There are currently more than 5 million electric cars around the world. Whereas the total number of electric cars sold in 2010 was merely a few thousand, about 2.2 million units of electric cars were sold globally in 2019 alone. The growth rate of Tesla over the years alone indicates how big the electric car market is going to be in the coming days. Electric cars have already started to make a big difference in the transportation sector around the world, including China, Europe, and the USA. Recently, Bangladesh also started progressing work on electric cars. Although Bangladesh is not at the forefront of electric car technology as the rest, some local manufacturers are showing their interest in this sector. So let’s take a look back at the journey and progress of Bangladesh on the road to its adaptation towards electric cars.
What is Electric Car?
Electric cars are vehicles in which one or more electric motors are used for propulsion. They are usually powered by efficient and environment-friendly lithium-ion batteries instead of fossil fuels. Currently, the demand for electric cars is at its peak with the increasing need for eco-friendly engines all over the world to tackle environmental pollution. The electric car, in this case, is playing a major role in the advancement of transportation technology by addressing the solution to modern day transportation problems and prominent environmental issues. If we combine all the internal combustion engines around the world, it is responsible for about 24% of the carbon dioxide that is emitted globally. Electric cars, on the other hand, do not emit carbon dioxide, although the source from the electricity that is used to charge or operate the car is a concern considering how much damage they are doing to the environment.
Global Electric Car Market
The growth of electric cars in the global market over the past decade has been remarkable. Almost all the countries in the world have given economic and political support to the emerging technology in the transportation sector of their respective countries. As a result, the market share of electric cars in the automobile industry is constantly increasing. At the end of 2019, the global market share of electric cars was 2.6%. China tops the electric car market with 2.3 million electric cars followed by Europe and the USA with 1.2 million and 1.1 million electric cars, respectively. About half of the active electric cars exist in China. Although China has the largest number of electric cars, only 4% of the total cars used in the country are electric. In this case, Europe made remarkable progress as 49% of the cars used in Norway are electric. Norway is then followed by Iceland and Sweden where about 19% and 8% of cars are electric, respectfully. Experts believe electric cars will cover about one-third of the market share in the automobile industry and make a jump to 50% by 2030. Moreover, the valuation of the electric car market in 2019 was about 162 billion dollars which are also expected to reach 800 billion by 2027.
Asia Pacific Electric Car Market
It is quite expected that China is also dominating the electric car market in the Asia Pacific. China, Japan, South Korea, and India are also creating their mark in the market. Few of the notable electric car manufacturers include BYD Motors, Tesla, Nissan Motor Corporation, Ford Motor Company, Energica Motor Company, Daimler Ag, etc. Countries like China and India are planning to replace their cars with electric cars. However, as the number of cars entering the Asia Pacific is quite low, people will be more likely to choose an electric car as their first car. So it is expected that the growth of electric cars in the Asia Pacific is will be faster than in Europe and the USA.
Expansion in Bangladesh
With the growing population, the commercial activities surrounding various industries in Bangladesh are also increasing. As a result, the demand for improved transport services is increasing day by day. Although the number of vehicles used for public transportation in Bangladesh is high, the growth rate of these vehicles is not quite not adequate. However, with the proliferation of ride-sharing apps, there is a growing trend to use private cars to provide public transport services. This suggests that in the coming days the demand for comfortable and efficient transport will increase in our country which will force us to move towards electric cars.
In Bangladesh, by electric vehicle, we usually mean Easy Bike. Easy Bike was originally introduced to replace CNG. It has four to five rechargeable lead-acid batteries which are used to generate power. Many versions of Easy Bike can be seen in different parts of Bangladesh. These electric vehicles are usually capable of carrying 6 to 8 passengers. The main source for charging the cars is the main Grid. Even in 2018, the country had a huge market of easy bikes worth around Tk 175 billion. Besides easy bikes, electric rickshaws are also seen in our country known as autorickshaws. Autorickshaws were first introduced around 2010-11. They have the same capacity as ordinary rickshaws, but they tend to be a bit large. Autorickshaw fares are a bit higher as they cannot carry as many people as Easy Bike. The price of Easy Bike can vary from Tk 130,000 to Tk 170,000. On the other hand, the price of autorickshaws is varied from Tk 55 thousand to Tk 60 thousand. For a country like Bangladesh, electric cars are quite suitable as dependency on-road transportation is higher than inland waterways or railways. Moreover, according to the Seventh Five-Year Plan of 2015, the power supply in the country has increased from 48% to 72%.
From 2005 to 2006, Easy Bikes started gaining popularity in our country. This is because these electric cars have ride-sharing facilities and the fares are relatively low for short-distance commutes. So the demand for Easy Bike is high among the middle class and the lower class people. However, despite its huge demand and acceptance, easy bikes have been removed from the main roads in several cities. The main reasons for this were lack of proper registration of engine and chassis numbers and power shortage in the country. However, electric vehicles are still being used in many divisional cities and on inter-city roads. Up to 2018, about one million electric vehicles are running in our country in both cities and villages altogether. These electric vehicles are providing transportation services to about 25 million people every day as well as employing 3 million people.
Several local manufacturers in Bangladesh are continuing to work with electric cars and their parts like Easy Bike. Among them, a few of the notable manufacturers are Apollo Solar and Power Technologies, BD Power, Rahimafrooz Globatt Ltd, A B Power, Greene Consortium Ltd etc.
