BYD China, the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, has joined hands with Pakistan’s Sapphire Group for market development and manufacturing of electric vehicles in the country.
The first electric bus was imported in Oct 2020 to Pakistan from BYD, and the E-bus has made its debut and started operations in Karachi in March this year. Sapphire is running this bus in partnership on a 36 km two-way existing route. The idea is to scale up the number of EV buses to 100 in Karachi.
Talha Tariq, Project Manager (Business Development) Sapphire Energy Pvt, said that electric vehicles were introduced due to global warming and climate change. As decarbonization action plans are taken throughout the world, transportation is a part of this.
“In Pakistan, we have introduced them and this is the future. This is a way to switch Pakistan from hydrocarbon fuel to electric vehicles for transport,” he said.
Since several months have passed after E-bus started operation, the 12-meter-long bus, with 35 passenger seats, has received positive feedback from local passengers.
“It’s very fantastic. I travel daily by it in the morning from Ancholi to Jamaia Block. Before this, we used to go by car or bus, but when we got off the bus our dressing and shoes did not remain fresh and we had a high cost of petrol to go by car,” said Ali Hassan, a passenger on E-bus.
“The bus is air-conditioned and the handicapped with a wheelchair can easily sit here. It is a unique thing that we have not seen in other buses. My cousin is disabled. He is in a wheelchair so he can easily sit in this bus,” another passenger Abdul Qayyum said.
Kamal, Head of Operation and Maintenance of this E-bus introduced that there were no electric and air-conditioned intra-city buses before, and special attention should be paid to its cleanliness.
“As the climate of Karachi is very hot so there is AC in the bus. The mask and hand sanitizer are available on the bus. The service is good,” a passenger Mushtaq Ahmad said.
“There is no tiredness felt in it. There is no pollution of any type. There is no smoke, no diesel, no noise. It is such a silent vehicle that we perform our duty peacefully,” said Afaq Ahmad, an E-bus driver.
The project does not aim to receive any operational subsidy from the Sindh government, yet still aims to be affordable for consumers.
As per Sapphire Group, the operational cost is going to be lower than half of the routine buses running in Karachi. The bus has an improved capacity of 324 kWh (kilowatt-hours) and a range of 250 km in one charge with full load under regular city traffic. At a cost of Rs20/Kwh, the running cost will come at Rs26/km and will do six rounds in full charge.
“The route is from Al Asif to Tower. we have two drivers and two fare collectors for a bus, and they work in a shift. We are charging Rs 4 per km, which I think, is affordable for everyone,” said Syed Arshad Ali, Technical Support Engineer.
As in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, there is transportation congestion going on, the way diesel buses are functioning is again being reviewed. Some believe the rise of E-bus in the city can be a solution to transport jams as well.
What E-bus has brought to Pakistan is more than a better life for locals. As Ahmed Jaudet Bilal, director of strategy and special projects, Sapphire Group, put it, “basically what we are trying to do is that we want to electrify the transport system in Pakistan as a strategy.”
Pakistan’s annual import of oil and gas accounts for about 80%. “If all 240,000 buses in Pakistan were changed into electric ones, it would save a lot of fuel, and the dependence on imports will be largely reduced. 40-50% of traffic emissions pollution can be lessened,” said Liu Xueliang, General Manager of Asia Pacific Auto Sales Division, BYD
He cited the Chinese city Shenzhen as a case. When BYD launched 200 E-buses in Shenzhen in 2011, an electrified public transport campaign kicked off not only in the city but across the country. Gradually in 2017, all buses went electric in Shenzhen, and other Chinese cities were beginning to follow suit.
With regards to renewable energy, Liu particularly mentioned the potential in solar energy. Pakistan enjoys sunlight more than 3,000 hours a year on average, with Baluchistan getting sunlight 8 to 8.5 hours per day, which stands out in global terms.
Liu also mentioned E-bus’s function as a tool for balancing power networks. Now the E-bus can run 250 to 300 kilometers on a full charge which requires about four hours. As the country’s overall electricity usage is at a peak during the day and low at night, charging at night can help keep a balance, and in return can send out power when an emergency occurs.
“Thus the EVs not only affect your travel but also change living habits, providing a good tool for a comprehensive energy structure of the country,” he said.
Rather than offering a single product, BYD aims to provide a full range of technologies and products for national industrial development. “With electrified public transportation in place, a new ecological chain will be developed.”
Since Pakistan approved its National Electric Vehicles Policy to ensure that 30 percent of vehicles will be electric by 2030, the government has offered incentives in this regard and China’s BYD soon announced plans to enter the Pakistani market and facilitated the switch to EVs.
Both Chinese and Pakistani sides agree on the role of the government’s support as EV is still a new area that starts from scratch.
Speaking of future cooperation with BYD, Talha Tariq, on the one hand, said that it has been an excellent experience to work with BYD and keen to continue the collaboration in different avenues.
“We have a plan to add more buses on our routes and other different routes as well. Similarly, we will look at Lahore, Peshawar, Sialkot, Multan, and other big cities and will start electric buses there,” he said.
Liu Xueliang, on the other hand, mentioned that after E-bus’s running for some time, they’ll adjust facilities according to market feedback. Besides, after-sales service such as spare parts supply and maintenance will be improved.
Liu added that after the Covid situation, they hope to invite local technical engineers to China for field practice and study. “In this case, I believe that with the popularization of BYD EVs in Pakistan, more and more technical talents will make their contributions.”