The Chinese EV Market Is Already Starting To Influence The EV Sector In Africa

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The Chinese auto sector leads the world in terms of volumes when it comes to EV adoption. Last year, 22% of new car sales in China were 100% electric. About 6 million EVs (battery-electric + plug-in hybrids) were sold in China last year. Topping the list was BYD Song and all its variants with 476,784 units. An interesting one on the list was the VW ID.4 with 81,672 units sold in China last year. VW also sells the China-only (for now) ID.6.

A recent trip to Ethiopia by Axel Conrad, founder of e-Car Namibia, gave an insight into how the Chinese EV market is already having some influence in Ethiopia. Axel spotted several made in China VW ID models at showrooms of independent dealerships which import cars directly. He also spotted several ID models already driving on the roads of Addis Ababa.  These ID models are imported as brand new or low mileage models into Ethiopia from China and include the ID.4 and ID.6. Axel says in a LinkedIn post that the ID.6 models seem to be selling quite well, as he spotted quite a few of them driving on the roads of Addis Ababa.

Buyers do not seem to be worried about the lack of a large public electric vehicle infrastructure network, and charge their vehicles using 11kW AC charging stations (at home and at the dealer I assume). The cars are also quite pricey. The ID.6 is going for a whopping $100,000! He also adds that the growing sales of the ID6 and ID.4 is probably driven in part by a new wave of them being regarded as fashionable vehicles. His feedback from the people he spoke with in Ethiopia is that the low cost of charging vs the high price of fuel is a major driver. Ethiopia has some of the lowest electricity tariffs on the continent with residential tariffs close to 1 US cent/kWh. Given that the price of petrol is close to $2 per liter, EV owners in the country can expect to save quite a lot on fuel costs. 1 cent per kWh is like driving for free!

It’s really exciting to see this kind of adoption being driven by independent dealers. Perhaps as the volumes grow, more OEMs will start accelerating their plans to introduce EVs officially in some of these markets on the African continent. Widespread adoption of EVs in Ethiopia will help save a lot of foreign currency currently used to import fossil fuels, cutting tailpipe emissions in the process. In Ethiopia, fuel imports consume about $4 billion annually. Ethiopia’s grid is powered 100% by  renewable energy (hydro and some wind). According to IRENA, of the 15,075 GWh generated in 2020, 14,404 GWh were from “hydro and marine” and wind contributed 609 GWh. Ethiopia is gradually adding more hydro capacity as the 5,150 MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) units are gradually phased in. The GERD will add another ~15,500 GWh of clean electricity to the country’s energy mix.

This is just the latest example of how the Chinese EV market is starting to influence the EV sector in Africa, especially in the 4-wheeler segment. We have seen this happening already in Ghana where one can choose from more than 20 made in China EV models on offer from several companies and startups in Ghana. The majority of countries in Africa, excluding those from east and south Africa, drive on the same side of the road as China. Therefore, it is easy for dealers to find models to import directly from China and start offering them in the local market without waiting for official dealerships to bring in those same models.

The Chinese market is also our best bet to bring affordable EVs to Africa. And with the right policies and regulatory framework, those EVs can land at prices that are fairly competitive with the popular used and almost new vehicles that typically dominate vehicle imports in most African countries. Rwanda gives us a perfect example of this. Go Kabisa is bringing Geely’s Geometry E to Rwanda. The Geometry E is in a similar vehicle segment  with the Rav 4, which is a very popular vehicle with young professionals in Rwanda. The Geometry E will start from 22M RWF, which is around $20,000. A brand new Geely Geometry E vs an 8-year-old RAV4? The Geometry E is a no-brainer. Kabisa says the cost savings per kilometer driven when charging your EV versus filling up the ICE fuel tank can be up to 85% in Rwanda.

In Zimbabwe and Kenya, the only brand new electric vans you can get officially are the BYD T3 passenger and panel vans. In South Africa you can get the SIAC Maxus eDeliver 3, as well as the DFSK EC35 van. Same thing with pickup trucks. In Kenya, the only electric pickup currently available officially is the JAC T8. Several pickups, also from China, are available in Ghana, and the DFSK EC31 is available in South Africa.

And so, the great shift is starting to happen. Traditionally, the majority of vehicles both new and used on the continent were from Japan and Europe. Now, the Chinese brands (and foreign ones but built in China) are starting to pop up more regularly. Expect this transition to accelerate much faster than previously thought. It’s already happening with ICE vehicles as well as brands from China such as Great Wall Motors. Haval brand is starting to make significant inroads as well.

The arrival of the highly anticipated affordable BYD Seagull, Wuling Bingo, as well as other models already available in China such as the BYD Dolphin and the Atto 3, will help feed some of these markets on the African continent as well, as independent dealers and startups on the continent start to look for more affordable models. This revolution will grow in countries that drive on the same side as China, but will soon spread to other countries that need right-hand drive models once Chinese OEMs ramp up production and add right-hand drive options. There has been lot of attention given to the electric 2-wheeler market on the continent, but there is starting to be some interesting action on the 4-wheeler market in Africa as well. We will be watching this space very closely.

Images courtesy of Axel Conrad


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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 754 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai