A hotly debated issue is taking center stage as governments across the world advocate for greener transport options to meet climate targets. One in every nine new cars sold in Europe last year was an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, which has put the region at the forefront of climate protection. However, with the world’s population growth expected to take place in developing countries by 2050, thousands of cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America may be left continuing to use fossil fuel-powered vehicles for decades.
According to a Bloomberg report, most electric vehicles (EVs) are sold in the United States, China and Europe, where government-backed buying incentives and investments in charging infrastructure make it easier for potential customers to opt for EVs. However, in contrast, many developing nations, either lack of government initiatives, spending power or patchy infrastructure throw up major obstacles to make the switch.
The report cited the example of Nairobi where the vehicle population doubles every eight years and the majority of inhabitants rely on minibus taxis called Matatus to get around. While they are cheap options, these are mostly older vehicles and often run on the much polluting diesel. Such instances of carbon dioxide emissions have roughly doubled since 2005, with the transport sector responsible for much of the build-up.
“If we only bring EVs to the US, Finland and the Netherlands, we will not meet the Paris climate agreement targets,” Rob de Jong, who heads the mobility unit at the United Nations’ environment program, told the publication. Other African countries including Uganda and Morocco have already established rules to raise the quality of the scores of used cars imported from the West every year. However, most of these vehicles are between 16 and 20 years old, meaning the industry has contributed to an already worsening air pollution levels in the region.
De Jong also said that part of the problem is due to global automakers designing their cars, vans and motorcycles to suit their well-heeled customer base in the West, thereby particularly ignoring the needs of potential buyers in poorer markets.
Local EV start-ups are cropping up across Africa to make the most of their potential. But demand for battery-powered vehicles is already vastly exceeding supply in nations like Rwanda, where motorbike maker Ampersand is expanding its bike and battery-swap station network.