Eletctric car-charging "grid" for Africa takes shape

Thursday June 30 2022
car pic

A locally-made electric-powered vehicle by Kaypee Motors Tanzania is on display in Dar es Salaam. PHOTO|FILE

By Bird

Nairobi. The installation of electric car charging stations is gaining momentum in Africa as investors look to exploit what will develop into a multimillion-dollar market opportunity driven by a growing demand for e-mobility.

Most of these opportunities currently focus on South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and to a lesser extent, aspirational markets like Uganda.

Governments and players in the automobile, real estate and oil-marketing sectors keen on facilitating the transition from “dirty” to “clean” fuel, are already putting up electric charging infrastructure to offer facilities to a nascent fleet of electric vehicles.

“More and more people are inclining towards electric vehicles with the growing awareness regarding environmental issues globally,” said Data Bridge researchers in their Middle East and Africa Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Market forecast to 2029.

Over the 2022-2029 period, the research firm projects the market to grow from a valuation of $129.85 million in 2021 to $9.39 billion.

In South Africa, German carmaker Audi took the competition in this segment a notch higher when it announced planned installation of 70 ultra-fast (150kW) public charging stations across 33 sites, in January. The charge points provide direct current (DC) that will fully charge vehicles in less than an hour.

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The charging points being implemented with electric vehicle charging authority, GridCars, are lined up on major highways connecting Johannesburg and Cape Town while others are spread to cover public lifestyle and recreation facilities across the country.

Jaguar is also in partnership with GridCars in a deal that will see 82 public charging stations installed in the country’s major hubs and along frequently-travelled holiday routes. The $1.87 million (R30-million) infrastructure investment targets the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.

In Kenya, Rwanda-based start-up Ampersand is partnering with French oil marketer, Total Energies, to leverage its nation-wide network to expand its presence in the country.

Ampersand is looking to tap into 141 of TotalEnergies’ 226 service stations that are already solar-powered, to put up battery charge swap stations. Already, three stations have been mapped in Nairobi’s upmarket estates to power the batteries of drivers of electric motorbikes.

“By leveraging TotalEnergies’ incredible experience to expand our network of battery exchange stations, we can grow much faster than we previously thought,” says the company led by Josh Whale.

Another e-mobility start-up, EkoRent, has partnered with Strathmore University (SU) Research Centre in Nairobi to launch “Nopea SolarHub” in an agreement that establishes solar-powered charging stations for NopeaRide’s electric cars. The new charging station network is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2022.

The opportunity has also attracted real estate firm Dowgate Properties, which has gone outside of Nairobi to set up electric vehicle charging stations in the town of Naivasha and in Kenya’s fourth-biggest city, Nakuru.

Other players in this market include e-mobility firms, Drive Electric, ChargeNet and Kenya Power, the country’s electricity distributor, which has announced partnership plans with mobility firms for electricity supply.

South Africa, the most advanced e-mobility market in Africa, had about 1,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in January 2022 out of a total fleet of 12 million automobiles, while the number of EVs was estimated at 350 in Kenya out of some 2.2 million registered vehicles in the country, according to Statista.

“Electric mobility is still in development in Africa. Battery electric vehicles’ sales on the continent have overall increased in recent years, although have remained the lowest worldwide,” says Statista.

In Uganda, electric mobility start-up Zembo last week announced the installation of four solar and hybrid charging stations along a 120-kilometre stretch of road on the Kampala - Masaka axis. Zembo’s operations manager, Titus Kimbowa, said the firm, “is positioning to be the country’s leading battery exchange operator by creating a national network of charging stations.”

Its strategy includes reaching off-grid areas where it is difficult for drivers to find affordable fuel and even harder to find electricity.

In Morocco, Afrimobility announced in November 2021, that it plans to install a large network of fast-charging stations for electric cars in Morocco. In a statement, it said multiple stations will be developed between Tangier and Agadir - separated by almost 700 kilometres. Data Bridge researchers also say that the drive to invest in charging stations is being driven by consumer preferences rapidly inclining towards passenger and commercial electric vehicles (EVs) on the continent, due to rising environmental consciousness.

“Additionally, rapid urbanization, change in lifestyle, surge in investments and increased consumer spending positively impact the electric vehicle charging stations market,” said the report.

Mordor Intelligence also projects a ‘substantial’ year-on-year growth in the adoption rate of electric vehicles in Africa on a growing focus of the governments across the region wishing to promote the use of electric vehicles and increased awareness about energy storage solutions in the renewable-based power sector.

The research firm expects many countries in Africa to make large investments in EV power capacity in the next decade.

Countries in the region “are in urgent need of alternative energy sources for transport to stave off the growing burden of fuel dependency and subsidies, as well as an electricity storage solution to leverage their abundant renewable energy resources,” said Modor Intelligence, in its forecast for 2022-2027.