Achieving 2030 electric vehicle goal will be a challenge
JAMAICA’S GOAL of steadily increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads has been described as admirable by Rich Fahle, head of partnerships and marketing at NewLab in Detroit, Michigan, United States (US).
However, he notes that meeting the target of 12 per cent for private vehicles and 16 per cent for public transportation by 2030 will be a challenge, similar to what developing countries like the US are facing.
“There are so many people that are not even ... at a charging standard. You’re seeing Ford and GM (General Motors) now moving over to the Tesla charging standards and you’re seeing the weight of vehicles being really scrutinised at the moment, as the weight of batteries grows to extend battery life and range. And then you’re talking about at one point; does that cross over into something that is not cost efficient anymore?” he said.
Additionally, Fahle said there is also a cultural attachment to fuel-powered vehicles that makes it “hard to move a lot of people into electric vehicles”.
Nonetheless, he outlined that some car companies in the US have set a 2030 or 2050 goal of improving their carbon neutrality.
Fahle was speaking to journalists on an international reporting tour exploring innovations in tech policy and navigating AI, organised by the US Department of State Foreign Press Centre.
He said NewLab was established six years ago to accelerate the development, scale and adoption of the technologies required to decarbonise the global economy. South American e-commerce company, MercadoLibre, is on its list of global companies that it is currently working with to electrify their fleets.
In June of last year, the Jamaican government signed off on a policy that outlined the framework to increase the use of more EVs in the country.
Minister of Transport Daryl Vaz told The Gleaner that, so far, the country is at just under six and three per cent of EV for public and private transport, respectively. He said, to meet the 2030 target, the public sector would need to purchase just about 110 EVs per year, while the private sector would need to purchase just over 5,000 EVs per year.
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
The minister decries the lack of knowledge in the public, about the policy and the incentives it provides for EV purchases, as a hindrance to the stated target.
“EVs on balance have a lower cost of ownership than an internal combustion engine car. If the public understood that the life-cycle maintenance and fuel costs of EV versus internal combustion engines are up to 20-30 per cent lower. So, with all things considered, EVs prove to be cheaper than internal combustion engines even when the purchase price of an EV is higher. EVs are simply the least-cost driving solution,” Vaz said.
“Ultimately, achieving these targets without public and private sector willingness to purchase EVs to replace ageing internal combustion vehicles will be a challenge,” he added.
But Fahle believes Jamaica should also look to other modes of transportation to augment its EV penetration.
“I think people often think about vehicles in terms of the car that you drive around, but, obviously, moving motorcycles and smaller vehicles form factors, and e-bikes and scooters is a huge part of that as well,” he said.
He said a key part of attracting more people to buy EVs is providing the charging infrastructure needed, and managing the power load and grids to minimise cost.
He said countries like Jamaica could also explore bi-directional charging, where power goes back in the grid.
It is a position that Mujeeb Ijaz, founder and CEO of Our Next Generation Energy – based in Detroit, Michigan – shares.
“That micro grid gives you a chance to capture and then release; you could run factories, you could run a neighbourhood,” Ijaz said.
“Instead of the developing world worrying about distribution through wires, they could locally generate, store and distribute in a local area network, and so, in that context, I think that cell phones, which are generally understood as one of the most rapid evolution markets to happen, we think generation storage can do the same thing as a way to eliminate the need for massive infrastructure for developing markets that have never had infrastructure, and to give people access to energy that have never had access,” he said.
In the meantime, Fahle said his company is working with the government in Puerto Rico to utilise recyclable materials such as sargassum and plastics in energy conversion and is open to exploring other opportunities to do the same in countries like Jamaica.
“That’s sort of the role of NewLab, we don’t just say ‘hey here’s a start-up that might help you out’, we get in there, we bring our science and engineers into the mix, we create strategies and we start to tackle the problems one by one,” he said.