Lack Of Charging Infrastructure Has Been A Key Hurdle Restricting Plying Of Costly Electric Vehicle (Evs) On Inter-City Routes In Pakistan.

By Amir Shafqat Khan

Lack Of Charging Infrastructure Network Along Highways/Motorways Has Been A Key Hurdle Restricting Plying Of Costly Electric Vehicles (Evs) On Inter-City Routes In Pakistan. Owners of these vehicles have not been able to test the technology on long routes by driving to other cities due to battery limitations and unavailability of charging points.

Millat Tractors Ltd (MTL) Executive Director Sohail Bashir Rana told Dawn that he purchased Audi Etron at a price of Rs16 million in March last year, but he has to charge the vehicle at home through two options — first, a 220V slow-charging system that requires 10-12 hours from a normal socket and, second, a 380V speed-charging system.

“It is recommended to keep the battery 80 per cent charged to get a running range of the vehicle for 200kms and I usually recharge the battery after 100kms of running requiring about two hours charging time on the 380V system,” he said. On a full charge, the range can be enhanced to 250-300km, depending on the driving and load conditions like use of AC. This is obviously not a comfortable range for intercity travel — especially when there are no charging points on any motorway yet.

Unlike plug-in hybrids which offer an EV experience for limited range short trips and seamless switch to petrol, the EV will get stranded when the battery gets drained. With no proper infrastructure of vehicles’ charging, “I have to confine my Audi usage to within the city.” As far as Lahore is concerned, there is only one commercial charging facility which provides rapid charge, but this is not enough support for EV vehicles at this point in time, Mr Sohail said.

“This is not my first choice. I have taken the costly ride just to test the technology while I have to keep other cars for long-distance use. However “my Etron’s driving experience has been excellent so far with no service, tuning and maintenance requirement.”

“EV is the future. The running cost of vehicle is low or we can say it is 50pc less than petrol- or diesel-run vehicles,” he said, adding that Pakistan needs commercial rapid charging outlets at every 100kms on the highways/motorways, only then it will make a sense of using EV in the country.

Mr Sohail said rapid development is taking place in the EV all over the world as efforts are being made to enhance the running range of the vehicle to 450-500kms on a full charge, as well as greatly reducing charging time. The government also has to give incentives like in other countries for promotion of EVs. Charging network all over the country has to be encouraged and incentivised. User incentives are also required to bring EV revolution in the country, he said.

UF Group of Company CEO Faraz Malik said he had first planned to buy Mercedes Benz E180 at a price of Rs18m, but later preferred to purchase Audi Etron in December 2020 at a price of Rs17.3m owing to its additional specification, features and spacious interior than Mercedes. “The EV provides at least 50pc saving as compared to running the vehicle on petrol,” he said, adding that the only drawback is that “I move within Lahore city due to non-availability of charging stations outside the city.”

He said “the car has the capacity to charge up to 260kms but I charge up to 230km two times in a week to move within Lahore.” There is a dire need to expand charging infrastructure in the country long journeys in the EV, he said. An official at the Pakistan State Oil (PSO), who asked not be named, said one EV charging facility has already been operational at a pump in Islamabad while three more charging facilities are coming up shortly. “We will increase at a faster rate from the next year,” the official said.

An official in the state-run petrol pump in Islamabad said one to two EV vehicles mainly Audi, Porsche and Toyota arrive daily at the pump which has been in operation since November 2020. He said the company’s pump charges Rs50 per unit. Audi takes one and a half hours for complete charging from zero to 100 per cent which is enough for a 300km journey.

Toyota vehicle with its technology takes half an hour for 200km run charging. Porsche needs two to three hours for charging for less than 100km running. He said charging rates depend on number of hours. Usually buyers arrive at the pumps with already having 30-40pc battery life. Shell Pakistan Ltd and K-Electric signed an agreement in January 2021 for setting up of vehicle charging stations.

These outlets would be set up at Shell Defence filling station at Khayaban Bahria, Askari filling station at Gulshan Town and Mardan filling station at Gadap Town where 50kWh rapid charging set up would be installed. Despite repeated attempts to get the reply from Shell and KE over any development after the January agreement, the public relation company of the two firms failed to provide any answers. Sources said the initiative taken by KE and Shell has so far remained confined to the agreement and nothing has been materialised.

The federal government has planned to transform 30pc of vehicles plying on the road to electric vehicles by 2030 which, however, would much depend on country’s charging infrastructure.

This news was originally published at Dawn.