BEIRUT: Bassoul-Heneine launched the fully electric Renault Twizy on Wednesday, effectively introducing electric vehicles in Lebanon, a country noted for its love affair with large internal-combustion engine cars.
With a starting price of $19,300, the 2018 base model comes equipped with a 17 horsepower engine, racking up 80 km/h at top speed. According to the manufacturers, the Twizy can run for 50 to 80 kilometers before exhausting its 6.1 kWh battery, which can be fully charged via any domestic (230V) socket in just three hours, making it more of an in town vehicle.
The Twizy consumes 2000 watts while charging, no more than an ordinary iron, and would save its owner between $1,212 and $2,400 on fuel costs annually. By that average, a Lebanese Twizy owner would, in around ten years, have saved up the price of the vehicle itself in gas money.
Another perk of the Twizy is its ease of parking. Being no wider than 120cm, drivers would be able to find spaces between spaces on Beirut’s increasingly congested roads.
Test-driving the Twizy upon its launch, Patrick Sawaya described it as a “very nice, fun drive, almost like driving an ATV.” However, Sawaya expressed some disapproval over the vehicle’s minimalist design, which excludes air conditioning and even windows, but his main concern lay with the Twizy’s lofty price-tag.
“Would I buy it? Definitely not, $20,000 is too expensive.”
With zero charging points on the streets, regularly recharging a Twizy could present a challenge to anyone residing above the first floor of a building. Moreover, the government's failure to set any tax incentives on EVs would mean that many, like Sawaya, would rule the vehicle out solely by its price tag.
Lebanon is lagging behind its regional neighbors on the global objective of encouraging EVs. The Emirati government is close to fulfilling its plan of converting up to 20 percent of its fleet to EVs, while Jordan, which now has over 33,000 EVs, has collaborated with Tesla to construct a nationwide network of charging points, including supercharging stations which can fully recharge cars in a matter of minutes rather than hours.
Lebanon might have to follow the example of Jordan with regard to the promotion of EVs in order to meet its Paris Agreement objective of reducing greenhouse emissions by 30 percent before 2030, considering that 70 to 80 percent of total GHG emissions in Lebanon originate from the transportation sector, according to an AUB study published in 2015.
The promotion of EVs is also key to reducing the dangerously unhealthy levels of air pollution in the capital, where the concentration of the fine particulate matter “PM2.5” and “PM10” can reach up to 20.7μg /m3 and 74.69 μg/m3 respectively, greatly exceeding the acceptable levels of air pollutants set by the WHO at 10μg/m3 and 20μg/m3 respectively.
Professor Farid Chaaban of AUB estimates that a reduction of PM10 down to the WHO limit could save up to 80 Lebanese lives per year. It could also reduce 3,000 hospital admissions, 400 of which are respiratory and cardiac conditions, 2,800 emergency room visits, and 14,160 days of restricted activity. Overall, cost reductions of a mere 10μg/m3 reduction of PM10 would be around $10 million, $5.4 million of which are pure medical costs.
The launch of the Renault Twizy, and the recent introduction of the electric Loop e-scooters in Beirut, may be just the beginning of EVs in Lebanon, which would change the face of local travel if this technology eventually becomes a big seller - thus resulting in a much needed environmental change.
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