Zimbabwe’s motor vehicle market is dominated by used vehicle imports, which make up over 90% of all vehicles brought into the country every year. About 70,000 used vehicles are brought into the country every year, mostly from Japan. Some vehicles also come from the United Kingdom, since Zimbabwe is a right hand drive market. All of these used vehicles have led to a growth in Zimbabwe’s vehicle population. Secondhand vehicle imports jumped from just over 17,000 units per year in 2007 to over 70,000 per annum in recent years, leading to a ballooning fossil fuel import bill that accounts for 30% of Zimbabwe’s total import bill. Zimbabwe spends $1.2 billion annually on petrol and diesel imports. This is a lot of money for a country that regularly experiences petrol shortages due to chronic foreign currency shortages.
Increasing the penetration of EVs could help address this situation. Zimtorque, a used car dealership, wants to capitalize on this opportunity and has shifted its focus to bringing in used EVs from Japan. It is also bringing in low mileage, slightly used latest EV models from the United Kingdom. The company has so far sold over 30 vehicles, most of which were sold in the last half of 2020. These included 12 Nissan Leafs from Japan and a selection of plug-in hybrids. Zimtorque co-founder Tanaka Kutama says he started following the electric vehicle and hybrid industry in 2012.
“During that time the vehicles were considered expensive and overpriced. Hybrids were thought to be not viable in this part of the world due to the fear of life span of batteries and costs of maintenance and replacement. But it’s been proven the batteries of electric vehicles are not like your cellphone battery and last a whole lot longer than most people think. Consumers also were not sure if there were any trained and certified technicians for hybrid and electric vehicles in the country. Many were afraid that if they bought one there won’t be anyone to offer support and maintenance services.
“I started working for a Japanese vehicle exporter and I convinced this young lady to buy a Honda Fit Mild Hybrid which came into the country in 2013. My personal cars were the mild hybrid Honda Fit Hybrid, and the BMW Active hybrid, but now I drive the Nissan LEAF.
“Right now, we are working on rebuilding Nissan LEAFs by replacing the old batteries and putting new batteries, even upgrading your battery pack from a 24kwh up to a 40kwh for more range. Range anxiety has been the EV industry’s biggest worry, but many solutions are available such as battery upgrade for your small affordable EV or a plug-in hybrid as a start. You can pick up a 2013 Nissan LEAF for around $11,000 and a battery pack around $6000 fully installed to give you about 270km real world range car instead of spending around 30k for a newer one. This range is good enough to drive to some of the major cities in Zimbabwe such as Mutare or Gweru from the Capital City Harare.”
Zimtorque has already entered into several strategic partnerships to enhance its product offering. “We have partnered with Stanbic bank to introduce the E-mobility vehicle loan and also we partnered with Alliance Insurance for e-mobility insurance, and lastly, ace and air ambulance for emergency response services. As Zimbabwe has financial problems it is the best way for us to start adoption of EVs that way.”
The electric mobility movement is growing in Zimbabwe. Tanaka says the following plug-in hybrids are already on the roads, brought in by individuals who are EV enthusiasts.
- 2020 Volvo XC90
- 2020 MERCEDES BENZ GLE
- 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander
- 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
- Mercedes Benz s500L e
- Mercedes Benz S500 L premium e
- Range Rover p400 e
These are mostly early adopters who want to get a foot into the world of electric mobility. They will probably switch to full electric vehicles once the public charging infrastructure grows in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s EV scene looks to be getting a bit more interesting. Zimbabwe’s energy regulator, ZERA, is also actively promoting EVs and has recently added the 62 kWh Nissan Leaf e+ to its fleet. Let’s hope official dealerships of legacy automakers who already have a presence in Zimbabwe, such as VW, Mercedes, and Hyundai, bring in their BEVs to Zimbabwe soon. The Hyundai Kona is already being assembled in Nigeria and the Ionic is being assembled in Ethiopia. The Kona is also officially on sale in Ghana. Hyundai appears to be the one that is serious about Africa. Let’s hope it adds Zimbabwe to the list soon. The new vehicle market may be smaller than the used vehicle market, but there is still quite an opportunity there as well, especially for fleets. Zimtorque is already taking advantage of this opportunity. The company is bringing in the Hyundai Kona and the Peugeot e208 from the UK at the request of some of its clients.
All images courtesy of Zimtorque
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