Elec­tric cars in Beirut: Is it the fu­ture?

En­gi­neers across the world are cur­rently work­ing to pro­duce smarter ve­hi­cles

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Fed­er­ica Marsi

BEIRUT: Look­ing be­yond Le­banon’s cur­rent elec­tric­ity woes, the Or­der of En­gi­neers is leap­ing into the fu­ture by in­ves­ti­gat­ing ways to make trans­porta­tion in the coun­try re­liant on – yes – elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

At a con­fer­ence hosted by the or­der Wed­nes­day at its Beirut head­quar­ters, ex­perts in the field il­lus­trated world-chang­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal trends and pre­sented a road map for Le­banon to stay up to speed with the dy­nam­ics of this new green econ­omy.

Point­ing at the cu­bic let­ters ap­pear­ing on a screen next to him, Karim Bas­bous – an ex­pert on smart cars at French multi­na­tional au­to­mo­tive sup­plier Va­leo – ex­plained that the fu­ture of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try is summed up in the acro­nym “CASE”: Con­nected, au­ton­o­mous, shar­ing and elec­tric.

Ve­hi­cles that com­mu­ni­cate with each other, drive au­tonomously, can be shared among mul­ti­ple users and are pow­ered by elec­tric­ity are what en­gi­neers across the world are now work­ing to pro­duce. Le­banese en­gi­neers, Bas­bous said, are also up for the chal­lenge and have set them­selves the goal of build­ing and im­port­ing elec­tric cars by 2025.

“Le­banon is cur­rently among the coun­tries with the poor­est per­for­mance in terms of emis­sions,” he said, point­ing to a scale in red high­light­ing Le­banon’s pro­por­tion of car­bon diox­ide par­ti­cles in the air: 351-2,000 parts per mil­lion. In Europe, gaso­line emis­sions are lim­ited to 10 ppm.

En­gine im­prove­ments ac­count for 75 per­cent of the Le­banese road map, Bas­bous said.

As pri­vate ve­hi­cles rep­re­sent the largest share of the in­dus­try at 85 per­cent, they are the ones on which the en­gi­neers’ at­ten­tion is fo­cused.

At the same time, Bas­bous said that a num­ber of re­forms should be made at the state level, in­clud­ing in­sti­tut­ing al­ter­nate-day travel – a sys­tem by which days are al­lo­cated on which only cars with odd or even plate num­bers can cir­cu­late – duty tar­iffs and state in­cen­tives.

Salim Saad, ad­viser to the Au­to­mo­bile Im­porters As­so­ci­a­tion in Le­banon, said that “Le­banon is far from ful­fill­ing the elec­tric ve­hi­cles pro­gram,” but pointed out that firms like Medco and To­tal are al­ready build­ing elec­tric charg­ing out­lets.

There are plans in the pipe­line to build 17 in­spec­tion sta­tions to as­sess whether all cars com­ing into Le­banon com­ply with cer­tain stan­dards. Cabi­net also ap­proved a $300 mil­lion pro­gram to build a rapid bus tran­sit sys­tem fan­ning out from Beirut to Tabarja, Jnah and Mount Le­banon, the ad­viser said.

The Le­banon Cli­mate Act, which is part of se­ries of com­mit­ments Le­banon made in the lead up to the 2015 U.N. Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Paris, states that by 2030 Le­banon must have re­moved ve­hi­cles over 15-years-old from the mar­ket.

“The prob­lem is that, in Le­banon, 50 per­cent of ve­hi­cles are older than that,” Saad said.

“Car own­ers who will take part in this pro­gram [to up­date their ve­hi­cles] will re­ceive an in­cen­tive of $2,300,” he said, adding that this deal would in­clude new model hy­brid and elec­tric cars.

Le­banon’s pro­por­tion of car­bon diox­ide par­ti­cles in the air is 351-2,000 parts per mil­lion.

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