4 months ago

Three-wheelers consume 5pc of country's electricity

Stakeholders call for sustainable management

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Stakeholders at a workshop on Tuesday called for sustainable management of batteries as electric three-wheelers have grown rapidly using over 5.0 per cent of the country's electricity.

The market for batteries for millions of electric three-wheelers reached around Tk 87 billion (USD 871 million) in 2022.

The country has 3-4 million electric three-wheelers - EZ bikes, mishuks, and e-rickshaws; moving more than 112 million people per day.

This industry has major challenges linked to the circular management of end-of-life lead-acid batteries; the primary technology used in Bangladesh's electric mobility.

There are potentially viable solutions to this challenge, encompassing the adoption of high-quality lead-acid batteries and alternative technologies with enhanced energy density, innovative business models, and sustainable practices.

Speakers said this at the workshop titled 'Working with the Battery Industry on Solutions for Quality, Sustainability, and Market Access' at a hotel in Dhaka to dig deeper into this topic jointly organized by Pure Earth Bangladesh and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The workshop was facilitated by Amrita Kundu from Georgetown University, Washington DC, and Prof Erica Plambeck of Stanford University.

Each EZ Bike's batteries hold 125 kg of lead, 15 times that of a car battery. Recycled yearly, they create 167,000 tonnes of lead waste, often informally, causing contamination and health risks.

Research shows that over 20 per cent of Bangladesh's population resides within 5.0 km of informal smelting sites, with a 6.0 percentage point rise in terminated pregnancies among those living nearby.

Two-thirds of Bangladeshi children, that is about 36 million children, have high levels of lead in their blood, linked to loss of intelligence, hindering education and future earning potential, and causing cardiovascular and renal diseases.

Mahfuzar Rahman, country director of Pure Earth Bangladesh, said that about 60 per cent of Bangladeshi children are impacted by lead pollution, causing around 140,000 cardiac deaths among the adults.

Henrique Pacini, Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD said that Informal recycling of lead acid batteries used in 3-wheeler e-mobility creates persistent pollution and toxicity, exerting a heavy toll on the environment and health of present and future generations.

Meanwhile, lack of regulation on battery standards and high import tariffs and taxes on battery imports have led to extensive local recycling, often resulting in very poor-quality batteries, speakers pointed out.

A set of EZ Bike batteries costs over 72,000 Tk (USD 650) but lasts only 8-11 months. This short life causes a high recycling rate and increased lead pollution. It also increases the operating cost of EZ Bikes, affecting the livelihood of millions of drivers and vehicle owners, said businesses.

Considering that only 30 per cent of the Used Lead Acid Battery (ULAB) recycling is formal, the tax revenue loss for the government reaches USD 91 million per year, they added.

Representatives from the Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, International Growth Centre, Advanced Energy Technology of USAID-BADGE, icddr,b, Accumulators Battery Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh, senior officials of different local battery companies joined the workshop.

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