The Autopax Air EV Yetu is a fascinating car, and an interesting development for Kenya. That is because the Autopax Air EV Yetu actually a rebadged Wuling Air in collaboration SAIC-GM-Wuling. The Air Yetu EV will soon be assembled in Thika, near Nairobi. Yetu is Swahili for “Ours,’’ so its means the car is called “Our Air EV.” This is a great development for Kenya. It is great to see these kinds of collaborations helping to catalyze the adoption of EVs in Kenya.
Two options of the Autopax Air EV Yetu will be offered in Kenya. These are the standard range model with a 17.3 kWh battery that has a stated range of 200 km, and the long range model that has a 26.7 kWh battery, giving a range of up to 300 km. The real big story here is that the Autopax Air Yetu EV will be assembled at an existing vehicle assembly plant in Kenya.
A lot of the assembly plants on the African continent are severely underutilized. Partnerships like these will help increase capacity utilization, and at scale will be able to provide an avenue for more affordable vehicles to be offered in the respective markets. Here is a video of the Air Yetu in Kenya. In an interview with Citizen TV, Dr Isaac Kalua, Founder of The Green Africa Foundation, said they have already received over 300 orders in Kenya for the Air EV Yetu. A very good start!
Many countries on the continent now offer some level of incentives and lower import duties and taxes for the importation of completely knocked-down kits to stimulate more local vehicle assembly, as opposed to the importation of fully built units. Small EVs such as the Wuling Air could be the type of vehicles to stimulate the industry. The market is currently dominated by 8-year-old or so used ICE imports, and only the new generation of affordable small EVs can compete on price with these used ICE vehicles.
Another vehicle that should be considered for local assembly is the Wuling Bingo. I assume since the Wuling Air will be assembled in Kenya, for example, the existing relationship could be extended to the Wuling Bingo. The Bingo is a larger and perhaps better looking (depending on your taste) 5-door vehicle, and could attract a wider cross section of potential customers, such as young families, early career professionals, and driver partners for ride-hailing apps. Wuling Bingo was launched in China earlier this year, and it comes in four main color options of black, white, green, and pink. The Bingo’s dimensions are 3950/1708/1580 mm with a wheelbase of 2560 mm. It will have two options, one with a 30 kW (41 hp) and another with a 50 kW (68 hp) motor. These options will come with a 17.3 kWh and a 31.9 kWh version with a range of 203-333 km, respectively.
I am looking forward to seeing more small EVs being assembled on the African continent and eventually moving to full manufacturing. The potential benefits that could be derived from this would be huge for countries on the continent.
- Job creation at the newly set up or expanded assembly plants
- Development and expansion of businesses and associated component manufacturers along the downstream industries
- Beneficiation of local resources
- Skills development and training of workers in new industries
- Partnerships with local universities, technical colleges, and research institutions in various areas of research and development
- Increased adoption of EVs resulting in reduction of fossil fuel imports, saving much needed foreign currency.
- Critical mass of vehicles would catalyze the growth of flexible vehicle financing platforms and other new innovative business models backed by good warranties. Currently the used vehicles do not have any warranty.
- Lower operational costs for ride-share driver partners as well as commercial fleet operators such as car rental businesses boosting fleet sales.
- Growth of synergistic businesses such as distributed solar for charging EVs
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