Can Africa Catch Up With The Rest Of The World In Electric Vehicles Adoption?
If you observe how transportation vehicles have evolved in the last few decades, you can’t help but appreciate the ingenuity of humanity. Brilliant minds have continuously designed vehicles for comfort, security, efficiency, and more. Today, more innovative breakthroughs like self-drive technology for vehicles are being developed. Nonetheless, the technology that has received the most highlights is electric vehicles (EVs).
What Are Electric Vehicles?
Instead of using gasoline tanks and internal combustion engines, electric vehicles use rechargeable batteries and electric motors either fully or partially. These motors use electricity from the battery to power the wheels and other parts of the vehicle. Additionally, the motor can charge the battery by capturing the energy that would have been lost during braking.
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This loop is one of the many features of electric vehicles. Also, EVs do not produce harmful emissions like combustion engines do, which contributes to the Greenhouse effect. However, don’t get too excited yet since there are electric vehicles that still use gasoline. Here are the different types of electric vehicles.
Types Of Electric Vehicles
Four classes of electric vehicles currently exist. These are;
- Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)
- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)
- Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)
- Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV)
The primary difference among them is whether they solely or partially rely on batteries to power the vehicle. Essentially, an EV will be fully or partially propelled by electric motors, using energy stored in rechargeable batteries. Therefore, BEVs are powered exclusively by batteries, hybrids (HEVs and PHEVs) use gasoline and battery power, and FCEVs use fuel cell technology for propulsion power.
The various models of EVs account for issues such as electrification grids, reliability, and cost of ownership. To elaborate, not all parts of the world have access to electricity, and the initial cost of ownership for EVs is high. More so, having the ability to use both internal combustion engines and motors provides flexibility to the owner.
Why Electric Vehicles?
The debate on whether electric vehicles will solve air pollution, climate change, on-the-go accessibility, and health care is never-ending. Thus, studies have been made on the effect of EVs on global energy systems. There are speculations that we might end up in a power-demand crisis.
But then, why are we still pushing for the adoption of electric vehicles, especially in Africa? Well, one thing is for certain, there is not much oil left in the reserves. According to reports, if the oil reserves never grow and current oil consumption remained constant, the oil reserves will take 48 years to get depleted.
Electric vehicles are set to become the norm. Estimates place worldwide sales of PHEVs at 22 million units by 2025. These vehicles combine the benefits of gasoline-powered cars with the weight and stopping power of batteries. They are making a comeback in part due to increased government support, as well as higher oil prices that have made gasoline more expensive. The development of electric vehicles has greatly increased over the years in various parts of the world.
Arguably, electric vehicles will help solve some of the issues we are facing today. These include air pollution, wildlife disruption, climate change, and many more. However, the rapid growth and adoption of electric vehicles in recent years hasn’t stopped analysts from warning of a forthcoming ‘Peak EV’—the moment when electric vehicle demand outpaces available charging infrastructure. Regions like Africa are expected to experience this moment due to inadequate electrification, especially in rural areas.
Current Status of Electric Vehicles in Africa
Unfortunately, Africa is mentioned last when global agendas such as electric cars are brought forward. Several factors are to blame for this. Firstly, Africa is a developing continent where many people still rely on crude ways of doing things.
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Also, most African countries have a cashstrapped economy. Most cannot finance their annual budget without borrowing. A stable economy contributes to the advancement of sectors such as infrastructure. There is also the conflict of interest among African nations that earns most of their foreign exchange through the sale of crude oil.
The African population is rapidly growing. Regardless, it remains the least developed region in terms of transportation technology. To cater to the demand of this new population, current solutions such as EVs are inevitable. With the increasing population, Africa needs cleaner public transportation, or risk experiencing the kind of air pollution often experienced in New Delhi, India.
African Electric Vehicle Manufacturers
Some companies are taking a different approach to electrifying transport vehicles in Africa. For example, Opibus is a Kenyan-based company that converts gasoline-fuel cars into electric. Opibus chose commuter vehicles such as Matatus since they have the greatest impact on CO2 emissions. Kiira Motor Corporation is another revolutionary African EV manufacturer from Uganda.
Experts have pointed out that for the environmental impact of CO2 emissions from vehicles to reduce, 20% of road vehicles should be electric by 2030. At the moment, Africa contributes almost nothing to this figure. Take South Africa for example. Despite being the largest market for electric vehicles in Africa, it has only less than 2000 electric out of over 12 million road vehicles.
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The Future of Electric Vehicles in Africa
Rwanda is building Africa's first green city with mini-factories, electric vehicles and environmentally sustainable housing on 620 hectares in Kinyinya in Kigali worth $5 billion. pic.twitter.com/yfmxIXN4Aa
— Africa story Live (@AfricaStoryLive) July 14, 2020
Ultimately, Africa will have to keep up with the growing EV adoption globally—for good reasons. Living up to this future will need the collective efforts from the public and private sectors. Firstly, Governments from the various African nations can impose strict regulations against the importation of used cars. Secondly, there has to be robust infrastructure for recycling Lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars.
Limiting the import of used cars will encourage local car manufacturers to innovate to fill the vacuum. Today, Africa is seen as a dumping ground for used vehicles from Europe and America. However, to avoid falling into another wave of pollution from used lithium ion batteries, there need to be a recycling plant.
The recycling infrastructure will ensure the safe handling of EV batteries. Failure to handle these batteries properly will result in more pollution. Lastly, the development of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in Africa will need to be prioritized. Thus, for effective commercialisation of EVs, Africa has to address the electricity deficit.
Thankfully, some African nations are implementing initiatives to promote EV adoption. Also, others are creating awareness on EV technology. Eventually, such efforts will be at the hallmark of electrifying mobility in Africa.