The African continent has an urgent need of alternative energy sources for transport to ease off the growing burden of fuel dependency as well as an electricity storage solution to leverage their abundant renewable energy resources.
Electric vehicles are a fascinating option for so many reasons. This long read breaks down electric cars, it’s adoption in Africa and it’s future in Africa.
What are electric cars?
Electric cars are vehicles that are powered or propelled by electric motors using energy stored in batteries. As opposed to vehicles that uses fuel, they have no exhaust emission and are generally quieter.
These vehicles are charged at charging stations which can be available in as public charging stations or even residential charging stations.
Electric cars enjoyed widespread adoption in 2020. With Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3 becoming the world’s all time best selling electric vehicle. The Tesla model 3 also became the first electric car to surpass 1 Million global sales in 2021.
2021 saw 6.6 million electric cars sold which was a little more than double of electric cars sold in 2020. These sales meant that electric cars constituted a whooping 9% of the global new car market. By December 2021, a whooping 16 million electric vehicles were estimated to be plying the world’s roads.
Many nations have laid government incentives for electric vehicles. Offering tax credits, subsidies, and other non-monetary incentives to users of these vehicles to reduce air pollution and limit climate change which vehicles with fossil fuel and gas cause.
These fuel and gas powered vehicles contribute 24% of harmful carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Analytics firm IHS Markit projects that, by 2050, 8 out of every 10 cars sold would be electric.
How much adoption has the electric car really enjoyed?
In every part of the world, transportation is a very important factor as it enables the economy to continue to revolve. There are millions of vehicles in use with more than 75% of these vehicles using fossil fuel which pollute the air and are dangerous to humans and the environment. The sale of second hand and worn out fossil fuel powered vehicles also increases transport emissions. The quality of fuel used in these vehicles is also considerably poor.
To the rescue are electric cars, which are expected to cut the amount of emission that comes from exhaust pipes which are the largest contributors to climate change. The electric cars are enjoying widespread adoption because it improves the quality of the air citizens breathe and slows down climate change.
The electric vehicles are not as affordable as their gasoline counterparts, so, to drive their adoption, governments around the world incentivise their purchase. The United States in its bid to make sure that over half of the new cars sold in the country by the end of the decade are electric offers a federal tax credit as high as $7,500 to consumers of eligible electric cars. In November 2021, the US parliament also approved a bill that earmarked $7.5 billion to build 500,000 charging stations across the country.
The Nigerian government in it’s bid to also drive adoption plans to grant Nigerians loans to buy electric cars.
Like the spread of internet connectivity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, an interesting article by Justin Rowlatt on the BBC website, “Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think” concludes that we are at the point of the exponential growth phase. This growth is propelled by the improvement in price and autonomy caused by the availability of better batteries. There are also increasing announcements of more and more brands that will stop making internal combustion vehicles within the next few years, along with governments that intend to ban their sale or even circulation.
With around 27,705 Battery Electric Vehicles registered in the United Kingdom in December 2021, electric cars enjoys an impressive level of popularity in spite of a lack of charging infrastructure in the UK. When it becomes very convenient to own an electric car, and traditional petrol stations become scarce, the pivot toward electric could be very quick indeed.
According to the Committee on Climate Change, around thirty thousand new charge points need to be installed every year between now and 2030. The majority of these would be Rapid (50kw DC) charge points.
What is the future of electric cars in Africa?
Mordor Intelligence, a market intelligence & advisory firm has projected a significant year-on-year growth in the adoption rate of electric vehicles in Africa on a growing focus of the governments across the region wishing to promote the use of electric vehicles and increased awareness about energy storage solutions in the renewable-based power sector.
At present, Africa contributes only a measly 3% of global greenhouse emissions. Africa is also expected to be the last continent to fully transition from fossil fuel to electric cars.
Electric vehicles offer an opportunity to replace fossil fuels in the transport sector. The electrification of the transportation industry can lead to long term benefits in terms of reduced local pollution and increased energy efficiency.
If Africa doesn’t transition from fossil fuel to cleaner fuels or electric cars, transport emissions in 2040 will be double what was recorded in 2020. About 600,000 people lose their lives from air pollution in Africa every year. These deaths are estimated to have cost the continent a whopping $225 billion in 2013.
The African governments have an important role to play in fast-tracking this adoption as their European counterparts are employing strict regulations to ensure that by 2035 all new cars are emission-free.
Electricity is still a luxury in most parts of Africa with more than 640 million Africans lacking access to it. Fuel cost and maintenance costs may reduce with the emergence of electric cars but electricity is not cheap in Africa. It costs $17 or ₦8,000—about 7% of Nigeria’s minimum wage—to charge a Tesla in Lagos.
According to research company Statista, South Africa, the most advanced e-mobility market in Africa, had about 1,000 electric vehicles in January 2022 out of a total fleet of 12 million automobiles, while the number of electric vehicles was estimated at 350 in Kenya out of some 2.2 million registered vehicles in the country.
Per Statisticia, electric mobility is still in early development in Africa. Electric car sales have driven through the roof in recent years even though it has remained the lowest worldwide.
Nigeria proves a good market for electric cars. A rough but very prospective start for the electric vehicle production started in 2019 when a senator sponsored a bill to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles and make electric cars mainstream by 2035. He was forced to withdraw the bill because Nigeria is an oil-producing country.
Now in 2022, a Nigerian government automobile agency says that in the next 10 years, 50% of the cars produced and assembled in the country will be electric. To drive the attainment of this goal, the Nigerian government has developed solar-power electric car charging stations in two cities and has also unveiled the first locally made electric car, the Hyundai Kona. Made exclusively by Stallion Motors in 2020.
Jet Motors Nigeria which was founded in 2017 is also a Nigerian automobile producer that builds and designs electric cars for African roads. The research and development at Jet Motors have led to the production of JET electric car and the JET mover.
Research from Data Bridge forecast that more people will incline towards electric vehicles between 2022-2029 with the growing awareness regarding environmental issues globally.
Over the 2022-2029 period, the research firm projects the market to grow from a valuation of $129.85 million in 2021 to $9.39 billion.
In 2020, Tesla installed 2 Supercharging stations in Morocco—the first in Africa. The impact of this intervention looks very small when compared to the 1,293 Supercharger stations in the United States. There are however very few Tesla cars on the continent which means that establishing too many supercharging stations would be a waste of resources right now.
There are genuine concerns about meeting the future energy demand for charging electric car batteries with clean and renewable sources.
The electric car is certainly going to see some significant technological improvements over the coming years which makes it a perfect fit for Africa. The price of the lithium-ion battery has declined exponentially over the past few decades, making viable the current revolution in electric cars. This also affects the affordability of the electric vehicle on the average African. There’s also considerable excitement over the arrival of solid-state batteries, which promise to be safer, more efficient, and more powerful.
Africa might find it quite difficult to reap the full environmental benefits of electric cars because of the domination of fossil fuel powered electric grids on the continent. According to experts, even if the African governments can get everyone to use electric cars while the power grid is not carbon free, the net gain intended to be achieved by using the electric cars will be reduced.
For Africa to fully reach its potential and maximise the benefits of electric cars, it’s electric grid must be clean. It must be powered by wind, natural gas or solar energy.