The covid 19 pandemic brought in its wake tales of grim and a slump in economic activity in many parts of the world. But, in the Central African nation of Kenya, the high cost of living and rising fuel prices triggered by the pandemic, rather opened a window of hope and a new taste for innovation among Kenyan car buyers.
Many automobile users in the Central African nation are resorting to hybrid cars as a way of dealing with the hike in fuel prices globally and accompanying economic hardship.
A hybrid vehicle in simple terms is an automobile that runs on an electric motor with a fuel engine. Its system converts the fuel energy into electricity and powers the car at some point in the journey with the conserved energy.
Tech companies in Kenya see this as an opportunity to capitalize on this drastic switch in taste and are piloting ambitious electric charging stations to meet the needs of automobile users looking out to spend less on transport costs.
Second-hand dealers say they’re already cashing in on the growing demand for smaller vehicles and hybrid models.
Kenya’s online news portal, nation.africa.com, quoted a manager of the auto shops – Plus Point automobile, Ken Baraza, who indicated a shift in consumer purchase behavior. He attributed the demand for these types of vehicles to the consumption capacity of the engines and motorists’ ability to save in these economic trying times.
In economies such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and other parts of the region where car owners are reeling under high fuel costs, there is a change in preference in the automobiles people are buying. Vehicle types like Honda Fit and Toyota Vitz are capturing the automobile market because of their minimal fuel consumption.
Automobile dealers say this has influenced the sharp increase in the price of these vehicles on the market. When the Vitz model was introduced onto the Ghanaian market, its price was pegged at 1,700 dollars. But, it now sells for around 4,000 dollars. In Kenya, Toyota Vitz sold at the auto shops at a little over 8,000 dollars last year. But, the price tag on this vehicle now costs over 11,000 dollars.
Despite the disparity in the price range for the Vitz model, Kenya automobile dealers say it has not affected sales. The dealers indicate that if local car assemblers will pay attention to this shift in taste for alternative vehicles, they would soon compete with global brands.
One Kenya tech company investing heavily in this space is Kenya Power. The company is working on nurturing the taste for electric cars in the Central African nation. They’re currently piloting electric car charging stations in Nairobi and Nakura to provide car owners easy access to energy for their alternative choice.
Though the electric vehicle penetration in Kenya is small, the country’s Energy Ministry says it can boast of 350 electric vehicles on its roads.
The Kenyan government has set its target of increasing electric vehicles to 53,800 by 2040. It may be ambitious given the availability of sufficient energy in many African countries, but the question to ask is whether electric cars are the alternative in the face of rising fuel costs in Africa.
Yes, but, when the right policies and infrastructure are put in place, automobiles and tech experts argue. Africa closely follows South East Asia as the continent with the second highest level of pollution from emissions from fuel-powered cars at a staggering 97.4 percent, according to data from the World Health Organisation. This comes at a time when studies are showing that electric cars usage will significantly reduce emissions and improve on the quality of air to breathe when there is high adoption.
This looming environment crisis, according to climate change advocates, should be a wakeup call for the continent, as a matter of urgency, to drive the paradigm shift from fossil powered vehicles to electric cars. The environmental benefits will lead to a reduction in emission rate. Africa currently contributes three percent of greenhouse emissions. This trend can be reversed if governments put in place policies to create the enabling investors to build the needed infrastructure to encourage automobile users to go in for electric cars. African governments can pick a cue from the U.S. where its parliament approved a bill that will see to the construction of 500,000 charging stations at a cost of $7.5 billion.
Energy experts also point to a window of opportunity African Governments can capitalize in raking in millions of dollars in revenue if they commercialize their off-peak electricity generation to power electric cars. Studies have shown it’s cheaper to drive electric cars when the cost is subsidized for users at off-peak periods than using petrol-guzzling cars. At a time when many car buyers are switching tastes to hybrid cars due to rising fuel costs, the odds are in favor of policymakers.
Another advantage of pushing for the adoption of electric cars is that governments stand a chance to cut down on their fuel imports when more of the population is using electric vehicles. Many fragile economies can save revenue on fuel imports to meet the demands of fossil-powered cars when electric cars are assembled in these countries.