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Electrifying the Land Transportation Sector: a Golden Opportunity for Belize Print E-mail
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Written by By Ian Morrison   
Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:00

Belize may be somewhat far from having electric trams and buses for mass transportation; however, Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Plug-in Hybrid Electrics Vehicles (PiHEVs) that are making waves in first world countries, can be in the near future. To avoid becoming a dumping ground for Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs), Belize will have to react sooner rather than later and make decisions on how future policies will proactively address the inevitable. The transition from conventional ICEVs to BEVs and PiHEVs is the global trend in fighting the rising Green House Gases and efforts to keep the temperature below the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level. This will be specifically important for improving air quality and health in cities throughout the world. The Paris Accord 2015 and the follow up of the voluntary initiative such as 30@30 campaign (Clean Energy Ministerial, 2017, Accelerating the Global Clean Energy Transition) has set the standard for combatting future temperature rise and climate change. For its part, the Government and people of Belize will have to embrace new policies and legislation for both vehicle suppliers and consumers if it is to avoid being one of the dumping grounds and to avoid contradictions or violations of its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. Belize, in fact, can be the leader in the Caribbean and Central America by making decisions which will compliment recent moves, such as its recent ban on off shore oil exploration  passed in the house of representative and joining the ten-island challenge, which seeks to identify technical and commercial solutions that can facilitate low-carbon use in the Caribbean. The Government of Belize under the Barrow administration agreed to both initiatives in 2015.

Battery Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electrics Vehicles are new breeds, mostly cars for now, globally heralded as being a partial answer and way of reducing our future carbon emissions. Propelled by the signing of the Paris 2015 accord, the race to manufacture EV’s has gathered momentum and presents an attractiveness to consumers as it is becoming a feasible alternative and gaining an appreciable market share in the global transportation industry. As demand and production of these vehicles increases, it will for sure have an inverse effect on carbon emissions. For its part, production and sale of BEVs and PiHEVs are rapidly on the rise. Electric cars registration has ballooned. In the seven years since 2010, the sale of BEVs and PiHEVs cars have gone statically from virtually zero to 2 million in volume. In fact, in 2016, this represented 29 percent of the vehicle sales market for cars accounting for 0.2 percent of the light-duty passenger vehicles market estimated at one billion vehicles. This has prompted most if not all existing light vehicle manufactures to start producing and supplying their version of either BEVs and PiBVEs but new car manufacturing has also been created. This market response will increase penetration and propel the mainstreaming of these vehicles. It is anticipated that market share of BVEs and PiHEVs may reach between 160 to 200 million by 2030. Progress in terms of its popularity and use of these vehicles will hinge on the rate of technological advancement, especially for longer lasting batteries, adequate and timely supply of raw material and cost of a vehicles. For now, the cost of standard electric vehicle vehicles hovers at US$35,000 plus, but as the rest of the world, with large populations, such as, the African continent, China and India catch up with design, production, sales and demands, it is anticipated that in the next twelve years the price will take a precipitous fall to half of the above-mentioned price, for compact vehicles.

Transition from ICEVs to EVs should not be a major hurdle for Belize primarily because it has already made policy commitments regarding moving away from production of electrical energy from non-renewable/fossil sources to renewable sources such as hydro, wind and solar.  Adjustment to existing policies and legislations/regulations to accommodate EVs is easily enabled; however, the time to act is now. It will require changes to long-standing policies and legislations and norms that we have all become accustomed to. The country will have to tackle this issue from multiple dimensions; including energy supply and consumption.  On the supply side, electricity generated from renewable sources will continue to be key. In consumption, the use of electric vehicles as well as more energy efficient appliances and equipment will be paramount. More specifically, it will be the car sector, which will be the fastest and easiest to morph. This sector represents at least 80 percent of the light passenger vehicles on the road today. Semi’s and heavy-duty equipment are likely to follow. However, predictions are such that beyond 2050, it will become more difficult to purchase ICEVs vehicles and therefore will force small countries like Belize to transition anyway. Belize should consider now, some of the following provisions for a BEVs and PiHEVs future:

Incentivize importation of these vehicles via the Customs and Excise tariffs (the present tariff only accommodates ICEVs (http://www.customs.gov.bz/rate_motor_vehicles.html, accessed January 13, 2018).

Policy on importation for sales and car dealers.

Policy and legislations for reuse and end of life disposal of battery

Policy for establishing charging stations and maximum charging times (number and location), compatibility.  This at first will be revolutionary, since cars will not be required to go to a filling stations as we are presently accustomed:

Policy or preference for EVs that gives longer distance per charge

Assembling policy.

Policy and legislation for autonomous vehicles - land, air and sea.

GOB will clearly have to reconsider its revenue generation policies and strategy from fossil fuel as demands deceases and use of EVs trends steeply upwards as we approach 2030, which is only 12 years from now. They will have the audacious task of weaning itself from ICEV’s and also strategically shifting from a petroleum-based revenue source to one derived from the increased demands for electricity, something that does not appear to be difficult. Despite the associated capital cost, this initiative will pay for itself in a relatively short time, having significant savings in the long term. Bridging finance, to make up for short fall in revenue during the transition, should be vigorously explored. The change will also be very beneficial as electricity (energy) for EV’s is not as susceptible to pilfering when compared to energy derived from fossil fuel source. On the positive side, Belize can hit the bullseye with both arrows, EVs and homes supplied by renewable electrical energy. Additional benefit from better local air quality, and reduce respiratory illness, particularly in Belize City. The local contribution to the global quest towards a low carbon living and a carbon neutral would be tremendous. Win, win, win! This is a golden opportunity for Belize.