Malta’s DemoEV project, which stands for ‘Demonstrating the feasibility of electric vehicles towards climate change mitigation’, is aimed at leading a number of actions to achieve electromobility in Malta, in a bid to reduce emissions and achieve a cleaner road transportation system. The main objective of the project, as the name implies, is the introduction and promotion of electric vehicles in the Maltese islands by exhibiting their feasibility, thus providing a means toward meeting 2020 climate change targets.
The pilot project saw electric vehicles, namely the Renault Kangoo, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Renault Fluence, being driven by private citizens and companies for free with the aim of testing, evaluating and publicising various factors relating to achieving electromobility. The long-term goal is the reduction of our dependency on internal combustion engines which currently contribute, in no small part, to the deterioration of air quality within various localities around the Maltese islands, and thus create carbon neutral transportation which is powered by energy produced by photovoltaic (PV) panels.
There are various environmental and personal advantages to having an electric car as opposed to a fossil fuel-powered vehicle. Firstly, while an electric vehicle essentially looks the same (excluding the tailpipe and gas tank), a look under the bonnet will tell a different story. In place of an engine sits an electric motor which requires far less maintenance – necessitating no oil changes or tune-ups. The electric vehicle’s battery acts as its gas tank, and provides the energy required for the vehicle to move. When the car is idle therefore, no energy is wasted. The majority of the other features, like the transmission, brakes, air conditioning and airbags in an electric car are the same.
The benefits are indeed substantial, with the majority of electric motors able to travel up to 150 to 180km between charges; producing no exhaust (meaning no noxious greenhouse gases); no oil consumption leading to less reliance on fuel; having long-lasting batteries which make them more cost-effective; possessing fewer moving parts, which makes them cheaper to maintain; and creating less noise pollution due to their silent engine.
Aside from electric cars however, other solutions toward achieving a cleaner road transport system exist, including an array of small cars which are designed to be both powerful and more efficient than their counterparts, as well as the possibility of converting existing cars to more efficient consumption, such as gas. With the first gas filling station having been installed at Malta International Airport in 2012 and various others following suit (in Rabat and Swieqi), and scheduled to follow suit (in Xewkija and Naxxar), Autogas vehicle conversion, which enables a car to run on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is fast becoming a viable option locally.
While a number of car manufacturers including Citroën, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, General Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Tata Motors, Toyota, Volvo and Volkswagen produce bi-fuel models which run on both LPG and petrol, it is possible for petrol-engine cars which have not been fitted with LPG systems by their manufacturers to accept third party systems which enable them to run on LPG or petrol. In fact, over 95 per cent of vehicles which run on petrol can be converted to LPG, provided that the car uses a fuel injection system, with the conversion comprising a one-time expense constituting the installation of a sequential kit, extra fuel tank and a switch that enables the driver to switch between tanks.
The future seems to well and truly be here when it comes to realistically achieving a CO2 emission-free Malta. With major milestones and developments in motion, it is certainly encouraging to see the importance given to attaining a cleaner road transport system, which will undoubtedly benefit us in our lifetimes, as well as the generations to come.