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  • 🚁 Heli view: Can the continent get over its range anxiety?

🚁 Heli view: Can the continent get over its range anxiety?

Africa is fast acquiring electric vehicles and now needs to build extensive charging infrastructure to support the transition. That much everyone agrees on. 

  • But the nature of the charging networks is far from clear. 

  • Western & Asian models are prohibitively expensive.

High hurdle: The size of the challenge for the continent is obvious from the number of charging stations currently in existence. 

  • South Africa has 400, Morocco 120 and Egypt 48. 

  • China has 1.8 million and America has 64,000. 

  • India talks about 1 million charging stations by 2030.

Solid momentum: The pace of Africa’s charging infrastructure rollout may be slow. But several countries and startups are making sizable bets. 

  • Morocco will build 2,500 charging stations in three years. 

  • Ethiopia plans for 2,226 charging stations within a decade.

Government needed: The reasons for the main challenge to Africa’s mobility transition include limited public financing, energy access and urban planning. 

  • S&P Global speaks of “inadequate charging infrastructure and a lack of supportive policy” in Africa. 

  • The African Development Bank says, “The lack of a long-term urban infrastructure plan is a major constraint.”

  • Countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana are at last working on comprehensive electric mobility frameworks.

  • But all of them will require substantial international investment. 

Old wines: Limited charging infrastructure is a new version of an old problem. 

  • Africa spends only 3.5% of GDP on any kind of infrastructure while China spends 7.7% and India 5.2%. 

Little headroom: Alas, African governments’ ability to fund infrastructure is decreasing. 

  • In the past decade debt-to-GDP ratios rose from 31% to above 50%.

  • Borrowing gets ever more expensive. New solutions are required.

Furthermore: Africa’s charging needs are unique. This adds to the challenge.

  • Globally, electric cars lead the way, followed in some places by lorries.

  • But in Africa a much greater proportion of road transport is shared or public. 

  • Bikes and buses have the greatest pull in the electric vehicle market.

Good news: Two-wheelers and bus fleets are easier to charge than cars or lorries.

  • Motorbikes require far less electricity given their much lower weight. 

  • Buses carry much larger batteries and can do with charging at depots only. 

Solution seeking: If necessity is the mother of invention, Africa’s EV sector is an innovator’s paradise. Demand is real but the front door is blocked. 

  • Recent years have seen a proliferation of local or low-cost solutions. 

  • Most fixes and shortcuts only resolve part of the charging dilemma. 

  • But as a whole they represent an African infrastructure solution.  

Pit stop: Battery swapping is a workable alternative to traditional charging.

 

  • EV company Spiro’s Swap N’ Go model offers bikers a new battery instantly across a network of stations in East and West Africa, as does Ampersand. 

  • Fika provides riders with equipment for low-voltage home charging.

Depot charging: BasiGo and Roam, Kenyan electric bus startups, created charging stations in bus depots built around current public transport routes.

  • BasiGo also offers complementary charging as part of a battery lease subscription. 

Power source: Connecting remote charging points is especially tricky. As a result, off-grid, solar-powered charging stations are gaining traction.

  • A new report on distributed renewable microgrids sees them form the backbone of charging networks. 

  • It predicts "the off-grid charging hardware market to reach $16 billion by 2034” with a compound annual growth rate of almost 50%.

  • Zero Carbon Charge, a South African company, is investing $50 million in more than 100 off-grid, solar-powered charging stations.

Public leaders: Innovation in charging infrastructure is mostly private. Yet government is not completely immune to new ideas. 

  • Rwanda is lowering power tariffs for EV charging and offering free land for stations built by private companies. 

Stepping stones: For now, few African countries have the capital for nationwide charging networks. 

  • Until the revenue streams are proven and investors dare to fund millions of public charge points, piecemeal solutions are likely to rule. 

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