Agilitee is a name that the Techzim faithful will be familiar with because towards the middle of last year the South African-based car manufacturer announced that it was going to be building an assembly plant for electric vehicles in Zimbabwe. Well… the company is back in the news again saying that it has launched what would be a first in Africa because the car manufacturer says that it has developed a self-charging electric car called the Agilitee Go according to a report by The Herald.
The vehicle reportedly has a range of 300km and self charges…
“This underpins Agilitee’s focus on leveraging green energy, green technology and innovation to enhance the ecological footprint of electric vehicles, mainly impacted by the use of large and heavy batteries. This first full electric vehicle is intended to provide Agilitee customers with peace of mind and comfort when seeking to travel longer than normal distances,”Dr Mandla Lamba, CEO of Agilitee Africa (via The Herald)
The unfortunate thing about the report was that there was no explanation of how the technology worked. At face value, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it has built a self-charging electric car of some kind that rewrites what is currently possible. I say that because electric cars can already self-charge if they are hybrids or have regenerative breaking like the all-electric BYD T3 we test drove late last year.
Self-charging electric cars
Regenerative braking is when cars convert the energy that would be wasted when slowing down and turn it into electrical energy. This system was particularly pronounced when I drove EV Centre Africa’s BYD T3. I didn’t have to depress the brake pedal all that much because the car, when I lifted off the “throttle”, started slowing itself down.
However, the gains made from regenerative breaking are so marginal that they are almost negligible in some cases. The estimates I could find were that it could convert between 16% -70% of the energy from deceleration into electricity. Which will add some range but nothing that would eliminate the need to plug in the vehicle to a charging station.
The second kind of vehicle that can charge itself in the family of electric cars is Self-Charging Hybrid Vehicles which don’t need to be plugged in like their Plug-Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) cousins. Lexus is one of a handful of carmakers that makes these kinds of vehicles (Lexus UX 250h).
“Fill the car up with petrol like any other conventional petrol car. Our Self-Charging Hybrid system cleverly charges the electric battery while you are driving. Not just on the move, but when you stop or slow down, the regenerative braking system recovers even more energy.”Lexus
That said there have been concepts of cars that can charge via dynamic induction like what Renault said it was working on in 2019. As well as solar cell-powered cars like the one from German startup Sono Motors but all of these are in various stages of development.
Is Agilitee on the cusp of putting Elon Musk out of business?
Well… not yet anyway, but Dr Lamba once mentioned a partially self-charging vehicle. In a conversation with Mail and Guardian last year, he said the following
“Agilitee is building a double-cab bakkie that is partly self-charging. We acquired a company in Zimbabwe and have sold more than 30 EVs there. These cars charge from wall-boxes at home, which are solar powered. I believe that there is already progress in charging.”
Going by this tidbit, my best guess is that whatever Agilitee has cooking might be Self-Charging Hybrid because regenerative braking won’t make enough power to top off an EV or to classify it as “self-charging” in the purest sense.
However, to know for sure what we have on our hands, we reached out to Agilitee to see if they could shed some light on this development. Once we hear back we will most certainly let you know.