Lebanon News

Electric cars in Beirut: Is it the future?

Motorists sit in traffic in Beirut, Friday, April 20, 2018. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

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. - Additional reporting by Hussein Bailoun

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 27, 2018, on page 3.

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