Hybrid electric vehicle standards needed, Sri Lanka transport expert says

ECONOMYNEXT – Hybrid electric vehicles can help reduce emissions but minimum standards and adequate support infrastructure are needed to ensure their efficient use and avoid more congestion, a transport expert said.

Hybrids and electric vehicles, designed and driven differently from conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines, may be adding to traffic congestion, said Dimantha De Silva,  senior lecturer in Moratuwa University’s department of civil engineering.
 
“A lot of people who bought electric cars bought it as a second vehicle,” he told a forum on ai pollution held by Biodiversity Sri Lanka with the United Nations Development Programme.

“That worsened congestion. So we need to look at the broader picture.”

De Silva also noted that hybrid vehicles represent a totally different way of driving, with drivers tending to drive slower than usual.

“Is it contributing more to congestion? Maybe yes.”

Automakers say hybrid cars are made for efficiency and lower emissions, sacrificing higher speeds and more power, slowing down their performance.

For instance, hybrids operate from a standing start using only the electric motor, to get good fuel efficiency.

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Typical hybrids have small electric motors whose use helps downsize their fossil-fuel driven engines compared with those in conventional vehicles, partly to reduce weight and improve design, and hence lack good acceleration.

De Silva said hybrid and electric cars are good as they reduce emissions but minimum standards were needed to ensure substandard cars were not imported.

“The new ones’ acceleration speeds are so slow.”

Transportation accounts for 60 percent of the island’s emissions which could be reduced with more attention to the sector, De Silva said.

Over 60 percent of vehicles are in the Western Province, where the capital Colombo is.

“With about 500,000 vehicles entering the city daily and about 1.9 million passenger trips coming into the city, you can understand where our highest emissions are.

”One solution is electric cars with no emissions but it won’t work if you promote it without charging stations as they can go only a maximum distance of 200 kilometres without charging.”
 
Shifting people to mass public transport like buses and rail, as the government plans doing, would also help reduce congestion and emissions, De Silva said.

“Congestion is big problem in Colombo. Average vehicle speed in Colombo is now down to 12 kmph.

“Building roads is not the solution – we need to move to mass public transport. Railway is one of biggest solutions we are looking at, along with Light Rail Transit and buses too. We are going to electrify suburban railways and use electric or hybrid buses.”

(COLOMBO, 17 July, 2019)