Introduction of electric vehicles to Sri Lanka by the Lanka Electric Vehicle Association

Focus area: Mitigation
Location: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Activity established: May 2003

Versión en español 


This activity spearheaded by the Lanka Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA), with support from the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, has helped to demonstrate the viability of and paved the way for the commercial introduction of electric and hybrid vehicles on the streets Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo.  Initially planned as a demonstration and capacity building activity, LEVA switched to advocacy work, successfully lobbying the government to to support electric and hybrid vehicles.

The considerable success of lobbying led to government support in form of a favorable policy framework as well as lowered import duties for electric vehicle parts.

As a result, several private firms started importing and assembling electric vehicles. Furthermore, the government in 2010, worked with LEVA to launch a pilot activity, to produce the first electric hybrid bus in Sri Lanka. The main goals of the activity were to introduce zero emission electric and hybrid vehicles and to train unemployed youth to operate and maintain these vehicles.

The activity also conducts an awareness campaign on the benefits of electric vehicles for reducing emissions and pollution.

The awareness campaign was initiated by the Ministry of Urban Development in collaboration with the Lanka Electric Vehicle Association and a nation-wide seminar was held in Colombo at the Ministry of Urban Development, with the two Ministers of Urban Development and Environment among the seminar participants.

Mitigation / Adaptation

Global: Especially where they replace inefficient and obsolete fossil fuel vehicles, electric vehicles have the potential to significantly decrease the greenhouse gas emissions associated with urban transport. This benefit is particularly great in the case of Colombo and its suburbs, where a significant proportion of the electricity mix is generated from non-emitting hydropower.              

Local: Electric vehicles produce no emissions of toxic air pollution, and their increased use in Colombo can significantly improve the city’s air quality.

Sri Lanka -resized

Social and environmental benefits

Numerous citizens of Colombo are now using pollution free transportation. Unemployed youth were trained to operate, maintain and assemble electric vehicles, which include three wheelers, motor cars, motor cycles and buses.

The activity produced the following benefits:                                  

  • Reduced air pollution in the city of Colombo and suburbs by introducing the use of electric vehicles as a sustainable means of transportation;
  • Employment for youth;
  • Knowledge sharing through an awareness campaign on the benefits of electric vehicles;
  • Reduced incidences of respiratory illnesses among the urban population, especially among children and the elderly.

Potential for scaling-up and replication

The activity contributed to the evolution of an electric vehicle policy in Sri Lanka. The activity further demonstrated the viability of zero emission electric three wheelers and other electric vehicles as public transport and providing jobs and training to unemployed young people.  After a process of trial and error, the activity was successful in demonstrating its results to the Kandy City officials who now consider using the model for public transport within the city and in the Botanical Gardens. A company was formed under the name "Ceytro Lanka" (pvt.) Ltd. with Australian partners to manufacture three wheeler taxis in Sri Lanka. Prospective buyers will be be the Ministry of Tourism, Kandy Shopping Mall, and private sector eco-friendly hotels. In a second phase of the activity, the Ministry of Transport is considering renewing its fleet of buses with new ones designed to run on electricity. The private sector is currently investing heavily in EV technology across the island. Up-scaling is happening organically by businesses and government, testifying to the practical, effective nature of EVs in the Sri Lankan context.

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Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.