Global recognition for GEF/SGP initiative on introducing electric vehicles to Sri Lanka
A project implemented by the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP) of UNDP Sri Lanka on introducing electric vehicles to the country received global recognition recently when it was selected as a winner of the Lighthouse Projects Competition. An initiative of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the competition awards projects that addresses climate change and deliver social and environmental benefits to the urban poor in developing countries. The project was also showcased at the Climate Change Conference, COP 18, which took place in Doha, Qatar on the 4th of December 2012.
With funding support from GEF/SGP, the concept of the project was developed by Mr. Dhatusena W. Senanayake, President of the Lanka Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA). His own experiences of children being affected by respiratory diseases such as asthma due to air pollution was a main factor that led him to look at the possibility of developing an environmentally-friendly transport system.
The main goal of the project was to demonstrate the viability of and pave the way for the commercial introduction of electric and hybrid vehicles on the streets in Colombo. As such, the project introduced electric three-wheelers. In addition, the project also sought to train unemployed youth to operate and maintain these vehicles, while an awareness campaign was also conducted on the benefits of electric vehicles for reducing emissions and pollution, with support from the Ministry of Urban Development.
Several barriers had to be overcome in implementing the project, said Mr. Dhatusena. Sri Lanka, at that time, did not have a customs code covering Electric Vehicles and the first prototype vehicle could not be cleared for entry. In addition, there was no provision in the Motor Traffic Act to register electric vehicles to enable them to run on public roads. Successful lobbying by LEAV led to government support in form of a favorable policy framework as well as lowered import duties for electric vehicle parts.
Electric vehicles were largely unknown and untested in Sri Lanka before this project. Yet, this initiative paved the way for more firms to import and assemble electric vehicles. This has also benefitted the tourism sector, with several companies taking steps to manufacture electric three-wheelers, primarily for use in ecotourism.
“At the time we started the project in 2003, the country did not have EV vehicles. Initially, we introduced electric three-wheelers with a seating capacity of 7 passengers and a driver. These vehicles were fitted with a 5.46 KW series wound DC motor , a Curtis controller and 12 six Volt 200 amp. deep cycle lead acid batteries. On a fully charged set of batteries it had a range of 75 KM. On completion of this pilot project, LEVA with part funding from GEF/ SGP, the Government and the Private sector, converted a diesel driven bus to an electric series hybrid, with the intention of introducing similar buses to the public transport system.