ISLAMABAD: Ghulam Hussain was used to zipping through the streets of Lah­ore with his wife and three young children perched perilously on his motorbike, whenever they visited relatives or ran errands.

But now that Pakistan has launched a plan to move vehicles over to electric power, Hussain is excited about the prospect of no longer spending Rs4,000 each month on petrol.

“It would be a substantial saving for me to switch to an electric motorbike,” said Hus­sain, who works as a dri­ver for a family in the up­­scale Gulberg district, earning about 20,000 rupees a month. “Eventually I’d like to buy a small car for the family, as the children are getting older. I would buy an electric car, if they are affordable.”

He will have to wait a while to find out.

After a lengthy delay, Pakistan’s ambitious electric vehicle (EV) policy was approved for implementation this month, but a late-stage change leaves cars out of its first phase.

Critics warn this means it will take longer for Pakis­ta­nis to reap the policy’s environmental and financial benefits.

Covering buses and trucks, as well as two- and three-wheel vehicles, including rickshaws and motorcycles, the new policy introduces a raft of incentives to encourage manufacturers to start producing electric vehicles and customers to buy them.

Passed on June 10, the new policy was originally approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan in November, with the goal of cutting air pollution and curbing climate change.

It aims to bring half a million electric motorcycles and rickshaws, along with more than 100,000 electric cars, buses and trucks, into the transportation system over the next five years.

The goal is to have at least 30 per cent of all vehicles run­­ning on electricity by 2030.

After pushback from traditional automakers, the first stage of the policy by­­p­asses cars to focus on motorbikes and rickshaws, the most common form of transport in Pakistan’s densely populated urban areas, as well as buses and trucks.

Malik Amin Aslam, climate change adviser to the prime minister, said that incentives for cars would be added to the policy “at a later stage”, without specifying when.

Leaving out cars makes the new policy “like a wedding party arriving with no bridegroom”, said Shaukat Qureshi, general secretary of the Pakistan Electric Ve­­h­i­­cles and Parts Manufac­tu­rers and Traders Association.

“The rest of the world is adopting this technology and it is pollution-free. The sooner it comes, the better it is for everyone,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020