Electric vehicles have set up a global shift in car manufacturing across the world and it’s inevitable that we Kenyans as consumers of primarily used vehicles change our approach on things moving forward.
Missing out is an understatement to say the least. Kenyans should be jumping on this the way Rwanda is doing down the road. But that would require a culture shift that might be hard to shake off. We are used to what are used to.
This shift to electric vehicles is going to be massive. The costs effectiveness alone should be something that would benefit a lot of people who spend a lot of money on fueling and servicing their cars. Electric cars essentially need no maintenance. There are no more periodic oil changes, and electricity costs less than the price of fuel per Kilometer driven. This will mean more savings for the driver or companies who have fleets of several hundred cars. The savings will add up.
So why are we not seeing EV’s all over Kenya so far? Answer is we are waiting for them to be used and then sent to us after 7 or 8 years. Which means we are just now starting to drive the 2010 – 2012 Nissan Leaf. These are good cars, well built with a solid range for the era. Taxi hailing company, Nopea has been operating them since 2018.
So let’s list some few things that are hindering our progression to the world of among others, the magnificent Tesla Model S Plaid and Porsche Taycan Turbo S. We can dream, right?
Higher Cost for Electric Cars
This, while generally true in most new electric cars from legacy auto makers like Mercedes Benz, Audi, and VW, cannot be said in China, Korea and even India. The Chinese already have Sub Kshs. 1M vehicles that can do 200Km which is more than enough for city driving. Prices for used vehicles in Kenya average around this Kshs. 1M mark for most city dwellers.
Used Goods Dumping Ground.
Hard to swallow but inevitably a fact. Kenya and most African countries have been subsisting on this economy for decades. Local manufacturing is at a crawling pace because they cannot compete with used products being imported from overseas. Even shoe giants Bata have had a hard time convincing Kenyans to say no to Gikomba Market and buy locally made quality footwear, it’s hard work. Cost effectiveness being the driving force in this market. From used cars to used parts. It is thriving.
Unregulated or Non Existent Emission Standards
Quality of air standards are set but rarely followed or enforced. Alot of matatus run on diesel and most of them are in the range of 15 years of age and very poorly maitained. Most of them have have their catalytic convertors removed. We see them on the streets and in bus stations but we turn a blind eye or we have become too insensitized to it. Simply put, most people are not aware or simply don’t have enough time to worry about such things. We should strive to achieve at least 2 of the 17 United nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
- Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Goal13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact
If the government regulated and removed the old, polluting cars on our roads and enforced stricter emission rules, the public would move to cleaner, renewable, cost effective means of mobility.
Minimal Investment in Charging Infrastructure and Electric Vehicle Assembly Plants
There are very few fast chargers in Kenya’s urban cities, and absolutely zero along any of the major highways that link the port city of Mombasa to the rest of the country. Importation of vehicles and equipment is not happening and questions need to be asked. We need to have factories locally to bring the cost of vehicles down. That is the only way it will make sense to not go for imports. Battery companies like Eveready should be looking into developing lithium ion cells, this ecosystem needs to develop locally in order to grow the economy and push us to that sustainable future we want.
So what has caused the shift towards electric vehicles? Electric cars have existed since the early 1900’s but it’s only in the last decade that a global shift started and it’s looking inevitable.
Technology dictates lifestyle, also fossil fuels are a rare and expensive resource that might run out within this century. Battery development has come in huge strides in the last 20 years. The advent of mobile phones and portable devices being the main reason for this. We all want that longer screen time on our mobile devices, so recent research and development budgets in major tech companies run in the Billions of Dollars every year and this has improved battery quality resulting in denser, longer lasting, rechargeable batteries.
Lithium Ion is the most common recipe in most rechargeable battery applications, although there is also a solid state battery system that is being developed by Toyota and Panasonic.
This technology will usher in a new era for electric vehicles. Solid-state batteries are smaller and safer, recharge faster and have a higher energy density than the traditional lithium-ion batteries currently in widespread use.
Solid-state batteries deteriorate less over time, and Toyota aims to retain 90% of the battery’s performance over a 30-year lifespan. Toyota leads the solid-state battery patent count, owning over 1,000 patents related to the technology.
The best solution that will bring both skill and value in Kenya would be local manufacturing. Mobius Motors, makers of the Mobius SUV are a great example and should they pivot to making Electric vehicles they can be ahead of the curve at the right time.
What this ultimately means is that the future is renewable. Most legacy car makers have announced discontinuing making internal combustion engines by as early as 2035 in the case of Volkswagen. Stricter emission standards in Europe means the governments will accelerate this adoption through tax incentives. A great example is Norway. She became the first country to sell more electric cars than petrol, hybrid and diesel engines put together last year. Electric vehicles accounted for two-thirds of sales in the final months of 2020.