However, there are several upcoming companies that most likely will work with passenger electric cars. Nitol Motors is already working on launching a locally assembled electric car very soon. The size of the car will be the same as that of a normal sedan car. A Local automobile company, Bangladesh Auto Industries Limited will also start manufacturing electric cars this year with an investment of USD 200 million. 80% of the total investment will come from local sources and the rest from foreign investment. The company plans to manufacture electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers, sedans, hatchbacks, and SUVs. The company also plans to build Pick-Up, Mini-Truck and Multipurpose Vehicle in the future. Among electric cars, SUVs are priced at Tk 2.5 million, sedans at Tk 1.2 million, hatchbacks at Tk 800,000 and motorcycles at Tk 50,000 to Tk 250,000. To this end, the company is setting up a manufacturing plant in Chittagong. About 60% of the required car parts including batteries, motors, controllers, chassis and bodies will be manufactured at the plant. Each battery used in electric cars will have a capacity of 50 kW. It will cost about Tk 400 to fully charge the batteries. Electric cars will be able to run up to 400 kilometers on a mere twenty minutes charge. This will reduce fuel consumption by about 90% and energy consumption costing will be less than Tk 2 per kilometer whereas the costing is about Tk 4 to Tk 6 per kilometer on petrol-fueled vehicles. Again, the manufacturer of Samsung Electronics in Bangladesh, Fair Group, announced the construction of a car assembly plant in partnership with the Korean automotive company Hyundai a few days ago. According to a report by The Daily Star, they are planning to manufacture hybrid and electric cars.
Although Bangladesh promises many potentials & opportunities with electric cars, the country will face some obstacles along the way. However, it is possible to overcome them by taking the right steps in time. Now there are factors to be discussed regarding those issues.
Prohibition of Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles were banned from Bangladesh’s main highways in 2011 due to multiple fatal accidents within a very short time frame. As a result, the demand for electric vehicles is much lower in our country compared to other transport systems. At present, the average demand for electric vehicles is 30,000 units per year. This indicates that the demand in the local market for mass production will not be sufficient. If we want to increase the rate of production, we have to target the export market. At the same time, the efficiency of electric vehicles in the country should be increased and safety measures should be ensured.
Lack of Recycling Facilities
Electric cars in our country usually have 4-5 batteries. If we calculate from the beginning to till now, about 7.5 million batteries are being used in all-electric cars combined. Since there is no government policy on battery recycling, these batteries have to be disposed of at one time. As a result of this, a lot of energy is being wasted every year, as well as a lot of damages, is being done to the environment. To solve this problem, it is necessary to build several battery recycling plants in our country. In addition, appropriate government policies and assistance are needed.
Hassle of Registration & Tax
The process of registering electric vehicles under BRTA can be quite complicated. Because BRTA registers vehicles based on CC. But the mileage or displacement capacity of electric vehicles is not measured in CC. This creates quite a problem. None of the Easy bikes and autorickshaws that are still running in our country are registered. Moreover, a few days ago a Tesla Model S was brought to our country and there was quite a bit of complexity to register the vehicle. Finally, after 6 months of testing, the car was a BUET registered vehicle at 5000 cc, although no convention engine was used in the car. However, this problem can easily be solved by bringing electric cars under measurement by battery power and drive motors like in foreign countries. In addition, a huge amount of tax is charged on the completely built units or fully manufactured electric vehicles which becomes an obstacle to the import of them. On the other hand, several incentives have been developed in Norway to promote the use of electric cars in the country such as no tax is being levied on the import of electric cars. Besides, the parking fee has been reduced by 50% and toll rent charging costs has also been reduced. These steps can be adapted in Bangladesh too.
Future of Electric Cars in Bangladesh
In 2013, the total number of electric vehicles in the country was 3,97,000. By 2019, the numbers have increased to stand at 1.5 million. The number of electric vehicles is likely to increase in the coming days. There is also an opportunity for expansion of the electric passenger car. But to utilize that properly we need to be more aware of the scalable adaptability patterns and electric mobility ecosystems of electric cars in our country. If we think of recycling, there are several companies like Rahimafrooz and Confidence Batteries that are making electric car batteries along with setting up recycling plants. Especially Rahimafruz. They are investing heavily in their recycling plant where they harvesting lead from used batteries and making them usable again. Moreover, they are conducting several awareness campaigns related to recycling and encouraging users to buy new batteries by exchanging old ones. Undoubtedly, all these initiatives of Rahimafrooz can serve as an example for the rest of the companies. At present, many people in the country are buying plug-in hybrid cars, and Tesla also arrived in the country a few days ago, which means that the demand for electric cars will increase in our country in the coming days.
However, several government initiatives and assistance are needed to make the adoption of electric cars in the country easier and more successful. Such as the promotion of local battery industry development, ensuring adequate resources and easy availability of necessary infrastructure. In addition, long-term agreements are required with lithium-producing countries like Australia and China. Moreover, the initiatives taken by the Chinese government for the expansion of electric car usage can also be followed. Above all, it is necessary to reduce the tax on the import of electric cars so people are encouraged to buy them.
Finally, it can be asserted that the expansion of the electric car industry will play an important role in the country’s economy, including meeting the demand for improved transportation services. It will also help new entrepreneurs to succeed by creating informal sectors in different areas including mechanics, driving, battery recycling, battery charging, auto mechanics etc. But do you think Bangladesh will be able to establish the demand for electric cars like the developed countries? And what other steps can be taken to do so? Don’t forget to comment.