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Clean Transport

Electric Pickups & Vans Are Now Available In Some African Markets — Time For Fleet Operators To Electrify

Fleet operators constitute the bulk of brand new motor vehicle purchases in a lot of markets on the continent. They also represent an essential customer segment — repeat customers! Fleet operators normally replace their fleets at regular intervals. These replacements are generally based on the vehicles covering a certain mileage or having been in service for a certain number of years, whichever comes first.

A lot of these fleet operators will be in the market for pickups and vans. Electric & water utility companies, telecom firms, agriculture, mining companies, logistics firms, tour operators, municipalities, and provincial and national governments are some of the major fleet operators that regularly purchase pickups and vans. All of these vehicles have traditionally been ICE vehicles as there really weren’t any electric vans and pickups available in this part of the world. This is starting to change as several firms are now offering really great electric vans and pickups in some markets.

In Ghana, SolarTaxi, which is selling as well as leasing at least 15 (yes, 15) different electric vehicle models, has added the Dongfeng Rich electric pickup to their offerings. Ghana is a left-hand drive (LHD) market, hence a lot of the EVs on the market have been coming from China. This means they can have access to LHD electric pickups. Electric pickups from Chinese brands such as JAC and Dongfeng have beaten a lot of the other eagerly awaited pickups such as the Rivian, Ford F150 Lightning, and the Tesla Cybertruck to the market. The latest version of the Dongfeng Rich 6 EV pickup has a 119 kW motor, a 68 kWh battery with an NEDC range of around 400 kilometers, as well as DC fast charging to 80% in 45 minutes. With SolarTaxi now bringing these electric pickups to Ghana, fleet operators in Ghana really need to seriously start looking into getting these pickups. Switching to electric is a no-brainer as fleet operators will benefit from lower operating and fueling costs.

Electric vans are also now available in several markets. In Ghana, SolarTaxi is offering the Skywell D07 electric van. The Skywell D07 has a 40.3 kWh battery delivering a range of 250 km / 156 miles (NEDC). Skywell guarantees the battery pack of the D07 for 5 years or 200,000 km / 125,000 miles. The Skywell D07’s drivetrain produces 70 kW (94 hp) of power, and 230 Nm of torque. It has a top speed of 100 km/h. SolarTaxi is offering this van on both an outright purchase and a lease basis.

In Zimbabwe, BYD Zimbabwe is offering the T3 electric van. The T3 electric van has a 50.3 kWh battery and is equipped with a 100 kW AC permanent magnet synchronous motor providing 180 Nm of torque. It has a range of 310 km in city driving and 269 km combined cycle (WLTP). Already one of the major fleet operators in Zimbabwe, the CMED, has bought a mix of BYD T3 vans and BYD E6 with Blade battery. CMED is already using some of the T3 passenger vans on its shuttle service from Harare’s international airport. CMED is responsible for a lot of the government’s fleet so it’s really good to see them adding some electric vehicles to its fleet. The company has already indicated that it will be acquiring more electric vehicles soon, and this could mean that other government departments will now also start receiving some electric vehicles.

One of these could be Zimbabwe’s electric utility company, Zesa, which has expressed an interest in electric vehicles. Zesa requires 3,000 vehicles across several departments, but is currently short of 1600 vehicles at the moment. One of Zesa’s departments has already put out a tender for it to purchase electric vehicles, which is a good sign that it will indeed be getting some EVs soon. Zesa spends a lot of money on petrol and diesel to fuel all those vehicles. It would be much better off using some of its own product (kWhs) to power its vehicles. A lot of these vehicles would most probably be parked at night and can easily be charged at their depots during this off peak period.

In Kenya, Driveelectric Kenya and META Electric are leasing Nissan ENV200 and BYD T3 electric vans, respectively. The pickup and panel van market is also a significant market in Kenya. According to the KNBS Economic Survey 2020, 10,189 ICE panel vans and pickups were registered in Kenya in 2019. 57,875 ICE panel vans and pickups were registered over the past 5 years at an average of 11,575 ICE vans and pickups per year. A lot of these vehicles were bought by fleet operators, which generally have predetermined/set routes. This makes them the perfect market for electrification. Fleet operators can then easily adopt electric vehicles without disrupting their normal operations, as well as being  able to easily schedule charging sessions using onsite EV charging points at their depots.

We haven’t started seeing any of these electric vans and pickups yet in South Africa, but it’s something OEMs and dealerships need to expedite. South Africa is Africa’s largest market for new vehicles. The Toyota Hilux pickup is the top selling vehicle across all categories and has been for a very long time. Electric pickups similar to the JAC T8 and Dongfeng Rich 6 EV with a range well over 300 km will do well in this market.

Chinese brands are starting to get a lot of street cred in South Africa. One of the models getting a lot of praise is Great Wall’s new P Series ICE pickup. An electric version of this pickup or “ute” could be available soon in other right-hand drive markets such as New Zealand. Great Wall Motors, which already has a presence in South Africa, should really prioritize South Africa as one of the first markets for this “Bakkie,” as pickups are called in South Africa.

During an address at the University of Pretoria recently, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said that “Eskom buys approximately hundreds of light delivery vehicles (LDVs)/bakkies per annum and wants to explore the opportunity to pivot the motor industry to electric vehicles by using its own demand for locally manufactured EVs to enable investment. The priority will be on LDVs, as these are critical in Eskom’s operations.” Only 92 electric vehicles were sold in 2020 in South Africa. 24 of those were Porsche Taycans. Fleet operators such as Eskom could supercharge EV sales if electric pickups and vans were available in South Africa.

Images: Dongfeng Rich electric pickup in Ghana. Images courtesy of SolarTaxi

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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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