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Motoring with Bob Roco Romeo: The electric vehicle phase in Ghana

The Electric Vehicle conversation in Ghana has been brewing quite recently. The Electric Vehicle phase is non-negotiable in Ghana given the current trend in the automobile industry.

Since Tesla Inc released the Roadster in 2008, the demand for electric vehicles has been increasing year in and year out. According to iea.org, 2.2 million, 3 million, and 6.6 million electric vehicles were sold in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively. The sales in 2021 represented 9 % of global vehicle sales in that year.

Tesla Inc has been the market leader selling over 900,000 electric vehicles in 2021 with VW Group and Chinese Manufacturer BYD following.

Other brands are also catching up to be relevant in the market. One of the legacy car manufacturers, Ford, announced in March 2022, that it is splitting its operations into two.

Ford Blue for petrol or diesel vehicles and Model e which will focus on electric vehicles with the F-150 lightning being the poster boy.

China has been the largest marketplace followed by Europe and the United States of America.

The African market has not been receptive to electric vehicles by well-known factors. Infrastructure, public acceptance, cost of vehicles, and lack of education have been the major challenges to the penetration of electric vehicles.

Even in markets where electric vehicles are doing well in terms of sales, search challenges exist.

South Africa has emerged as the biggest market for electric vehicles in Africa according to statista.com and even with that, their numbers are not so impressive. It is reported that only 1000 units of their 12 million registered vehicles are electric.

Recently, fuel prices have been the main point of argument during discussions on electric vehicle penetration. Carbon emission is a major factor in the consideration of electric vehicles. Transportation is a major contributor to emissions having contributed to 7.3 metric tons of CO2 emission in 2020 according to statista.com.

Noise pollution is another point least talked about when it comes to the adaptation of electric vehicles. When a vehicle runs under 70 km/h, most of the noise comes from the engine. We experience a lot of noise in our city centres and public places coming from internal combustion engines. Electric vehicles can solve this problem.

Nothing comes by chance unless an initiative is taken by people in power and of influence.

The government of Ghana launched the Ghana Automotive Policy which will serve as the framework for the establishment of assembly and manufacturing capacity and the development of the Ghanaian automobile industry.

A careful look at the policy does not highlight a specific move towards the development of electric vehicles even though in September 2021, the ministry of energy organised the first E- mobility conference, discussing the growth of the electric vehicle market in Ghana.

Dealerships have the power to influence the penetration of electric vehicles in Ghana and everywhere in the world. Through the Ghana Automotive policy, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) such as Volkswagen, Toyota Ghana, and Nissan Ghana have established their assembly plants but they are all churning out IC Engined vehicles and it is unclear their plans for electric vehicle manufacturing or assembling.

I will not fault these dealerships because they are in business to make a profit and they will produce what their customers are ready to consume and what they have the capacity for.

Solar Taxi has been the pioneer of Electric and Solar powered vehicles in Ghana for some years now. They have models such as the Xpeng G3 520i Smart which gives you a range of 520km on a full charge to Link tour K — one which offers a 100km range on a full charge.

In December 2020, Hyundai Motors and Investments (Gh) Limited released the all-electric Hyundai Kona onto the Ghanaian market which is available at their showroom in the capital, Accra. According to the dealership, the midsize SUV offers a range of 452 km on a full charge.

In August 2020, indigenous Ghanaian automobile company, Kantanka Automobile introduced Amoanimah, an all-electric city vehicle that is to be assembled in the country.

In March 2022, Mana Mobility revealed plans to produce electric vehicles in the country next year.

From the above, you could see that there are efforts to make available electric vehicles for prospective buyers but some challenges persist.

Public acceptance has been a major hurdle for the penetration of electric vehicles even in countries that have taken the lead after decades of relying on diesel and petrol (gasoline) powered vehicles.

The public lacks knowledge about how it operates, charging, repair, maintenance, and others. This could be tackled through public education. In February, I engaged in a Twitter conversation with Solar Taxi, on their electric vehicles after they made a post advocating for people to switch to electric vehicles due to the spike in fuel prices. From that conversation, several questions popped up from those following the conversation about electric vehicles serving as proof of the knowledge gap.

Platforms such as the Flynt Auto Events, an annual automobile event that includes roadshows will serve as a perfect avenue to display, promote and educate the general public on the vehicles.

Another foreseeable challenge is the human capacity to maintain electric vehicles when they start populating our roads.

To produce skilled workers for the oil and gas sector in the country, The Jubilee Technical and Training Centre was established at Takoradi Technical University.

In March this year, the West African Vehicle Academy, a joint venture between Bosch Automotive Aftermarket, Rana Motors, and GIZ was opened to address the skills gap amongst technicians in the automobile industry.

The dealerships can have similar collaborations among themselves and other third-party agencies to train technicians on electric vehicles.

Charging infrastructure will be another challenge that will involve huge sums of money to address if we are to see the success of electric vehicles.

In February this year, President Joe Biden of the United States of America rolled out a 5-billion-dollar package for electric vehicle chargers in his country. This is a cost the dealerships cannot bear it all. The government of Ghana and private entities can lead the way. Definitely, the initiative must come from the government. They can at least create an enabling environment for third parties to take it up if they wish to see it done.

Vehicle financing has been a challenge in Ghana notwithstanding the type of vehicles you want. Pre-owned car dealers are into cash and carry whilst most OEM dealerships offer a maximum of a yearly payment plan with rigorous requirements.

The alternative is that commercial banks also have high-interest rates ranging from 19% to 30% per annum for car loans even though you are given a window of 3 to 5 years for repayment.

The Hyundai Kona, offered by Hyundai Motors, is selling at $55,000. If we are to expect an increase in the number of electric vehicles on our roads, special arrangements have to be made with financial institutions for prospective buyers of electric vehicles with the government playing a major role.

Other factors that need to be considered are insurance, vehicle safety standards, and regulations. Are we going by the same regulations for internal combustion engines or will there be a new set of regulations for them?

We can learn from the experiences of countries that have taken the lead in the electric vehicle race and learn from their mistakes. The electric vehicle phase is inevitable so we must be prepared for it.

About the Author

The writer is the CEO and founder of Flynt Automobile, an Auto Tech start-up that is also into automobile events, consultancy, and fleet management services.

Email: edmond@flyntautomobile.com

WhatsApp: +233 (0)20 946 1390

LinkedIn: Edmond Nana Flynt

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