e-Car Namibia Looks To Scale EV Conversions In Namibia

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The transition to electromobility is now gaining significant traction. Over 7 million electric passenger vehicles are 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.

However, it is still quite a challenge to get one’s preferred choice of EV in most developed markets. People can still wait up to 26 weeks for some of their chosen EVs. Africa is not traditionally a priority market for most of these OEMs, so the wait times will be even longer. EV fans in Africa would need to come up with some of their own solutions to solve this problem. Several options have been discussed previously in terms of how Africa can also join the EV revolution.

e-Car Namibia’s “eCruiser.” Image courtesy of e-Car Namibia.

One of the options we looked at was how Africa can ramp up EV conversions. There are millions of old or used vehicles in Africa with chassis and bodies that are still in perfect condition but whose original ICE components are now past their useful economic life and are just a strain on their owners in terms of repairs and maintenance.

Upcycling these bodies and upgrading them to electric will unlock a “new” fleet of vehicles and do it sustainably too, as we won’t need to use as much carbon intensive energy to make new bodies, etc., for vehicles. Some firms are already looking to scale up EV conversions in East Africa as discussed here. EV conversions around the world have traditionally been taken up as a hobby by EV enthusiasts or by small boutique garages restoring classic cars. But we are starting to see more firms in Africa looking at EV conversions on a commercial scale.

e-Car Namibia is looking at jumpstarting the Namibian EV commercial conversion market. The Namibian electric mobility market seems to be growing nicely. We also recently looked at a Namibian e-bike manufacturer and on-demand delivery firm. e-Car Namibia is looking at several aspects of the EV ecosystem, beginning with the conversion and upcycling of internal combustion engine vehicles into electric vehicles.

The company will then branch out into importing other EVs, the implementation of a carbon-neutral solar-powered charging station network, and the development of an electric-powered public transport system. e-Car Namibia is already able to convert any vehicle into an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, but has strategically chosen to focus on converting Land Cruisers, other off-road 4×4 vehicles, and retrofitting delivery vans. With the recent surge in online shopping and the delivery market in general, adding delivery vans to its list of conversions is a really smart move.

A 28.8 kWh battery pack used by e-Car Namibia in its conversions. Image courtesy of e-Car Namibia.

The conversion of Land Cruisers is proving to be quite popular among EV conversion companies in Africa. There are several other companies converting these to electric in Tanzania, South Africa, and Kenya. e-Car’s “eCruiser” is based on the single cab Toyota LC79, which is a popular platform for the majority of game drive vehicles used by lodges and game reserves, governments, NGOs, farmers, and the mining industry across Africa. The design of the retrofit was based on a configuration used by a partner company based in Germany, which has successfully converted several game drive vehicles in Tanzania. e-Car Namibia says the full cost of a Land Cruiser conversion is about 35,000 euros.

Just like other any startup, e-Car Namibia has faced several challenges on its journey to growing its client pipeline. The biggest hurdle is the cost of the conversion, which is mostly driven by the cost of the battery packs. There are significant duties on batteries and other components in Namibia, and Namibian consumers are also extremely cost sensitive. It would be great if the Namibian government reduces, or even better, removes the duties and taxes on the components used by local firms to assemble the EVs. e-Car Namibia has been engaging with all sectors of government via their institutions and ministries to lobby for the creation of an environment that is supportive of EV technology. There is a great deal of interest, and the feedback so far is quite positive and encouraging.

e-Car Namibia’s “e-Cruiser.” Image courtesy of e-Car Namibia.

e-Car Namibia’s e-Cruiser Specs

  • 28.8 kWh LiFePo4 Battery Pack
  • 45 kW Motor, peak ~80 kW
  • 80–100 km range of vehicle per full charge

Another barrier is the perceived low range of the vehicle. Distances between towns and cities in this vast desert country are big, and the cost of the traction pack versus the range is considered too high. However, the name of the game is EV education! The target customers in the game drive, lodge, government, NGO, farming, and mining mostly use their vehicles for localized travel anyway and not intercity travel. Vehicles in these areas such as at mines, farms, tourism lodges, and game parks typically drive less than 80 km per day, although these often tend to be in difficult off-road conditions. This is where TCO business cases can help swing potential customers to make the switch to electric.

e-Car Namibia also says it is not trying to build a cheap EV or build a high performance race car like other retrofitters, but is developing solutions designed to have similar performance to the original vehicle, utilizing components specially selected for longevity and their ability to withstand extreme conditions in very hot and sunny Namibia. e-Car Namibia is also starting to offer its EV conversions on a lease basis, lowering the barriers to entry. The EV leasing business is really a gamechanger in this part of the world and helps take away some of risks customers may be worried about when it comes to a new technology they do not yet understand. Battery degradation and battery warranty/battery replacement fears are some the issues newbies to EVs are most concerned about. Leasing helps assure customers, as the risks sit with the owners of the assets.

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Images courtesy of e-Car Namibia

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

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.

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has 781 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai