Public health is a pertinent topic, adding strength to pushes in the direction of vehicle electrification.
In Europe, according to the EU Court of Auditors, air pollution is “the biggest environmental risk”. France, Britain and Germany have made significant commitments to fulfil their sustainability targets. France’s ecology minister has pledged “an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.” while the UK Government’s plan is embedded in their world-leading Clean Air Strategy.
The Clean Air Strategy outline has some key goals, several of which are bolder and more ambitious than the World Health Organization’s air quality µg/m3 guideline recommendations. It also seeks to strengthen the synergy between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
According to Public Health England, Air pollution is considered the fourth greatest threat to public health in the UK after cancer, heart disease and obesity. The most important contributors to air quality are Industrial Processes, Farming, Energy Generation and Transport.
Undoubtedly, a reduction of PM or NO2 concentrations could lead to substantial health benefits for the general population in most places. Government-backed awareness campaigns and an increasing appreciation of the scale of issues associated with air quality are part of this, not least because they can inform the private market. Car manufacturers who are equipped to adjust their operational practices could achieve significant change on their own, but many will remain less unlikely to evolve towards sustainable technologies without local and national Government interventions that impact consumer behaviour.
The global population without access to electricity tallies at around 1.2 billion individuals globally. Developing regions that have significant gaps in coverage, based on a population to land mass ratio, include: the combined Asian countries, the African continent and India. As the smallest region in terms of land mass, India has the easiest task of improving its operations, and already has good power supply to cities (albeit, not to every individual in those cities). Accordingly, India has plans in place for optimising its urbanisation and urban mobility. While most other economies are striving to achieve the basics, India is one step ahead and is challenging its economy to support electrification at the same time as improving energy sustainability.
With an anticipated urban population of 590 million by 2030, there will be an increase of up to 66% from its 2010 population figures cities alone. Changes are projected for the rural population, including further exodus from rural areas in the direction of urban areas. However, a larger population density in these urban areas places an ever-increasing strain on access to work and school. Anticipating the changes to come, urban planners have conducted a series of trials to test systems that will ultimately be implemented in the sustainability movement. Various transit experiments that use rail systems to transport large numbers of individuals; and the Lavasa project – which aimed to build India’s first privately built and managed city – are examples of the work being done.
India’s FAME (The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric & Hybrid Vehicles) scheme has reportedly earmarked ₹1,000 crore (around $150 million) for the setup of EV charging stations. Incentives for electric buses have also been promoted by the government. In total, ₹8,596 has been sanctioned for incentives. These are encouraging signs that the government of India has bought into the mass use of eco-friendly vehicles, as well as interlinking renewable energy sources with charging infrastructure. However, FAME’s announced phase two subsidy incentives mean most of the mass market and premium four-wheel models currently available will not qualify due to the strict price, battery power and range specifications which need to be met. In order to stimulate demand and faster adoption, either the phase two specifications need to be extended or manufacturers’ product and launch plans need to be changed to increase chance of market penetration and tax benefits.
When looking across the African continent, various strides have been taken to facilitate an improved quality of life of citizens within different regions.
With support from the West African Economic and Monetary Union and China Railway Construction Corporation playing a significant financing role, Africa’s deficient transportation infrastructure is being modernised and expanded with an aim to truly connect the continent. Once complete, the Trans-African Highway (“TAH”) will be a highway of nine networks spanning 60,000km and will enable the mobility of a large expanse of people, reduce traffic incidents and facilitate trade through Africa’s port, rail and road network.
China’s involvement has been significant as the TAH will bolster their multi-trillion dollar “Belt and Road Initiative” and long-term trading ability. China has been a major contributor to completing one of the nine routes; and – although construction has been slow, with only one of the nine routes fully completed – sustainable development is a priority of the programme.
Furthermore, despite roads and highway networks across Africa being poorly built and maintained for the most part, major car manufacturers are attracted by the sustainable transportation and automotive sales potential. Nissan recently launched their Nissan Leaf model which has already proven a success as the top selling EV in Europe. Likewise, BMW has rolled out their i3 and i8 models.
Transportation is seemingly trending towards achieving sustainability, and electric vehicles look to be integral to a thriving mobile ecosystem in the near future. Some notable efforts are being made to boost manufacturing standards. Nonetheless, social, economic and policy mechanisms will need continued synergistic alignment to form a triple spoke that will drive vehicle technology towards supporting environmental goals and meet population growth expectations.