Going electric

November 12, 2023

The promotion of local manufacturing is essential to reduce the cost of electric bikes in Pakistan

Going electric


n metropolitan Karachi, where navigating through traffic jams, braving the air pollution and coping with rising fuel prices is the norm, the electric bike is emerging as a viable solution.

Syed Hassan Zaidi, a professional in his late twenties, has embraced the unconventional choice for his daily commute.

“The primary reason for switching from petrol-powered bike to electric bike was the low running cost. The saving in charging an electric bike as compared to fuelling a conventional bike is significant,” says Zaidi.

Zaidi says that on average he covers a distance of thirty to thirty five kilometres a day. By the end of each month, he now manages to save seven to eight thousand rupees.

With an average daily consumption of one litre petrol, the monthly fuel expenses for motorcyclists can vary between Rs 9,000 and Rs 10,000.

Yasir Hussain, the CEO and founder of Darya Lab says, “By opting for electric bikes, individuals can substantially cut down their monthly fuel costs by an estimated Rs 4,600 to Rs 8,500. This reduction is achieved through the convenience of home charging, which can cost as little as Rs 15 to Rs 25 per kilowatt-hour.”

Like laptops and mobile phones, electric bikes’ batteries can be charged at home and used on the go.

Home charging for electric bikes involves connecting the removable battery to a socket until it reaches the desired level of capacity. Charging times may vary depending on e-bike model and battery type.

Charging electric bikes can be made even more eco-friendly and cost-effective through the use of solar panels. A solar panel system with a capacity ranging from 100 to 200 watts can be connected to an inverter. This inverter converts the solar energy captured by the panels into usable electricity, which can then power an e-bike charger.

“Making the switch to electricity not only contributes to cost savings but also aligns with sustainable and environment-friendly transportation choices,” says Hussain.

The transportation sector is currently a major consumer of liquid fuel and contributes significantly to carbon dioxide emissions. At the current projections, the demand for liquid fuel will increase from 19.36 million tonnes in 2018 to 71.63 million tonnes in 2030; the carbon emission will increase from 39.93 million tonnes in 2018 to 131.51 million tonnes in 2030.

Obstacles to electric bike adoption

Electric bikes offer an environment-friendly alternative. However, their upfront cost can be beyond the financial means of a majority of the population.

“Electric bikes have encountered setbacks in Pakistan,” says Abdullah Shari, CEO of Shari Motors and vice chairman of electric motorcycle dealers’ alliance.

Charging electric bikes can be made even more eco-friendly and cost-effective through the use of solar panels. A solar panel system with a capacity ranging from 100 to 200 watts can be connected to an inverter to convert solar energy into useful electric power.

According to Shari, electric bikes priced at Rs 160,000 and below often come with poor batteries that may not even last a year.

“Purchasing an electric bike for Rs 200,000, with the added expense of battery replacement is a financial challenge for an average middle-class individual,” says Shari.

Abdullah Shari says that a majority of his customers come from the affluent class. These people are financially capable of affording expensive bikes.

Fatiq bin Khursheed, the CEO of Vlektra, an electric bike company based in Karachi, says, “Lithium-ion batteries come with a higher initial cost, which contributes to the overall price of electric bikes.”

The production of electric bikes involves manufacturing many of the components locally. However, the critical components, such as the batteries and motors, are imported. This makes them more expensive than the conventional bikes.

“However, it’s important to note that they also offer a longer lifespan, making them a cost-effective choice in the long run.”

Khursheed believes that the promotion of local manufacturing is essential to reduce the cost of electric bikes in Pakistan. “Young entrepreneurs should be encouraged and provided substantial government subsidies to facilitate the establishment of electric bike manufacturing factories,” he says.

Khursheed says his company, Vlektra, has signed memorandums of understanding with private banks, to offer electric bikes to customers through installment plans.

In April 2023, the government introduced incentives for electric vehicles through the Prime Minister’s Youth Business and Agriculture Interest-free Loan Scheme. Under this scheme, eligible individuals can access a loan of 0.5 million for a three-year period to purchase two- or three-wheeler EVs.

In Pakistan, where minimum wage is merely Rs 32,000, the feasibility of paying Rs 13,000 for a three-month period is challenging.

Yasir says the scheme appears to be no longer accessible.

“The State Bank of Pakistan should consider implementing a progressive policy that includes the provision of accessible loans to individuals seeking to purchase electric bikes as part of its green initiative,” says Hussain.

Lack of EV charging stations is yet another obstacle for the growth of electric bikes in Pakistan. “Charging a vehicle within an apartment complex becomes a challenge, especially in the absence of covered parking areas,” Syed Hassan Zaidi says.

“Battery swapping can tackle the charging challenge and offer the added advantage of preventing potential theft,” Zaidi proposes.

The commitment of entities like K-Electric and Shell-Pakistan to establish charging stations at petrol pumps has met a roadblock with Shell’s departure from Pakistan.

Vlektra confirms that, at present, no charging station for electric bikes is available in Karachi.

Yasir Hussain adds that the government has not forged partnerships with any private entities to set up charging stations in the city.

“For a successful push towards promoting electric vehicles in Pakistan, a cohesive partnership between the government and private companies is imperative,” says Khursheed.

The writer is a Karachi based journalist working primarily on climate and energy.

Going electric