Today, 55% of the global population lives in urban areas, with the figure expected to increase to 70% by 2050. Increase in urbanisation and population growth leads to an expansion in cities. Urban areas are hubs of economic and cultural activity and continue to attract people looking to leverage the opportunities that cities provide. Moreover, in 2020, an estimated 2 billion Asians belong to the middle class and that number is set to rise to 3.5 billion by 2030.
Rise in urbanisation, and particularly middle class population, poses certain restrictions; but if dealt with properly, these restrictions could be turned into resources. One of the most pertaining challenges is safe, economical and reliable transportation. For instance, in Lahore, data from International Growth Center shows that less than 5% of the working population took public transport to work, 40% of working individuals walked to work while most of the rest traveled by motorcycle. Only 10% of workers traveled to work by car. Highly-educated and high-profile workers were substantially more likely to commute by private transport. However, private transportation leads to more congestion in cities and is also a major contributor to air pollution (accounting for around half of current global NOX emissions). Only transport accounts for 23% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today, and 34% of the 2050 urban GHG abatement potential. More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits, being a serious health hazard.
Therefore, there is dire need to make ambitious policies in order to keep matching the demand for transportation while still curtailing the GHG emissions and air pollution that is being added through these. For safe, economical and reliable transportation, we need to start focusing on electric vehicles and ride-sharing services based on EVs. As per the projection of International Energy Agency, electric vehicles are expected to have 35% to 45% lower emission in comparison with conventional IC engines. Thus introducing electric vehicles as last mile connectivity option could result in effective reduction of pollution and health issues. Electric option for last mile connectivity mode may include e-rickshaws, e-autos, mini electric buses, etc, depending on city’s requirement and feasibility.
India has introduced e-rickshaws as first/last mile connectivity in cities. This 3-wheel electric powered vehicle is expected to complete the value chain of public transport service gaps, for commuters. These have net power less than 4000W, speed restriction of 25kmph and seating capacity for four passengers along with driver. E-rickshaws have been a great success in consumer markets (both in India and Bangladesh) and are welcomed by commuters and operators due to their characteristics of being demand responsive and convenient. According to the projections by P&S Intelligence (2019), market of e-rickshaws in India is expected to reach 935.5 thousand units by 2024, with a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 15.9%. This is certainly a new emerging market and therefore, we need to tap in our resources for such models. Electric vehicles will not only curb pollution but would also cater to the increasing demand of commuters in bigger cities. Since, EVs tend to consume considerably lower energy, and do not depend on oil prices or dollar valuation, it could significantly increase the driver’s disposable income. It would also decrease the fares that daily commuters have to pay in order to reach out to their work destinations; hence, spilling positive spillovers over a range of community. Now is the time to act responsibly and smartly. Now is the time to move towards a more comfortable, affordable, flexible and convenient mode of transportation for a progressive Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2020.
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