Nigeria’s electric vehicle target faces infrastructural constraints

By Benjamin Alade |   26 February 2021   |   3:08 am  

Although Nigeria may have recorded a milestone in unveiling the first locally-assembled electric car, the innovation may be stalled by infrastructural constraints.

However, with Nigeria’s first locally-assembled electric car, Hyundai Kona, the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), said over 30 per cent of vehicles plying roads in Nigeria could be electric vehicles (EVs) in the next four years.

The plan by the NADDC is promising but for the eco-friendly vehicle target to become a reality, the government must focus on legislation and policies that would enable people to see the need to protect the environment by going green, particularly in the area of transportation, experts suggested.

The global shift to solar, wind and electric vehicles, according to experts, is too monumental to overstate, but it may take many years to see such innovation come to full force in Nigeria.

EV adoption globally is aimed at easing the pressure on energy and reducing carbon emission.

The global electric vehicle market, valued at $162.34 billion in 2019 is projected to reach $802.81 billion by 2027. As of 2019, there were about 2.5 million EVs globally. But without supporting infrastructure and finance structure, EV penetration in Nigeria may remain a mirage.

While Kona was assembled by Stallion, a key player in the government’s automotive policy, it was shown off in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos and Abuja even as the policy for vehicle manufacturing has struggled to turn the sector around despite earlier optimism.

The despondence in the sector has been linked to the inability of the government to pass into law a bill seeking to back up the policy. The sector is also bedevilled by the lack of auto finance schemes and other extant challenges in the country.

Director-General of NADDC, Jelani Aliyu, said plans were underway to introduce a vehicle-finance scheme that would enable Nigerians to own and drive technologically-advanced vehicles. The plan is not new. It has been in the pipeline since the auto policy became effective.

But for Nigeria, a country that relies heavily on used vehicles, achieving such projection seems an illusion.

A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that millions of used cars, vans and minibuses exported from Europe, the United States and Japan to the developing world are of poor quality, contributing significantly to air pollution and hindering efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The report showed that between 2015 and 2018, 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide. Some 80 per cent went to low and middle-income countries, with more than half ending up in Africa.

The report, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries, including Nigeria, found that two-thirds of countries have ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ policies to regulate the import of used vehicles.

However, it also shows that where countries have implemented measures to govern the import of used vehicles – notably age and emissions standards – it gives them access to high-quality used vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars, at affordable prices.

For many developed countries, the switch from fossil fuel to cleaner and renewable energy is ongoing and inevitable. Despite many obstacles, EVs are being relied on to help reduce carbon footprint.

Globally, the production of full-electric and hybrid cars is receiving incredible attention. They are fast replacing fossil fuel cars in Asia, Europe, and America.

Electric vehicles are flourishing in countries like China, India, Japan, South Korea, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, France, the United States, Canada among others.

Electric cars and their hybrid variants are responses to the urgent clamour for an environmentally-cleaner world. The global environment has, for decades, been degraded by the emission of tons of Carbon Dioxide and related elements on account of the massive usage of hydrocarbons in the form of petroleum products by gas-driven vehicles.

Electric cars have been around since the late 19th century, the development progressing gradually over time. According to reports, interest in electric cars gained momentum by the early 1970s, owing to increasing concerns over global climatic conditions and the soaring cost of petroleum products.

The implications of the foregoing for global economies are varied. While the feat is being celebrated, promoted and encouraged by technologically-advanced economies because of its numerous merits, including job creation potential, the development represents a significant shift in the consumption of crude oil and its products.

In other words, it means a progressive decline in the use of petrol and allied products to drive vehicles, worldwide.

For oil-dependent countries such as Nigeria, the scenario appears scary. Most of the oil-producing countries in this category export their crude oil, earning, in the process, huge foreign exchange to finance their annual budgets.

For decades, oil has remained the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Thus, the decline in global oil consumption on account of the arrival of fuel-less cars would spell a significant fall in oil revenue accruable to the country.

A lecturer at the University of Greenwich, London, Dr. Emmanuel Mogaji, said there was no harm in making projections but expressed the need for Nigeria to be real with its projections.

He said: “How far have we coped with providing electricity for basic human needs? I think while such projection is fine, the government needs to address more pressing needs, we need to plan and make sure there are demonstrated and convincing efforts that achieving the projection is possible.

“The UK, one of the most developed countries, announced the end of sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. That’s about a 10 years plan; I doubt we can achieve 30 per cent in four years. There are still bigger problems to be solved,” he added,

Chief Executive Officer of West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, Henrii Nwanguma, said the projection is not feasible.

Explaining in simple arithmetic, Nwanguma said dividing 30 per cent of all passenger vehicles on the road now by four would give how many cars for replacement yearly.

“Do we have the financial capability at an individual level to buy or is the government going to fund it? Do we have the manufacturing or importation capabilities? Do we have the charging capabilities if we consider how people currently park their vehicles mostly on the streets overnight, and a near herculean task to deploy cost-effective charging stations? We should aim for three per cent.

“I think we have a better chance of deploying natural gas-powered passenger vehicles in that number if we work on domesticating the conversion kit production,” he said.

Chief Operating Officer, Automedics Limited, Gbola Oba, queried the infrastructure to recharge, stating that charging points and infrequent power supply are the problems to achieve such a projection.

In his views, Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said the projection is about global trends not about Nigeria’s manufacturing template projection.

Odewumi said what the government was reminding itself was that demand for fuel would be declining as the percentage of production of electric passenger vehicles increased. According to him, the feasibility of the pronouncements is not in the purview of consumer countries like Nigeria.

Indeed, the don said there is a paradoxical wish that this is not made feasible so that we can continue to sell our crude oil.

Former Director of Policy and Planning at the National Automotive Design and Development Council, Luqman Mamudu, recently said Nigeria must move with the global shift on the electric vehicle revolution.

Mamudu, who doubles as Managing Partner, Transtech Industrial said: “it doesn’t matter that Nigeria is dependent on Hydrocarbon or not. The world is moving on with the agenda to reduce or eliminate carbon footprint globally.

“The earlier we diversify our economy, the better. We should realise that very soon, the world will set up very heavy penalties for all those who continue to pollute the environment by their activities. We should support activities like manufacturing, mineral and food processing that adds value.

“This is what grows a country’s GDP not selling oil, although the money is good if you plough it back in the real sector. Saudi Arabia, through its sovereign wealth fund, is investing massively in electric drive technologies. This is a world-leading oil producer,” he said.

Speaking on the projection by the government, Mamudu queried: “How can you be setting a target when you don’t even have an electric vehicle policy? These are just mere wishful thinking by whoever said it.”

He said a measure should be put in place through a deliberate policy to encourage currently licensed assemblers to pursue the EV agenda. They should be the only ones to import them to start with at low import duty but they must come up with a clear agenda to grow the technology locally.

“It is only then that we can be setting dates. Do you think those who set dates just wake up from sleep and set dates? It’s based on well-thought-out policies and programmes. Besides, how can you pursue a programme when the investors in the industry are being undermined,” he said.

You may also like