At a time when the world is increasingly moving towards electric mobility, Pakistan does not want to be left behind. Increasing air pollution in many of its cities, coupled with rising oil import bills, are two of several reasons why the country wants to join the electric bandwagon.
The On-Road Reality
Several Pakistani cities have the dubious distinction of making it to the infamous list of world's most polluted centers. It is a recurring problem, only compounded by the rather shoddy emission standards in place across the country. While safety norms have often been deemed rather lax, emission norms are even more lackluster. Several environmentalists in the country have pointed the accusatory finger at public buses and a massive two-wheeler population as the main driving force behind the country's rising pollution levels.
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According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, there are three million private vehicles and 20 million two-wheelers and motorized three-wheelers across the country. The number of two-wheelers, in particular, are steadily rising and poses a massive threat to environmental pollution.
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The Proposal for an Alternate Reality
Pakistan reportedly has a rather ambitious plan to go all electric on its roads. Imran Khan, the country's PM, primarily wants to bring down the oil import bill that his country can ill-afford with more and more economic troubles.
As such, a proposal has been floated under which Pakistan is targeting putting 100,000 cars, 500,000 two- and three-wheelers and another 1,000 buses and trucks using electric power on roads by 2025, according to Karachi-based journalist Zofeen Ebrahim. She further informs that the proposal calls for 30% of all new cars, buses and trucks sold in the country by 2030 to be powered by electric energy.
These measures could indeed have a positive impact on not just the environment but stand to considerably bring down Pakistan's dependence on fossil fuel which is almost entirely imported.
The Very Real Roadblocks
For a developing country to shift towards electric mobility is quite a challenge. There is the question of how to get manufacturers to make EVs, how to convince masses to invest in an EV and how to provide supporting infrastructure. These are elementary questions that require a whole lot of brainstorming - especially in a country like Pakistan where the economic conditions have been shambolic and will only worsen due to the current coronavirus outbreak.
It is widely agreed that EVs are easier to manufacture but companies won't make them unless they see a scope for profits over the investments to bring the technology here. After sales for a newer technology would also require investment in training people while the taxation policy for EVs may yet make them too expensive.
In a country which has a per capita income of less than $1,400 per year, taking EVs to the masses is a massive challenge owing to all the costs involved.
And then there is the biggest question of them all - does Pakistan even have the capabilities to produce all the additional electricity that would be required to power such vehicle. Entire provinces have plunged into darkness due to outages which are just a part of life here. Summer months see the situation worsening to scorching levels. In a country where even the PM's office faced a potential power cut due to non-payment of bills, electric energy for vehicles could remains shockingly elusive.
As such, while Pakistan - much like many other countries - may have the right idea of promoting electric mobility, it appears to have no strategy and lacks the resources to implement it.