Reasons behind the mushrooming of electric cars on Jordan’s roads [Q&A]
In 2016, electric car sales hit a new record with over 750,000 sales worldwide. The same year also witnessed the highest number of electric car stock with two million vehicles on the roads, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global EV Outlook 2017.
Although the number of electric vehicles (EV) only amount to 0.2 percent of the total number of light-duty vehicles in the world, EVs are considerably receiving increased attention from users as well as governments for their economic and environmental benefits.
The Emirati as well as the Jordanian governments are examples of Arab key players that are investing in EVs and are using ‘push’ tactics to encourage a curb into a more sustainable transportation system. Both governments are encouraging citizens to switch to EVs by providing financial or logistical incentives. The exemption of registration fees for electric cars is one strategy and could amount to at least an $11,000 per car in Jordan where customs and value added taxes are also exempted for EV owners.
Incorporating fully electric cars or hybrid cars into the public transportation is another strategy both countries are using to introduce green cars to the public. Last August, Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority included 554 environment-friendly hybrid vehicles into its taxi fleet with a mission to increase the proportion of its hybrid vehicles to 17 percent.
In addition to launching ‘Tawsileh’ as an EV public transportation service in Amman, the Jordanian government has also substituted 300 gasoline-powered cars designated for the use of the public sector with Tesla EVs.
So far, there are five EV distributors in Jordan namely: Tesla, Nissan, Renault, BMW and BYD. There are 3,586 registered electric cars in the Kingdom as of May 2017 according to a source at the Jordanian Department of Statistics.
EV owners can charge their cars at eight stations distributed across the Kingdom by Manaseer group for a duration of 45 minutes to one hour for a full recharge. They can also charge them at their homes for a longer time that could reach up to eight hours, by plugging the car’s cable to an a electric socket.
It is understandable that EVs contribute to the national cut of carbon emissions. However, how would these vehicles pose a better energy alternative if the electricity produced to operate them requires burning fuel, which in turn, releases the same carbon emissions?
To answer this question and get more insights about EVs in Jordan, we interviewed Jordanian electric engineer Maen AlSayed who works in the field of renewable energy at Spectrum International. Alsayed is part of the Jordanian Meem Dot initiative which aims at raising awareness about the fourth industrial revolution.
Wamda: How useful would be reducing cars’ CO2 emissions if this gas is still emitted when producing the electricity we use to operate these vehicles?
MA: This question is highly debatable worldwide especially that producing electricity is the highest source of CO2 emissions followed by transportation. I would say that EVs are a tool to reduce CO2 emissions combined with the urgency of moving towards renewable energy as a main source of power generation, and probably, the sole source of power in the upcoming years. While an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car would never be environmentally friendly, an electric car can.
Wamda: What are the challenges for establishing solar electric stations?
MA: In addition to governmental regulations, storage is a main concern. Most of the solar power generated worldwide is directly connected to the grid for night use. So, in order to completely get rid of the grid and increase the share of solar generated power, storage systems need to be installed.
Wamda: What is the importance of EVs in Jordan?
MA: Jordan has never been a fuel-producing country and so it has always been threatened by increased fuel prices. This, in addition to the fact that the country imports 96 percent of its energy mean that it could heavily make use of EVs in the future. Since Jordan is one of the leading countries in the region for installing renewable energy projects, I think it makes sense to start the transformation with a renewable clean transportation system.
Wamda: What are the challenges faced by electric car users and distributors in Jordan?
MA: Challenges include, but are not limited to, raising awareness about the cost effectiveness of the EV to the regular citizen, in addition to the distribution of charging stations to ensure that owners do not get cut off past the 150 km distance limit of an average EV.
Wamda: What do you think is needed to sustain a growth in EV purchases in Jordan?
MA: On the short term, meeting the above-mentioned challenges would certainly increase the growth not just sustain it. On the longer term, EV purchasing would be a no-brainer and could be, to a certain extent, not even a matter of choice as the manufacturing of ICE cars and even hybrid cars will decrease by quantity and variety. In fact, the whole idea of purchasing a car might be questionable since carpooling and car sharing models are getting increasingly more convenient.