Without targeted support for low- and middle-income countries to transition toward zero-emission mobility, global progress toward zero-emission goals will be critically slowed, risking serious and inequitable outcomes, warns a new report by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and the U.K. government's ZEV Transition Council, supported by the FIA Foundation.
"Facilitating a Transition to Zero Emission Vehicles in the Global South" examines the status of zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, uptake across the world and considers how to accelerate the transition as part of emergency measures to avoid a climate catastrophe. In the report, the Global South is an economic term that refers to low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia.
Recommendations include the need to recognize the varied levels of ZEV policies across these regions, to appreciate the profound need for equitable funding, and to secure collective, global buy-in to address the global challenge.
"This report highlights urgent policy actions needed to achieve a global, inclusive, and equitable transition toward sustainable and low-carbon mobility," said Dan Sperling, founding director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. "It underlines the institute's commitment to support Global South countries in benefiting from the transition to zero emission vehicles for their development, energy security and environmental protection."
The report notes that there has been positive momentum for the ZEV transition worldwide. While much attention is given to electric cars, the report reveals that electric scooters, motorcycles and other two-wheelers—50 million of which are now sold annually—and buses have actually achieved higher EV penetration globally.
Despite these developments, the global distribution of ZEVs remains deeply uneven. Low- and middle-income countries face unique challenges in decarbonizing their road transport sectors, including unreliable electricity supply, lower vehicle prices, limited access to affordable asset finance and significant flows of used vehicle imports.
The report offers a novel approach to understanding these issues by grouping countries according to key metrics including vehicle market characteristics, vehicle manufacturing capacity, battery manufacturing, related supply chains and carbon intensity. It also makes recommendations to enable some of these groupings to "leapfrog" to the best practice policies in support of EV uptake.
"The findings of this report provide valuable insights and recommendations for policymakers, industry stakeholders, and international organizations working toward a sustainable and decarbonized future for road transport," said Sheila Watson, FIA Foundation deputy director. "By embracing the ZEV transition and leveraging the opportunities it presents, the Global South can simultaneously reduce emissions, drive economic growth and improve public health. To do this, though, they need the support of other more developed countries which are facing this transition alongside them."
The report emphasizes the importance of international cooperation and increased funding to address these challenges and ensure a just and equitable transition. It highlights the significance of the ZEV Transition Council in facilitating policy developments and fostering collective buy-in among stakeholders. Leveraging the council's convening capacity will play a critical role in building capacity and directing financial support toward low- and middle-income countries.