Decarbonizing 70% of two-, three-wheeled vehicles in Africa to help cut 95 million tons of CO2 emissions

Decarbonizing 70% of two-, three-wheeled vehicles in Africa to help cut 95 million tons of CO2 emissions
24 / 06 / 2024
By Marwa Nassar - -

Decarbonizing roughly 70 percent of two- and three-wheeled vehicles by 2040 in Africa could result in an annual reduction of 95 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Two- and three-wheelers are the backbone of transport systems in many African countries, serving as taxis, delivery vehicles and personal transport. In Mali and Burkina Faso, for example, they make up 80 percent of vehicles. 

Africa, Asia and Latin America are home to 570 million motorcycles and three-wheelers, the vast majority of which run on petrol.  

They can be found in urban settings, where they are ideal for skirting traffic jams, and in rural areas, where they are often the only form of transit.  

These vehicles consume between 15 percent and 20 percent of all liquid petroleum fuels used for transport in countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  

Shifting these vehicles to electric has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by between 500 and 600 megatons every year. That is the equivalent of taking between 170 and 200 million petrol-powered cars off the road – about four times the number of cars in Germany in 2024. 

The rapid growth in the two- and three-wheeler markets, especially in Africa and Asia, will only increase the importance of the transition to electricity, UNEP Head of Mobility Unit Rob de Jong said.

“Transitioning from vehicles with internal combustion engines to those powered by electricity is not just a trend—it is a necessary shift to achieve net-zero emissions targets,” he highlighted.

Unlike internal combustion-powered three-wheelers, which emit approximately three tons of greenhouse gases per vehicle annually, electric three-wheelers could lead to zero emissions if powered by renewable energy.

“In Africa, fostering a supportive political and regulatory framework is paramount to expedite this transition,” De Jong said. “Financial incentives are imperative to establish a level playing field. Where large-scale electric vehicle subsidy schemes are not feasible, exemptions from import and value-added taxes will be essential in reducing the cost barrier associated with electric vehicles.”

De Jong believes countries worldwide should prioritize electric vehicles while also investing in public transportation, bolstering logistics and encouraging active mobility, such as walking and cycling.

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