José Mendes at the International Club of Portugal

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Minister for Mobility says electric car revolution will gain critical mass within three years

The electric car will have overtaken sales of traditional internal combustion vehicles in Portugal within three years according to the Secretary of State for Mobility, José Mendes.
Addressing a select number of business leaders at a lunch at the International Club of Portugal in Lisbon on Tuesday, the minister said that in terms of mobility the electric driven car was the second major “disruption” to have occurred in 100 years.
The first great disruption to private transport occurred in the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th century with the introduction of the car. Up until then mobility had been solely in the realm of trains and horses.
“Before that time there was no (private) alternative to animal transportation. The ingenuity of business led to a solution within 10 years. This was largely true between 1998 – when there was a large conference on urban planning in New York which had pronounced that there was no alternative to using animals — and 1908 when the car began to be mass produced by Henry Ford” he said.
Ford employed the assembly line technique that was being used in the manufacture of Singer sewing machines and applied them to his Ford Model T.
Produced between 1908 and 1927 with a 177 C.I.D. (2.9L) 20 hp engine with speeds of up to 75km/h, it was the first affordable car which opened up travel for the middle class American and sold 16.5 million units making it the eight best-selling car of all time* (*2012).
“The assembly line meant that the unit price of the Ford T fell from US$ 850 in 1908 to US$ 290 in 1927” said Mendes.
“It totally altered the pattern of mobility for the rest of the 20th century and lifted many thousands of people out of property because it allowed them to access employment opportunities that otherwise would have been inaccessible,” he added.
The second great disruption in mobility is the current transformation of cars from petrol and diesel powered vehicles to electric ones.
“Now, over 100 years later, we are on the verge of a great second mobility disruption for which, as a member of the Government, I have to help design policies for this new disruption,” he continued.
Mendes pointed out that the first disruption has created extremely negative side effects in terms of pollution and air quality, green house gases, road traffic accidents and congestion which “have become unsustainable in the urban environment”.
“All of us are part of the problem because of our patterns of consumption and every year we generate 10 Giga tonnes of pollution from transport — 24% of all the world’s pollution.
“If we want to meet the stipulations agreed by the Paris Accord and limit global warning to 1.5% by the end of the century, we have to reduce our transport emissions by 2 Giga tonnes by 2050,” he said.
The problem in achieving the goal is that demand for motorised transport will increase not decrease over the next 30 years, probably doubling by 2050 as 1 billion people move from the land to urban areas.
“My job in a sector where demand for transport and mobility will increase, is to try to dramatically minimise its impact and, like for mobility planners in New York in the 1980s, it seems like a problem that is impossible to solve,” Mendes went on.
Mendes said that in the space of one mandate the Government has to put a new mobility policy into action. To do this it is proposing three changes. The first, is energy transition with energy moving under the control of the Environment Ministry. The second, to lower Portugal’s transport carbon footprint from unsustainable to sustainable transport — meaning public transport. Finally, increase the amount and quality of public transport available.
Portugal has an exemplary energy mix with around 57% of renewable energy resources integrated into its power generation with projections for 80% by 2030.
The problem and dilemma of public transport in all countries in Europe is that it is strongly subsidised, but in Portugal it has been underfunded in terms of subsidies. The result of this lack of investment is an outdated and poor quality infrastructure and rolling stock and lack of services.
To break this problem, the Government has introduced a programme aimed at drastically reducing the cost of public transport in Portugal in a bid to attract more people to use it.
“We estimate that this will result in a 10% increase in demand for public transport, 1 million using public transport with 60,000 cars taken off Portugal’s roads daily resulting in reductions of 102,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
“In three years the landscape in terms of mobility will have changed drastically because of electric vehicles. Sales of electric cars are on the rise and we are not that far from the tipping point when electric cars will overtake petrol and diesel vehicles and everyone will want electric. This is the new moment of disruption that will mark the 21st century just as fossil fuel powered vehicles marked the 20th” the minister concluded.