Electric Cars for Africa.


Dear Friends.

Africa has both oil exporting countries and oil consuming countries. For the oil producers and exporters a high global oil price is conducive for their economic position. For the oil importers it’s a very different matter. They have to use precious foreign currency needed for the importation of food, medicines, debt servicing or capital goods to import a polluting commodity which is not even very efficient as an energy source.

So which way should Africa look in terms of the energy future? First I have always insisted that I think oil is too precious to be burned up into the atmosphere. We have other far more important uses for oil. Paints, resins, plastics, adhesives, coatings and pharmaceuticals are all things that have an oil based compound in some way or other. If we were to use oil for these then it would prove to be more valuable and could last longer. It would also be far less damaging to our environment.

Having said that what about our transportation needs? Almost all cars in Africa and much of the world use oil to transport people, goods and services. Most of the shipping industry uses even more polluting heavy diesel oil to power them and finally the airline industry uses a purer but equally expensive form of oil to power it.


In my opinion there are two real alternatives:

1. Plug in Battery Electric Vehicles (PBEV).

2. Fuel Cell Hydrogen Vehicles (FCHV).

Cars based on the (ICE) Internal Combustion Engine are in my opinion already outdated. It follows therefore that technologies that are based on that type of engine are transitional. Plug in Hybrid Electric vehicles, Bio-fuels, Higher efficiency gasoline engines are all transitional technologies to the above two alternatives. It is clear that we will eventually move to purely electric cars and they will fall into one or both of the above alternatives.


Full or pure Electric vehicles have a number of advantages over ICE’s. This include but are not limited to;

1. No smog or CO2 emissions.

2. Less maintenance costs.

3. Cheaper running costs.

4. Higher energy efficiency.

5. Quiet and with higher torque.

6. For some countries energy independence and savings of forex.


Though all electric cars have such clear advantages they do have some disadvantages. These include;

1. More expensive than current vehicles.

2. Limited mileage compared to ICE’s.

3. Lack of infrastructure to support them.

4. Being quiet may make them more dangerous for pedestrians especially the blind. However their quietness is also considered an advantage.

5. Longer recharge time or expensive battery replacements may be an issue. In the case of hydrogen storage of fuel is an issue.


So which way should Africa go? First African governments should draw up plans to put up the necessary infrastructure to support this cars. To do this may actually be much easier than anticipated. The current fuel station infrastructure could be used as a starting point. To ensure they dont go out of business they should be encouraged to look into hydrogen production, storage and distribution. The same filling stations could have recharging points to recharge plug in BEV’s. They could charge the market value of electricity or hydrogen to recoup their investment and therefore keep their relevance.

In addition the governments could offer tax incentives to encourage the adoption of FCHV’s and BEV’s. This could take the form of zero rating them to offering tax credits. They could also offer generous incentives to the current leading firms in electric and hydrogen cars to locate in Africa.

Finally though cost of the new cars has been quoted as an impediment there is another alternative that hasn’t been considered for African countries. Many¬†Africans currently use scooters, bicycles and motorbikes as alternatives to cars. At the moment their is very good development of electric scooters and motorbikes which cost much less than full fledged electric cars or even current cars. Considering the economic advantage of electric scooters or motorbikes the uptake could be much faster. They are also preferable because they are more flexible with regard to traffic jams on African roads.




1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Kenyan Music said,

    These kind of innovations will take so long to see the light of day due to oil politics. You just can’t tell the kings of the oil world to take a back seat all of a sudden. A way must be found for them to maintain a semblance of power, and get their cut at the same time

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