperative of which EVs will be a significant component. The Government needs to guide, set priorities and put in place a robust regulatory framework to ensure a rational and gradual shift from conventional automobiles to EVs, to cater to the interests of middle-class and lower-income consumers and to support EV growth. The need of the hour is a comprehensive plan for the local manufacturing of the entire range of the supply chain, especially the lithium-ion batteries, Inverters and traction motors. Equally important is to expand EV infrastructure throughout the country. Simultaneously, Pakistan has to prioritise solarisation in the country as the country strives to address its energy challenges and embrace sustainable alternatives. Only recharging by solar energy will make public and private EVs truly feasible. In this endeavour, local manufacturing of all essential components has to be a top priority.

Muhammad Haroon Shaukat
The writer is a retired Ambassador and Director of Foreign Affairs at the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Lahore, Pakistan. He can be reached at casslahore@gmail.com

The writer is a retired ambassador and Director of Foreign Affairs at the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Lahore, Pakistan. He can be reached at casslahore@gmail.com.

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