For electric vehicles, the future is here but Africa may be left out

Electric vehicles are undisputedly the cars of the future, but the future is relative as it might mean a minute into reading this article or this future might be 24 years from now as a research by Bloomberg new energy finance suggests. The research predicts that by the year 2040 global electric vehicle sales will hit 41 million units worldwide. This would mean that sales would be multiplying by an average of 3.75 points each year for the next 24 years from about 462,000 units estimated to have been purchased in 2015.

This predicted quantum leap in electric vehicle sales is hinged on the falling prices of the batteries which power these vehicles. The batteries are the most expensive component of the electric car and have been part of the obstacles to the mass adoption of the electric vehicle, as it reflected on the price of the cars, making buyers see the gasoline powered vehicles as a cheaper alternative. However, the prices of these batteries have experienced a steady decline in price over the last 5 years falling by 65 percent to about $350 per Kwh in 2015 and expected to get as low $120 per Kwh by year 2030.

Impact? Not for another 30yrs

As with any research work, there have been opposing voices to this prediction mainly from those who would be hurt most by the mass adoption of the electric vehicle; the oil industry. The CEO of American multinational ConocoPhillips, Ryan M. Lance was quoted as saying Electric Vehicles won’t have a material impact for another 50 years and probably not in his lifetime.

Electrical vehicles in Africa

The mass adoption of Electric vehicles as predicted by the year 2040 would mean a decline in demand for crude oil and its derivatives, mainly gasoline, used to power combustion engine vehicles by as much as 13 million barrels per day. That prediction makes it clear to see why the oil industry might feel threatened with the mass adoption of the electric car.

There is no doubt that a decline in the demand for crude oil would affect economies in Africa .The recent slump in the price of crude oil has plunged oil-dependent African economies such as Nigeria and Angola, who are the top major oil producers on the continent, into financial strain. This has led to job cuts, reduced public spending and a renewed cry to diversify their economies.

If these economies do not learn from this present fall in crude prices and renege on their plans to diversify their economies, they may end up in the same tight spot as they are now, two decades from now.

The Africa of our dreams

In the Africa of our dreams, the electric car would be a very ideal technology to adopt, as it promises lower running cost when compared to gasoline powered cars even with fall in oil prices.

Driving a Nissan Leaf (Most shipped electric vehicle in the world) for a 100 mile journey in South Africa where the price of electricity is estimated at R1.6 per Kwh and price of Petrol is about R12.25 per liter would save drivers about R70 with the Nissan Leaf which claims an estimated 30Kwh to do the trip and a Toyota Camry which claims fuel efficiency of 2.5Litres per 25miles doing the same trip.

Electrical vehicles in Africa

In Lagos Nigeria, known for its notorious traffic congestion, an electric vehicle would fit right into the culture of traffic jams, with a feature known as regenerative braking which is a mechanism used to convert the energy generated when the car speed is reduced into power which is stored in the car’s batteries. So, a driver might as well charge up an electric car while spending time accelerating and braking in traffic. The electric car also promises the reduction in carbon emissions which would do the environment a lot of good, saving us from exhaust fumes.

Sadly, Africa may be left out

Bloomberg predicts that in displacing 13 million barrels of crude oil per day 1,900TWh electricity would be used to power electric cars. The viability of the adoption of the electric car in Africa is heavily dependent on the quality of electricity supply across the continent.

According to the international energy Agency (EIA) 620 million people live without access to electricity in Africa and those that have it do at a high price. The World Bank reports that 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa (With a combined population of 800 million) generate roughly the same amount of power as Spain (with a population of 45 million). Nigeria and South Africa recently announced electricity tariff increase in spite of the epileptic supply of electricity supply to the end users. It is worthy to note that there are already electric cars on the continent, mainly hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline — such as the Toyota Prius — as against fully electric battery powered vehicles.

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Toyota Prius at the Frankfurt Motor Show 2011. Autoviva/Flickr

But for it to be adopted en masse by the African market, the continent would have to fix the problem of epileptic electricity supply before talks can even begin about incentives to encourage people to buy these vehicles like we have in the European countries. On the two fronts where the continent might be affected by the electric car — its Oil industry and Electricity sector — Africa is not ready and would have a lot of work to do to be part of this future where petrol tanks would be replaced by plug in power outlets.