A four-wheel EV manufacturer yet to approach govt for license under EV policy
In Pakistan, 32 companies have so far received manufacturing licenses under the Electric Vehicles (EVs) Policy 2020–2025 and all of them are two and three wheeler manufacturers, a govt official told Business Recorder on Friday.
No four wheel manufacturer has approached the government till date for the license under EVs policy, said Asim Ayaz, General Manager Policy, Engineering Development Board (EDB).
“One or two companies are working on EV four wheelers. However, no formal request has been received so far for the licenses,” he said. “We believe that EV penetration will be more in 2-3 wheelers, which shows the interest of manufacturers. And it will happen at a fast rate.”
The electrification of 2-3 wheelers would be followed by cars, but at a slower rate, he added. “Electrification of cars will be followed by buses on fixed routes.”
According to the Ministry of Climate Change, the transport sector is the leading factor in the deterioration of environmental conditions with a share of 43% in Pakistan’s current environmental woes. Pakistan is one of the most affected countries due to climate change.
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To put things in perspective, there are 26,884,786 registered motorcycles (two-wheels) in Pakistan; 1,001,860 three-wheelers; 4,499,423 four-wheel vehicles, according to Pakistan Economic Survey 2022-23. The total registered vehicles including two-, three-, four-wheels, buses and trucks on Pakistan roads are 34,907,449. The number includes all vehicles registered till September 2022.
The government of Pakistan approved an ambitious National Electric Vehicles Policy (NEVP) in 2019 that aimed at seeing electric vehicles take 30% share of all the passenger vehicle and heavy-duty truck sales by 2030, and 90% by 2040. Meanwhile, a more ambitious goal was set for two- and three-wheelers and buses at 50% of new sales by 2030 and 90% by 2040.
“There’s slow progress in that direction. At the present pace, the targets set for 2030 will be missed by a big margin,” said Dr Aazir Anwar Khan, Founder and Director Integrated Engineering Centre of Excellence (IECE), University of Lahore.
However, an official of the Ministry of Climate Change disagreed and said the electrification of automobiles was gradually gathering pace.
“You’ll see electric buses in Karachi and now electric bikes and EVs are not rare sights anymore,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.
What’s happening on the ground?
Electric bikes and cars are now making it to showrooms in Pakistan. One can now see an electric bike, e-tron – a high-end electric car or an electric bus every now and then. It’s not a rarity anymore.
At Karachi’s main two-wheel – motorcycle market Akbar Road, Sabir Sheikh, who owns half a dozen shops, is already seeing behavioral change of buyers.
“Motorcycle buyers have started to inquire about electric bikes, scooty, and scooters options. I believe many have postponed buying a normal two-wheeler with expectations that an electric two-wheel model may soon enter the market that is closer to their need,” said Sheikh, who is also the Chairman, Association of Pakistan Motorcycle Assemblers (APMA).
Sheikh said he also plans to start his own company to manufacture two-wheel EVs, assembler them, and also sell the electric bikes. He has run a motorcycle manufacturing company with the name Sitara in the past.
Sheikh is already selling electric scooters at his shops.
Transitioning to electric bikes
Sources privy to the matter said the ministry of climate change is the secretariat of electric vehicles policy, which can incentivise the sector for faster adoption.
Meanwhile, Aazir Khan has been an advocate for widespread EV adaption and removal of fiscal barriers on its offering to the public through scoping and advocacy studies under the Pakistan EV oversight committee.
Khan is himself working on a CNG type retrofitting model converting CD70 motorcycles, which makes a major portion of total motorcycles in Pakistan, into hybrid and electric bikes through a spinoff company SAHER that stands for sustainable automotive hybrid and electric retrofitting.
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In 2019, he brought all electric vehicle technology and architecture intellectual property (IP) from his company Aliera in the UK and collaborated with IECE of the University of Lahore to develop AI based controllers, drivers, motors, and complete hybrid technologies.
“In the current economy, it is challenging to ask the public to buy newer vehicles to overcome climate, health, and fiscal adversities, and therefore is much easier to work on the CNG conversion model of the early 2010s,” said Khan.
