Electric Vehicles: Progress towards Environmental Sustainability

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ASEAN is rapidly urbanising. 47% of its population now live in cities, and by 2030, another 90 million people will be city-dwellers. Urbanisation leads to energy-intensive lifestyles, causing higher carbon emissions. Evidently, urban areas have accounted for 70% of global carbon emissions. Rapidly increasing emissions from urbanisation contributes greatly to climate change, posing a major challenge to sustainable development. The vulnerability to and impact of climate change is a major concern to ASEAN countries. A study carried out by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) revealed that the mean temperature in the region increased by 0.1-0.3 degree Celsius per decade between 1951 and 2000; rainfall trended downward from 1960 to 2000, and sea levels have risen 1-3 millimetres per year. Heat waves, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones have also become more intense and frequent. 

The ASEAN countries have taken actions to address climate change through various environmental, economic and social activities over the years. One direct way of achieving environmental sustainability will be with the use of smart energy that utilises digital technologies to improve energy efficiency. With energy demand anticipated to rise significantly, it will contribute to increasing carbon emissions. Main developments include the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016-2025 which has identified opportunities to shape energy development in the region where main initiatives include smart energy development. These will be discussed in greater detail in future posts. 

Another important aspect will be in reducing carbon emissions by altering modes of transportation to those that emit less greenhouse gases. The transport sector accounts for a significant portion of emissions. In Indonesia, for example, the sector accounts for nearly 30% of emissions. Electric Vehicles (EVs) emit three times less greenhouse gases than equivalent petrol or diesel vehicles. This provides a strong reason for countries to push for the massive expansion of the EV fleet, to help curb carbon emissions in the country. 


The Electric Vehicle Revolution

Global sales of electric cars accelerated in 2020, rising by 43% to more than 3 million where the sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) made up 4.2% of the global car market, up from 2.5% in 2019. The reason for such a large increase in usage can be attributed to governments who are pressured to reduce emissions with aims of making a clean, green future a reality. Automobile manufacturers old and new are also gearing up for the mass electrification of cars as consumers become increasingly open to new substitutes. 

You will be surprised to know that the first cars ever invented on this planet were EVs. The first successful electric automobile, The Electrobat, was developed by mechanical engineer Henry G. Morris and chemist Pedro G. Salom in 1894 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of course, they were not as digitally advanced and scalable like those we see today, but their relays and switches are reminiscent of today’s EVs. In the 2nd Industrial revolution, a hefty supply of Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), led by Henry Ford’s Model T (1908) was made possible by the assembly line technique of mass production. The model T revolutionised transportation and altered the landscape of the 20th century with cheap and efficient transportation coupled with increasing environmental issues. In the 21st century, EVs are making a comeback and could potentially be part of the environmental solution.

Several ASEAN countries have turned to EVs, envisaging a significant opportunity for sustainable economic growth in their mobility transition. Countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have laid out their plans to reduce emissions with a focus on utilising EVs as means of achieving environmental sustainability.

In the next few posts, we will take a look at some of the approaches that nations and enterprises in ASEAN are taking towards EV manufacturing and adoption. What are opportunities and challenges for the region to move towards a greener future? Follow us on our LinkedIn page to keep up to date on our latest articles in this series.



6 July 2021

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