Energy Minister Fortune Chasi has said the country has to seriously consider electric vehicles (EVs) and how government can incentivise their use. The first thing that comes to many people’s minds is the fact that we are currently faced by an electricity crisis but the Minister said this shouldn’t be a deterrent.
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.
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
Hon. Fortune Chasi
Not so fast
Whilst this may seem far-fetched I decided to have a look at what some of the challenges faced by African countries that want to use EVs are.
According to World Economic Forum, this is a great time to explore the viability of EVs in Africa but one of the biggest challenges is the fact that there is a huge need for investment in infrastructure to support EVs (which our Minister acknowledged). Some of the infrastructure noted by WEF include charging stations, grid integrations along with planning requirements.
More uniquely to African countries, large EV fleets will require reliable power sources (something we don’t have right now) and reasonable power prices (something we do have). WEF noted that electricity blackouts were common in 30 of 48 countries surveyed at the time (July 2018) and this wouldn’t cut it for countries trying to be EV-friendly.
How can our government incentivise electric vehicles and what have others done?
There’s nothing new under the sun, or so they say. Other countries have been looking into incentives for Electric vehicles for close to a decade now and here are some of the measures they have implemented to try and make EVs more appealing.
- In China as far back as 2010, the government introduced a trial program that provided a +US$9 000 incentive for the private purchase of electric vehicles and +US$ 7 000 for plug-in-hybrids. The subsidies are paid directly to carmakers, not consumers but China believes that the cost of vehicles will drop accordingly thus presenting a saving to the customer. This subsidy will reportedly be in place until 50k EVs are sold.
- In Italy, EVs are exempt from ownership taxes in the first five years of ownership. Buyers of electric vehicles (and vehicles emitting 70 g/km or less of carbon dioxide are eligible to receive from €1,500 to €6,000.
- In Morocco, Electric and hybrid vehicles are exempt from customs duties since 2017. In 2018 Moroccans bought 1,140 hybrid vehicles, compared to 342 in 2017, and 181 units in 2016.
Since our government is in no position to subsidise EVs, it might be a good idea to follow what Morocco has done and exempt EVs from paying customs duties along with a reduction of other vehicle-related taxes in order to incentivise people to bring these vehicles in. It increased the number of EVs in Morocco by over 300% and it could work for us if the infrastructure to support the vehicles is built out as well.
Of course, the discussion is more nuanced and the fact that most Zimbos buy their cars second-hand means the comparison to Morocco and any of the countries on the above list will not be identical but it will be a starting point.
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