A Hyundai electric car being charged at the PLN charging station in Jakarta, Indonesia
Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populated country, and the majority of this population is concentrated in its large cities. Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya, and Bandung alone are home to 17 million people. This number could rise by millions during work hours, due to the floods of commuters who travel from outlying areas for jobs. With a daily amount of over 4 million cars and 21.7 million motorcycles on the road, these cities are notorious for their traffic congestion. It is common for daily commutes to take several hours, which leads to frustration, wasted time, and reduced productivity for commuters.
Such heavy mobility not only causes inconvenience but also contributes to the high volume of greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector in Jakarta emits a staggering 182.5 million tonnes of CO2 per annum, making it one of the most polluted capitals in the world.
The Indonesian government has recognized this problem and is currently taking steps to speed up the shift to electric vehicles (EVs). It hopes that by reducing the number of fossil fuel-powered vehicles on the road, emissions will gradually decrease, and the air quality in these cities will improve. To fulfill this goal, The government has promoted its EV transition program , appointed the state electricity company PLN as the market leader in the EV charging industry, and last week announced an EV purchasing incentive scheme.
This campaign has worked to some extent. Vehicles with a blue line underneath the license plate are seen more often than at the start of the decade. As of November 2022 , more than 7,600 electric cars and 25,700 electric motorbikes were silently humming along Indonesian streets, more than five times the number in 2021.
PLN has projected that should Indonesia follow the EV Roadmap as planned, there will be 16.000 electric cars on the roads by 2025, which will jump to 600.000 by 2030. This significant increase of EVs on the road indicates that people are starting to see that making the switch has many benefits, from the environmental advantages to low long-term cost of running an EV, to say nothing of the fact that owning an EV is associated with greater social prestige among Indonesia’s upper class.
However, the government’s efforts to develop an integrated EV infrastructure in Indonesia remain in the earliest stages. The slow development of charging and battery-swapping station networks has given people second thoughts about owning their own personal EVs. Apart from the high acquisition cost, the limited number of charging stations makes it difficult for EV owners to find a place to park their vehicles, particularly the residents of high-rise apartment buildings or white-collar workers whose homes or offices lack charging facilities. This is a significant challenge as a lack of a dependable charging station network will hinder the EV adoption program, and the promised benefits of the shift will not be visible.
The EV shifting program is also not well thought out in terms of the broader transportation context. Since it fails to incorporate a plan to reduce the overall number of cars on the roads, the government’s goal of increasing EV usage will only cause more congestion.
Perhaps the solution to reducing emissions from the transportation sector is the old-fashioned and less sophisticated chorus that has been sung for decades by the people of Indonesia’s overburdened cities: “provide better public transportation services.” The government should focus on developing a public transport system and inject more incentives into public transportation to accommodate all the passengers in its main urban areas. This would have a more significant impact on reducing emissions and easing traffic congestion.
The government should also encourage the use of EVs in the public transportation system first. For example, buses and taxis could be replaced with electric models, which would further reduce emissions and improve air quality. Around 30 electric buses are currently registered by TransJakarta – a state-owned transportation company that is planning to add 270 more to its fleet in 2023. This initiation should be implemented on a nationwide scale. The government could also invest in developing charging stations specifically for public transportation vehicles, which would make it easier for these vehicles to operate on a fully electric basis.
The longer-term solution would be to empower and improve the livelihoods of the satellite areas surrounding the metropolitan cities to reduce the number of commuters traveling into the big cities each day. By improving the economy and infrastructure of the satellite areas, people will be encouraged to live and work there, thus reducing the need to commute long distances into Jakarta or Surabaya. Moreover, the government should focus on urban transit-oriented development that could efficiently transport people from one place to another.
In conclusion, while the government’s plan to incentivize EV shifting is a step in the right direction, it is essential to focus on developing a robust public transportation system and empowering the satellite areas first. By reducing the reliance on private vehicles and encouraging the use of public transportation, the emission of greenhouse gases can be reduced, and traffic congestion can be eased. This, in turn, will create a smoother transition towards an integrated EV ecosystem, making Indonesia a cleaner and more sustainable place to live.