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Commerce minister: Electric vehicles are the future of transportation

  • Published at 10:19 pm March 13th, 2019
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi at a dialogue on Prospects and Policies of Electric Vehicles in Bangladesh, held at Amari Dhaka, on March 13, 2019 Courtesy

The government can earn Tk19.25 crore revenue per year from EVs

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Wednesday said electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of transportation, as decarbonizing the transport sector has become a buzzword.

Highlighting the need for a clear policy framework on regulating Battery Run Three Wheelers (BRTWs), Tipu called for devising new rules at the earliest.

"The private sector should be included in consultations and deliberations related to the framing of the rules," he added, while speaking as the chief guest at a dialogue on Prospects and Policies of Electric Vehicles in Bangladesh, held at Amari Dhaka.

Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro), Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD), and Terra Motors Bangladesh, jointly organized the dialogue.

The commerce minister also said the Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG-11)—which is related to creating sustainable cities and communities—can also be achieved via sustainable transport options like BRTWs and EVs.   

Special guest at the dialogue, Hiroyasu Izumi, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, emphasized ensuring a sustainable transport system, which is "imperative" to achieving SDG-11.

Speakers at the dialogue also said the main challenge to promoting EVs and BRTWs in Bangladesh is the absence of a clear regulatory policy and a promotional policy.

They urged the government to formulate a clear policy and promote EVs by providing various financial and non-financial incentives for stakeholders, including loan facilities and proper infrastructure.

A study titled "Electric Vehicles in Bangladesh-A Case of Battery Run Three Wheelers", conducted by Jetro and BUILD, revealed that the government can earn about Tk19.25 crore per year as revenues, by registering and licensing BRTWs.

Data for the study was collected by conducting interviews with officials from BRTA and the city corporations of five districts—Dhaka, Rajshahi, Bogra, Gazipur, and Comilla.

According to the study, there are around one million BRTWs currently running in Bangladesh, predominantly in district towns and rural areas.

The cost of traveling in BRTWs for 5 kilometers is one-fourth of the cost by a rickshaw, and half that of a compressed natural gas (CNG) driven auto-rickshaw.

BRTWs consume around one gigawatt of electricity per day, charged often by domestic electricity lines in the absence of clear monitoring and regulations, as well as due to the absence of charging stations.

The field survey conducted by BUILD revealed that around 50,000 BRTWs run in the five districts covered. The price of a BRTW is between Tk130,000 to Tk160,000. The average daily operating cost for a BRTW driver is Tk400, and his income is Tk800 to 1,000.

In the five districts surveyed, around 52,000 BRTWs create employment for around 58,000 people.

Unrecognized and unregulated

According to the study, the government of Bangladesh does not define or recognize BRTWs.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) does not issue registration, driving licences, or permits to BRTWs. As a result, different local authorities regulate the vehicles in their own way.

Rajshahi and Comilla district authorities, for example, provide registration and permits to BRTWs. No national level BRTW manufacturers or dealer associations are known to exist, owing to the absence of legal-regulatory recognition of BRTWs.

Regulatory obstacles

While presenting the findings of the study, Additional Research Director of BUILD, Tahmid Zami, said registration, fitness certification, and fees, pose an obstacle to regularizing BRTWs as such measures are designed for fuel-based vehicles only.

"As there are specific policies for other types of vehicles, a separate policy for BRTWs can be useful," Tahmid suggested, adding that it is a "priority that BRTWs are regularized in light of the economic, social, and environmental benefits".

He further said that BRTWs can create social inclusion by enhancing mobility.