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One of VAYA’s Nissan Leafs at the Launch of VAYA ELECTRIC. Image courtesy of VAYA

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VAYA Africa Launches VAYA Electric, Positions Itself For Growth Across Africa

We recently looked at how evCrowdRoute and GridCars are rolling out EV charging networks in South Africa. Now VAYA Africa, a Mauritius-registered Transportation as a Service (TaaS) company, has launched an electric vehicle service in South Africa’s northern neighbor, Zimbabwe.

We recently looked at how evCrowdRoute and GridCars are rolling out EV charging networks in South Africa. Now VAYA Africa, a Mauritius-registered Transportation as a Service (TaaS) company, has launched an electric vehicle service in South Africa’s northern neighbor, Zimbabwe.

This is part of the company’s rollout strategy across Africa. Starting with Zimbabwe makes a lot of sense. Zimbabwe has been experiencing petrol and diesel shortages for the past 3 years. Filling up an ICE vehicle’s tank can be quite a challenge in Zimbabwe, and it could involve waiting in a queue at a petrol station all day! This is downtime TaaS providers cannot afford. Drivers of ICE vehicles are more likely to suffer from range anxiety in Zimbabwe than owners of EVs who can charge at home or at the office from the grid when its available or from solar.

One of VAYA’s Nissan Leafs at the Launch of VAYA ELECTRIC. Image courtesy of VAYA

“We are excited to launch the ‘VAYA Electric’ vehicle today as we start our journey of deploying innovative ways of harnessing clean, renewable energy to provide safe and convenient transportation services to the public on the African continent,” said Mrs Dorothy Zimuto, the CEO of Vaya Mobility in Harare.

Dorothy Zimuto, CEO VAYA Mobility. Image courtesy of VAYA.

She said VAYA Africa planned to roll out the VAYA Electric vehicles in West and East Africa soon, saying the vehicles would include a range of multi-purpose vehicles. “Our e-vehicle fleet will include passenger vehicles, motorbikes, vans, buses and dump trucks, all utilizing our VAYA hail riding platform. We believe this dovetails well with our vision of driving inclusive technology growth across Africa,” Mrs Zimuto said.

The transition to electromobility is gaining momentum with over 7 million electric passenger vehicles now on the road worldwide, according to the Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020 from BloombergNEF. There are also now over 500,000 e-buses, almost 400,000 electric delivery vans/trucks, 184 million electric mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles on the road globally. It’s good to start seeing more developments in Africa in the EV space. In this transition, there are many infrastructural aspects that need to be assessed and addressed along with several milestones that would need to be met along the way. These issues span across several fields including the local grid networks, power uptime, operations, and maintenance, as well as having a human resource pool of technical experts. These would be critical in rolling out a large EV charging and EV service ecosystem across Africa.

This is where Vaya, and Ugesi Energy, also a subsidiary of Econet Global, can leverage on the experience of the Econet Group. The Group has rolled out large infrastructure networks and projects across Africa. For example, Liquid Telecom has built Africa’s largest independent fiber network, spanning over 70,000 km, and operates state-of-the-art data centers in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Nairobi, with a combined potential 19,000 square meters of rack space and 78 MW of power.

One of VAYA’s driver partners plugging in a Nissan Leaf. Image courtesy of VAYA

Running a telecommunications network involves operating and maintaining a lot of power assets with thousands of sites. These can range from small 5 kW microgrids on Telco Towers to megawatt data and switching centers. The Econet Group already has a template and processes that it can roll out for its EV charging infrastructure, from site acquisition and leases with landlords and permitting from local councils and other related bodies. They already have teams of power engineers and technicians. The same technician that is probably on his way to a Telco Base station on one of the regular preventative or corrective maintenance runs can go and attend to an EV charger on their way. All these put them in a good position on the previously mentioned infrastructure milestones.

VAYA Electric will be part of VAYA Africa’s VAYA Premium service, a passenger service available on the VAYA Africa application that offers a wide variety of VAYA services – including logistics services.

Describing the customer fulfillment process, Mrs Zimuto said in order to enjoy a ride, one simply downloads the VAYA Africa App and looks for the Mobility Option. “They select the Electric Vehicle and this prompts them to choose the pickup and destination addresses, before requesting a ride,” she said.

She added that the App provided for convenient payment options, including mobile money payment, payment by VISA, MasterCard, or any other international debit or credit cards options.

“Electric vehicles have zero emissions and our aim is to ensure that all vehicles we have on the VAYA platform in the next ten years are electric vehicles,” said Mrs Zimuto, whose VAYA Africa service currently operates the largest hail riding service in Zimbabwe.

Part of the 100 kW Solar Carport at Econet Park, Msasa, Harare, Zimbawe. Image Courtesy of Econet.

It’s good to see VAYA move to reduce emissions of vehicles on its platform. Econet Wireless has also moved to reduce emissions by installing solar PV at all its facilities and Telco Towers. Vaya has already installed charging stations at Econet Park in Harare, where the Nissan Leafs will also charge from solar. Econet Park has a 100 kW carport PV system installed on its campus. The move by VAYA Africa and Econet demonstrates the beauty of combining solar and EVs. The image below shows the generation and consumption profile on a typical weekend before installation of EV chargers.

The Solar Generation and Consumption profile on a typical weekend at Econet Park before installation of EV chargers. Image extracted from the SolarEdge Monitoring Platform.

From the profile, we can see that the building’s consumption is reduced on weekends as the load drops from a peak of over 100 kW on weekdays to about 40 kW on weekends. About 223 kWh can then be available for several VAYA EVs to soak up all that clean electricity in between their trips. 223 kWh is good enough for almost 9 full charges for 24 kWh Nissan Leafs and almost 7 full charges for the 30 kWh Nissan Leafs. Econet has also rolled out a first-of-its-kind and also the largest deployment of AC-coupled Li-ion batteries in the telecoms sector, deploying Tesla’s Powerwall 2s on its network, which we covered here.

Mrs Zimuto says electric vehicles will provide cost savings of up to 40% on the major running costs of fuel and regular maintenance, in comparison to vehicles that run on fossil fuels. They stand to save even more from increased PV contribution on weekends in places where excess solar generation is available.

“The benefits of the use of e-vehicles will be less frequent services and fewer scheduled vehicle maintenance check-ins than ordinary combustion engines. They will require minimal scheduled maintenance for their electrical systems, such as the battery and electrical motors. Other parts such as brakes also last longer because of their regenerative braking systems, where the battery is charged when braking,” Mrs Zimuto said.

Mrs Zimuto said e-vehicles would be charged on solar or on grid-tied electric charging stations across the country.

“Our electric vehicles will be charged on charging stations deployed across the country, built by Ugesi Energy, a subsidiary of Econet Global, to offer e-vehicle owners charging options just about anywhere around the country,” Mrs Zimuto said.

She added that VAYA Africa had provided for financing for the purchase of the VAYA Electric, which is great as it will lower the barriers for adoption and more driver partners on its platform can switch to electric.

“VAYA Africa has positioned itself as an enabler in the hail riding value chain. So, we will import the electric vehicles of various brands and at the same time facilitate loans to qualifying clients and VAYA partners through Steward Bank specifically for the purchase of the e-vehicles,” Mrs Zimuto said.

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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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