Dr Michael ATCHIA

MELROSE, 1st July 2019

At present, WITHOUT an OIL SUPPLY, we would fail as a society, since almost everything would stop.

A democratic society cannot function if basic human needs are not met; here we are referring to 2 basic needs, namely energy and mobility i.e. transportation. We are at present dependent on importation of a series of products (i.e. fossil fuels, petrol and gas) which are non-renewable resources and which are going to become increasingly: (a) Hard to find, on a regular base (b) More and more costly, unaffordable.

(In 2012, we had a warning : « Carburant : Mangalore cesse ses opérations (L’Express, 20.4.12) ; Essence : stock de 30 jours disponible (Le Mauricien, 20.4.12) » The present possible conflict in the Strait of Hormuz, (where 49% of all sea-transported oil pass) and the immediate rise in the price of petrol, is another warning. A small factor such as the BETAMAX case could put the continued supply of fuel at risk. In future when petrol will become rarer we, as a small island state, will be unable to compete with let’s say Japan, China, EU for supplies of petrol. I have personally witnessed what interruption in the availability of petrol/diesel can do to acountry: not just standstill of work and industry, of health and other services, including air-travel, but serious riots such as occurred in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. In Nigeria an oil-producing country, it was due to mismanagement and corruption. In the transition period to EVs and wide use of renewables, every precautionary measure must be taken in advance to ensure continued supply of the various grades of imported petrol for MAURITIUS, including increase in storage capacity which was recently done to some extent.

The future of mobility for people lies in these 4 modes:

1.WALKING: in a new lifestyle mode, we may live in smart cities where the bulk of work, supplies and facilities will be at walking distance.

2.CYCLING: using boards, cycles, rollers etc.

3.METRO: we are so well ahead of most African states with our electric train, soon to be operative on one line and later extended to the rest on Mauritius, with a system of electric feeder buses from train stations to reach residential areas.

4.EVs (ELECTRIC  VEHICLES) : we must constitute  urgently a fleet of 10,000  small, silent electric cars, ecological vehicles with zero emission ;  charged at solar ‘filling’ stations or  small family units of electricity produced from sun and wind, with storage in modern batteries. A real ‘Quantum leap’ for Mauritius to remain mobile without the supply of imported oil!

GOVERNMENT ACTION.

Parallel to the EXTRAORDINARY DEVELOPMENT WHICH IS THE METRO, financial measures were proposed to ensure that this island (and Rodrigues as well) builds up a fleet of electric vehicles, with zero-carbon-emission, totally independent of fossil fuels, running on solar-powered, small filling stations, at NO COST to the motorist/citizen. The 2019 Budget presented on 10th June already has a proposal to reduce import duty on EVs from 25% to 10%. A good start, which must be followed up, for rapidly building this fleet of EVs totally independent of fossil fuels. OTHER MEASURES. The first EVs in MAURITIUS (the Nissan Leaf) was sold, in 2012, at Rs 2.9 million, mainly due to excessive duty, and it was far, far, too expensive for the average buyer. The duty on EVs must be reduced to ZERO and, as we are doing for, let’s say solar water heaters, a subsidy given by Government for each vehicle purchased. A proposed figure would be Rs 200,000 for each EV purchased, limited to only one per family.

When electric storage batteries will become more performing and cheaper, we can think ahead with a plant in Mauritius to assemble EVs. As well as research to develop a kit to transform  ICE vehicles into EV ones, for local and regional markets.

Parallel to this, a gradual increase of duty, by 20%, then 50% and 100%, on the import of petrol and diesel vehicles, to discourage their imports. All duty free vehicles for civil servants and others will necessarily have to be EVs. And finally a long-term decision as to fix a year (2035?) after which no petrol vehicles will be permitted.

In 2012 there was only the NISSAN LEAF on the Mauritian market. In 2019-20, EVs are available from most manufacturers, namely Nissan, Renault, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Jaguars, Mahindra, Peugeot, Chevrolet, Citroen, Fiat, Honda, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and others. They all have woken up to the reality that the future lays in EVs, not diesel and petrol cars, with the end of the fossil fuel era and the disastrous effects of vehicle emissions on climate.

LET’S ANALYSE THE SITUATION ELSEWHERE. The Committee on Climate Change of UK is looking into the complete ban of sales of petrol and diesel powered cars. The planned 2040 target it proposed must move forward, to 2035 if not 2030. 

The assumption is  that  ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines, traditional engines, powered by gasoline, diesel, biofuels or even natural gas ) will be replaced by EVs (Battery Electric Vehicles, which unlike the other vehicle types have no internal combustion engine or fuel tank at all and run on a fully electric drive train powered by rechargeable batteries). 

But to reach the faster and more widespread use of electric vehicles in UK, the government must also invest in changing infrastructure, according to the Climate Change experts. New research has found that the UK needs more than 80,000 extra electric vehicle (EV) charging points (which I will call Electric Filling Stations, EFS) in the next two years.

In 2018 the UK had 212,000 EVs or 0.2% of all vehicles. In France the number was 204,000 and in Germany 196,700 or 0.1% of all cars. China dominates in plug-in electric bus deployment, with its stock reaching 343,500 units in 2016 out of a global stock of about 345,000 vehicles. In the USA there are 3 EVs for each 1000 people, a total of 1,120,000 units on the road. In Mauritius less than 500 in all! We have a long way to go!

The replacement of ICEs by EVs is the most significant step toward decarbonising the planet, the transportation sector being the world’s largest and fastest-growing source of planet-warming emissions.