The shift from traditional petrol-powered cars to electric vehicles is still in its nascent stages in Pakistan. It was recently given a push when a set of massive tax cuts came into effect in July prompting many to consider transitioning to this new form of transport. However, only time will tell if the government will be able to pull off the arduous task of introducing half a million electric motorcycles and rickshaws and 100,000 electric cars, vans and small trucks into the transportation system by 2025 as envisioned in the National Electric Vehicle Policy, 2019.
If successful, the initiative will bring about substantial change. But while such vehicles cost five times less to run than conventional ones, not everyone will be able to afford it considering rising inflation, surging poverty rates, and exacerbating socio-economic divide in the country. More emphasis must specifically be made on electric motorcycles to target the average lower-middles class citizens. Providing incentives and raising awareness will go a long way in instilling a sense of environmental responsibility that will help citizens make conscious eco-friendly decisions.
Pakistan also ranks second worst in air quality which is gravely affecting the health of citizens to a point where respiratory and other related diseases are amplifying, both in frequency and intensity. The right to breathe clean air is conjoined with the right to a healthy environment. Introducing Electric vehicles which produce 65% less greenhouse gases and consequently decreasing conventional vehicles on roads — both are equally crucial — can altogether help mitigate air pollution.
While tax cuts have been advantageous, concerned officials must continue to build a solid infrastructure and foundation to support it. This includes establishing a network of charging centres in major cities, improving affordability, creating awareness, increasing regulations along with accountability and providing greater incentives. But the most important aspect is to remove heavy carbon-emitting vehicles such as dilapidated buses and 4-stroke rickshaws.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2021.
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