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Published on July 4th, 2020 | by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

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Electric SUVs Could Be The Most Important Segment In Africa

July 4th, 2020 by  


It’s very common for small African countries to have governments with at least 30 ministers and an equal number of deputy ministers. Quite fascinating really, considering much bigger economies have fewer than 15 ministers. Add to that number hundreds of board members and executives of government parastatals, regulatory bodies, NGOs, embassies & diplomats, city councils, provincial governments, and executives of blue chip companies, and you can see how quickly the number of these executives grows per country.

A Jeep Cherokee SRT 8 and a Jeep Grand Cherokee at a dealership in Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe. The SRT 8 retails for $128 000. Image courtesy Remeredzai Kuhudzai.

Now, as part of the perks, a lot of these executives get brand new, polluting diesel SUVs such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Mercedes GLE 400 4MATIC. Everyone gets one! On top of that, it is quite common that these executives get a fuel allowance of hundreds of litres per month to propel those diesel engines.

A Mercedes-Benz dealership in Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe. The dealership is currently only selling fossil fuel vehicles such as the Mercedes GLE 400 4MATIC that retails for about $130,000. Image courtesy of Remeredzai Kuhudzai.

These SUVs tend to be replaced after every 3 years or 100,000 km, whichever comes first. We know this money could be better spent elsewhere, but since they are not about to stop buying these giant SUVs anytime soon, they might as well buy electric! Below, we look at how this switch could actually help the continent.

These government and private sector stakeholders are the ones that drive national policies and shape the state of the transport and energy sectors. They can quickly get incentives in place to catalyze EV adoption and address anomalies such as those observed in the Norway-Zimbabwe Paradox.

Government offices and facilities can be compelled to install public charging infrastructure for use by tenants and residents of those facilities as well as visitors to those sites. Governments own a lot of real estate across these countries, and this could be another revenue stream for local, municipal, and national governments.

Image courtesy of GridCars.

By driving electric, the key decision makers would feel a sense of ownership and take a lead role in shaping policy that influences EV adoption, which would trickle down across the entire EV ecosystem to the benefit of everyone, including Uber/rideshare drivers, startups in the e-mobility space, and the average car buyer.

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

Nopearide in Kenya and Vaya in Zimbabwe, for example, have launched electric rideshare platforms and any positive EV policies could really incentivize more drivers on other rideshare platforms to switch to electric.

*Local pricing with duties and taxes adding up to 60% of the value of the vehicle. #Local pricing if EV incentives make new duties and taxes amount to about 30% of the value of the vehicle.

The majority of consumers in most African countries buy used vehicles from Japan and Europe. These government and private sector fleets also feed the used vehicle markets. When these fleet owners replace their electric SUVs, they will come into the used vehicle market at a price point that is more affordable for some of the middle class in these markets. 

BYD e2, courtesy BYD.

The total addressable market for these expensive SUVs is small compared to the shiploads of used Toyotas and Nissans imported every year from Japan, but the electric SUVs could literally change the game, as the people who can afford to have them or have them given to them as part of their company/government perks are the key stakeholders who can drive policy changes that will catalyse EV adoption.

Tata Nexon EV

Tata Nexon EV, courtesy Tata Motors.

Seeing is believing, and after they have experienced the joys of electromobility, they will then feel a sense of ownership in terms of having an EV ecosystem in their nations for their own benefit which will ultimately benefit all those other consumers intending on making the switch to electromobility.

: E-Bikes from E-Bikes4Africa. Images Courtesy of E-Bikes4Africa

E-bikes from E-Bikes4Africa. Images courtesy of E-Bikes4Africa.

Their shift could spur other segments as well, such as e-bikes, electric scooters, and electric three-wheelers, as well as incentivizing the local manufacturing industry from scaling EV conversions to promoting the local assembly and manufacturing of electric buses and other vehicles. 

We could save a lot by switching that diesel fuel allowance to an electricity allowance, especially if we bundle the EVs with solar. The synergistic effects of distributed solar systems and EVs will propel both industries across the continent.

Greenspoon team with their e-NV200 electric van. Image courtesy of Greenspoon.

EVs and PV are a match made in heaven, as we have seen from Kenyan delivery firm Greenspoon’s story. On a larger scale, many campuses, office parks, distribution centers, and big shopping malls are installing onsite solar bundled with EV charging stations. As the solar industry and the public charging infrastructure markets grow, so will consumer confidence, giving consumers more comfort to switch to EVs. There are literally no or very limited incentives in most African countries. Perhaps having the policymakers drive and own EVs could help change that.

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About the Author

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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