The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government is putting in place modalities to introduce electric cars in the country as a stop gap measure aimed at reducing over reliance on traditional fuel in powering automobiles, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi said the introduction of electric vehicles was part of the many efforts being explored by the Government as it seeks alternative energy sources.
“When I spoke about electric cars (some time ago) I was the laughing stock. The idea behind an electric car is different from an iron whereby one irons their clothes while it’s connected to the socket. People are quick to say there is no electricity, how are we going to power the cars but we have to plan because electric cars are part and parcel of us dealing with energy issues and so use of solar. It’s very convenient that at every fuel service station we have solar powered charging points whereby one drives in and recharge,” he said.
Electric cars have come under the spotlight in recent years as a way to reduce the effect of traditional fuel-powered motor vehicles on the environment.
“Now it’s the time to think about incentivising these developments, for instance through encouraging investment in electric cars. In some countries there is both traditional fuel and other forms of energy to power cars so we really need to begin to think about how we can encourage investment in electric cars. It will have its own challenge, no doubt like how long will it take to charge but those are extra issues, it’s like saying I can’t buy a car because there is no fuel,” said Adv Chasi.
The introduction of electric vehicles is expected to go a long way towards curbing the prevailing fuel shortages that continue to pose dire effects on the country’s economy.
Adv Chasi said the private sector should take advantage of the existing business opportunity, which comes with introducing electric cars into the market.
“This is another business opportunity that is arising from the challenge we have now. People need to organise themselves and when there is a private sector demand to provide a certain service, the private sector influences Government to develop policies around it and rules and regulations. We are already looking at those, our legal research people are really looking at it and we want to plan for it in advance,” he said.
Zera acting chief executive officer Mr Edington Mazambani said the authority was in the process of purchasing an electric vehicle to be used as part of its efforts of promoting energy efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“Zera is in the process of procuring a demonstration electric vehicle as a way of raising public awareness on the benefits of the technology as compared to the traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. This is in line with the Zera mandate to promote energy efficiency and environmental protection. The technology will displace the polluting internal combustion engine vehicles with non-polluting electric vehicles’ (zero CO2 emissions),” he said.
Mr Mazambani said the authority was involved in the policy formulation for electric vehicles.
“The Authority is facilitating developments of policy guidelines for Electric Vehicle’s in the country and is also developing standards for charging stations, most of which would be expected to be run from solar parks — less reliance on the grid — thus making the EV technology a truly renewable and energy efficient one,” he said.
According to Zera the country consumes an average of 2,4 million litres of diesel and 1,4 million litres of petrol per day with about 48 percent of the commodity being used for non-productive purposes.
“The fuel import bill would be reduced drastically following the uptake of electric vehicles in the country. Zera will roll out awareness campaigns of this technology,” said Mr Mazambani.
In neighbouring South Africa carmakers Nissan Motor Company, BMW AG and Volkswagen are in talks to bring the electric-car revolution as the country’s auto-factory floors make a move to avoid a risk of being left behind in the global switch to greener vehicles.
The industry is preparing a unified stance on electrification to present to the Government by the end of the year.
Among the goals is persuading lawmakers to reduce or drop a 23 percent import tariff on electric vehicles to help ramp up nascent domestic sales.
To date, there are no firm plans for electric-car or hybrid production in South Africa, but the government and industry agreed in 2018 to extend a manufacturing incentive programme, creating jobs and enabling models like the BMW X3 sport utility vehicle and Nissan’s Novara pickup to be produced locally.
BMW’s i3 and i8 are two of only three models currently available in the birth country of electric car pioneer Elon Musk, and only 620 units have been sold. Jaguar Land Rover introduced the I-Pace earlier this year, while Nissan is holding off on the launch of the latest Leaf until after an agreement is reached on import tariffs.
Elsewhere on the African continent, a plan by Volkswagen to introduce an electric-vehicle in Rwanda stands in contrast to a lack of other developments.