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Clean Transport

BRICS Summit Misses A Big Opportunity As An Overload Of ICE Vehicles Used As Official Vehicles

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The BRICS summit was held in South Africa this week. BRICS is a partnership of five leading emerging markets and developing countries, founded on historical bonds of friendship, solidarity, and shared interests, according to the 2023 Summit website. The website adds, “together, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa represent over 42% of the global population, 30% of the world’s territory, 23% of GDP and 18% of global trade.”

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, and China’s President  Xi Jinping, all attended the meeting in person in Johannesburg. The presence of these leaders and their entourages as well as other delegates meant that the summit was a big one and these kinds of summits involve enormous logistics operations. A huge chunk of those operations includes shuttle services for transferring the delegates to and from their hotels, conferences venues, and other related activities.

As the transition to electric mobility gathers momentum around the world, we are starting to see that more of these types of events are starting to incorporate EVs as part of the official fleet used by delegates. Some are even going further and making the majority of the fleet electric. For example, as reported earlier this year on CleanTechnica, to push the EV agenda at the recently concluded ASEAN Summit 2023 at Labuan Bajo in Indonesia, organizers made sure there were no ICE vehicles used by the delegates, their staff, and visitors. The report said there were a total of 395 electric cars, which included 13 BMW iX, Toyota bZ4X, and Hyundai IONIQ 5, as well as 50 Wuling EVs and 90 US-made Zero electric motorcycles. Since then, I was curious to find out if big events in other places, especially here in Africa, would incorporate EVs. In Kenya there have been several events and summits where delegates were shuttled in electric buses.

As the BRICS summit is one of the biggest events on the calendar this year on the continent and in South Africa, I was eagerly waiting to find out which vehicles would be used by the organizers as some of the official vehicles for delegates. But the BRICS summit was a huge disappointment! Well, the vehicles have been announced, and they are essentially all ICE vehicles.

There is growing range of EV models now available in South Africa that the organizers of the BRICS summit could have worked with global suppliers well in advance to add to their fleet for conference. These include models from BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, and Volvo. Another big lost opportunity was a chance to showcase electric vehicles from BRICS member states themselves. From India they could have pushed to get some vehicles from the market leader, TATA. Since India drives on the same side of the road as South Africa, they could have pushed for some vehicles to come to South Africa in time for the summit and perhaps use the occasion as some sort of soft launch for TATA electric vehicles or at least just to help raise awareness and promote these vehicles.

From China, there could have been more done to bring electric buses from several leading firms such as BYD, Yutong, and others. BYD now has a growing range of right-hand drive electric cars as well. BYD recently launched the ATTO 3 in South Africa with deliveries expected to start in the near future. Perhaps organizers of the BRICs summit could have pushed for some to arrive early. Some of these could have been used as part of the fleet for the Summit. SAIC models, such as electric vans, could have been roped in for other logistical purposes. Perhaps this happened behind the scenes? We will try and find out, but it would have been great to see electric vehicles taking center stage and having a big splash in terms of publicity to help raise awareness. A big opportunity has been lost here. Hopefully, the next big summit held in South Africa will do much better.

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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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