However, Sabir Sheikh said there are already around 7-8 companies doing completely knocked down (CKD) imports, meaning they are assembling electric bikes.
“There are now around 1000 electric bikes being assembled in Pakistan monthly. The dynamics are changing very fast. The number will go up to 4000-5000 by June 2024. I know people who have bought electric bikes. They are very happy because it is saving them up to Rs15,000 monthly on account of fuel,” Sabir Sheikh said.
But the two-wheel market is so huge that it will take years even to reach close to EV goals at this rate and Dr. Aazir Khan’s formula of retrofitting might come handy.
The challenges three wheelers face
Sazgar Engineering Works is the leading three-wheel manufacturer in Pakistan and perhaps the first one to enter into manufacturing of EV rickshaws. The company has also exported a few units of EV rickshaws to African country Liberia.
“Our EV rickshaws will be used by a ride-hailing company as a part of its fleet,” Ammar Hameed, Executive Director Marketing, Sazgar Engineering, told Business Recorder.
Hameed also prides his company’s achievement for pioneering the conversion of 2-stroke petrol rickshaws into 4-stroke CNG rickshaws, which are more environmentally friendly.
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“Continuing with our green and climate focused philosophy, in 2018 Sazgar became the first company from Pakistan to create an electric rickshaw, thus becoming the first company from Pakistan to create an electric vehicle of any category.”
However, Hameed thinks the government’s intervention is compulsory to electrify three wheelers in the country.
He said that interest free loans need to be given to buyers of two and three wheeler from a climate fund to accelerate adoption.
“Rickshaws have very different dynamics. It brings food to the table to a struggling segment of the society. Convincing them to buy an EV rickshaw has many challenges. First it is expensive, around two times the price of a normal rickshaw. Moreover, rickshaw drivers live in places where it is difficult to charge, despite the fact that we give chargers with our rickshaws.”
Hameed said the battery swap model may work best for the three-wheel segment in Pakistan.
Battery swapping or battery switching is an electric vehicle technology that allows battery electric vehicles to quickly exchange a discharged battery pack for a fully charged one.
“We can sell electric rickshaws without batteries and drivers may rent batteries from battery swapping stations. This can also reduce the price as well as solve the charging problem for electric rickshaw drivers.”
Hameed said they are importing batteries and Battery Management System (BMS).
“The rest of the rickshaw is made using locally produced parts,” he said.
Sazgar is already selling electric rickshaws to commercial entities but the company wants to break into public transport with its electric rickshaws. The company has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Daewoo Express to make 1000 rickshaws for it.
“The electric rickshaws will give an annual saving of around Rs500,000 to Rs700,000. The drivers will recover the extra price of an electric in just one year. The rest will be their savings.”
The four-wheel conundrums
Electric cars are a very new thing in Pakistan and a response to EVs and the type of EV people would like, can’t easily be predicted, observed an official of MG Motors Pakistan.
Therefore, the company first wants to conduct the market test for these cars and see how people respond. It first introduced MGZS-EV and now the company has brought MG4 – another electric car that has recently been launched globally by MG Motors and its completely built units have been put up for sale in Pakistan too.
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MG Motors Pakistan’s General Manager Syed Asif Ahmed said the company wants to see the type of EV that people are ready to embrace or not after all a car is the second biggest investment household make in Pakistan after a house.
“Before picking an EV model for CKD [Completely Knocked Down] assembling, we need to see the adoption rate for them in Pakistan,” Ahmed said.
After having worked on the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) SUV MGHS Essence, the company’s next plan is MGHS Plugin Hybrid followed by a sedan, which Ahmed declined to share the name of.
“But simultaneously we are testing EV models to see which works best here, and to know if people need long-route intercity EV such as MG-ZS EV or urban EV such as MG4.
“Buying an electric four-wheel is a complete behavioral change for a car user. We have another MG EV on cards – EP-5, which is a station wagon with long range,” Ahmed said