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How Can Africa Join The EV Revolution? (Video)

A lot of the OEMs have not expressed any interest in bringing EVs to the rest of Africa anytime soon. With the majority of them struggling to meet demand in their home and traditional markets, it doesn’t look like Africa will be a priority anytime soon.

As Steve Hanley recently highlighted, it’s all about the batteries! Jaguar announced it is briefly pausing production of the multiple award-winning I Pace due to a battery shortage. Recently, Mercedes also announced it is cutting production of the EQC for 2020 by almost 50% due to battery supply constraints. Both these premium electric SUVs were set to make some impact on the South African EV landscape in 2020, with the I Pace already on sale in South Africa. Audi, BMW, and Porsche are also set to launch the e-Tron, the all new electric Mini, and the Taycan respectively in South Africa in 2020. A lot of these models are on the premium end of the market and could come to SA in decent enough numbers but not enough to make a real splash on the South African EV market.

So how then can South Africa and the rest of Africa accelerate the transition to electromobility?

Grow the used EV inventory (Applies to the rest of Africa excluding South Africa)

About 80% of vehicles brought into Sub Saharan Africa are used vehicles. Used EVs are starting to pop up at used car dealerships in some African countries.

These would mostly be first generation EVs with lower range but would still be great for daily commutes. For countries like Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, and Zimbabwe that drive on the correct side of the road, used EVs like the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi IMIEV, Peugeot Ion, Citroen C Zero, and the Renault Zoe can be sourced from the United Kingdom and Japan. Buyers with a bigger budget can also look at the Mercedes B Class Electric Drive, the VW eGolf, the Kia eSoul, and the Hyundai Ioniq. Those with an even bigger budget can look to bring in the Tesla Model S/X and even low mileage Model 3s! Used Tesla Model S/Xs have been spotted in Mauritius and Zimbabwe.

Tesla Model X

A Tesla Model X in Highlands, Harare, Zimbabwe. Image by Rutendo Kuhudzai

For West African countries like Nigeria, EVs could be imported from the United States and Europe. South Africa does not allow imports of used vehicles in a move to protect its local vehicle manufacturing industry and subsequent local used vehicle market.

Ramp up EV conversions

A lot of the OEMs have not expressed any interest in bringing EVs to the rest of Africa anytime soon. With the majority of them struggling to meet demand in their home and traditional markets, it doesn’t look like Africa will be a priority anytime soon. Elon Musk had hinted a while back that the Tesla Model 3 could come to South Africa but later expressed disappointment with regards to South Africa’s punitive import duties on EVs. We recently looked at how battery supply constraints on the World market had spurred the local battery assembly industry for stationary storage applications in South Africa. The startups did not want to sit and wait for the big international companies to bring their stationary storage products to Africa but decided to take matters into their own hands. If Africa decides to wait for OEMs and their official agents to bring EVs to Africa, they could be in for a very long wait! Just as in the case of the stationary storage startups, converting existing vehicle fleets to electric could be one of the channels to catalyze the transition. Already several some startups in Africa a looking to scale up and take EV conversions mainstream.

Look to India!

There are a lot of positives coming out of the Indian EV market. Spurred on by India’s excellent Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME II) policy, the Indian EV market is starting to boom. Two and three-wheeler ICE vehicles are popular modes of transportation in East and West Africa. Affordable electric scooters, motorcycles, and three-wheelers powered by Lithium-Ion batteries with ranges of 50 to 100 km are now widely available in India. With pricing from $700 to just over $2,000, these EVs from India would be a whole lot more budget friendly for prospective buyers in Africa. Most African countries have low import duties for motorcycles and three-wheelers, making it easier for suppliers to ship these and price them competitively with their ICE equivalents. The import duties get even better when one imports partially knocked down kits for final assembly in Africa. This is what most suppliers of ICE motorcycles do in Africa and this could easily be adopted for electric motorcycles and scooters. There are loads of exciting options now in India including the Hero Electric Models, Revolt 400, the Ather 450, and the Mahindra Treo on the three-wheeler.

Another exciting EV that is coming soon is the Tata Nexon EV. The Nexon EV has a real-world range that’s probably close to 200 km (124 miles). The entry level version starts at just under $20,000. It is a lot more budget friendly than the Hyundai Kona, the MG ZS EV, or the Kia Niro. The standard 8-year warranty should assure potential buyers as well. We reached out to Hyundai South Africa and they said they have no plans to bring the Kona EV to Africa anytime soon. Let’s hope Tata won’t experience significant delays in ramping up production of the Nexon EVs. India could be a channel to accelerate the transition to electromobility for Africa.

Featured Image: A Tesla Model X in Highlands, Harare, Zimbabwe. Image by Rutendo Kuhudzai

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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