During his inaugural speech, the new Nigerian president, Bola Tinubu, announced the removal of the controversial fuel subsidy. With the announcement, the cost of premium motor spirits (petrol) spiked with some filing stations selling as much as N700 per litre.
The attendant impact was immediately evident in the transportation sector, which heavily relies on fuel consumption. Transport fares went as high as 100% in many places. As the economy grapples with the current official fuel rates of over N500, the days and weeks ahead remain uncertain. In times like these, it is crucial to explore alternative measures that can assist people in navigating these challenging circumstances.
Desperate times they say need desperate measures. Presently, Electric Vehicles (EVs) is one of the most viable options, as they can alleviate the stress of queuing for fuel or purchasing it at exorbitant prices. So I find myself pondering the future of EVs in Africa’s most populous black nation and largest economy.
Around the world, countries are moving from fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles which have been tagged the future of transport. And the reasons are not hard to point out. Asides from reducing fuel costs dramatically, they are more efficient, environmentally friendly, and economical compared to their gasoline-powered counterparts.
But while the adoption of electric vehicles is high in developed regions worldwide, its presence in Africa is still in its early stages. South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Rwanda, Kenya and North African countries are early leaders in the African EV market, but the level of adoption shows the continent is far behind when compared to global frontrunners in electric mobility like Europe, the US and China,
In Nigeria for instance, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) currently on its roads is incredibly low compared to the country’s population. In fact, it can be likened to the number of humans residing on Mars. And the primary reasons for this disparity are long-standing obstacles to affordability and infrastructure.
Nigeria is a vibrant nation on the African continent, blessed with a significant population, resources, and economic strength. However, it remains a developing country where a considerable portion of its citizens experience multidimensional poverty. Consequently, owning a vehicle is a luxury that eludes most of the population.
More than 90 per cent of Nigerians cannot afford new cars, aka tear rubber, so they opt for tokunbo cars, making the Tokunbo dealership business in Nigeria very lucrative. As a result, used cars make up 95 per cent of Nigeria’s auto industry. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria spent N140 billion importing used vehicles in the first quarter of 2021 and N150 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Electric vehicles on the other hand are generally more expensive than their internal combustion engine counterparts, so it is understandable why it is not ubiquitous yet. People simply can’t afford it.
But asides from its prohibitive cost, another problem for EV adoption in Nigeria is the lack of charging infrastructure. The availability and accessibility of charging stations are essential for EV owners. However, in Nigeria, the charging infrastructure is still in its early stages of development, and the number of charging stations is currently extremely limited, almost nonexistent.
Worse still, the country also suffers from an energy deficit to power the infrastructure in commercial numbers. Charging an electric vehicle requires a consistent and reliable source of electricity. However, frequent power outages and an inconsistent electricity supply in Nigeria make it difficult for EV owners to rely on the grid for charging their vehicles. The sentiment commonly expressed by Nigerians regarding the use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the country is often centred around limited charging accessibility. Sometime in 2021, the video of a Tesla Model X being towed on the popular third mainland bridge in Lagos was in circulation with many people attributing the reason for its predicament to lack of charging. Meanwhile, the problem was that the car like the traditional internal combustion engine had a tyre blowout.
Despite any reservations or sentiments, the imperative to phase out the use of imported secondhand fossil-powered vehicles remains non-negotiable. This is due to the financial burden placed on citizens due to the high cost of fuel and implications for the environment. However, the lingering challenges mentioned earlier raise the question of how to overcome them and successfully achieve widespread adoption. One potential solution lies in the widespread adoption of electric vehicles for mass transit purposes.
Last month, Lagos joined the growing list of global cities embracing electric vehicles as it launched its Electric-Mass Transit buses in partnership with Oando Clean Energy Limited. The electric buses can travel for up to 280 kilometres (Km) before needing a charge. This distance surpasses the daily travel distance covered by fossil fuel-powered buses. To provide some context, the distance from Lekki to Oshodi is approximately 28 km. This implies that they can cover the route approximately ten times before requiring a recharge.
Already there are active players in the country’s EV industry. The Nigerian auto manufacturing company, JET Motor Company (JMC) brought the EV revolution to Nigeria after rolling out its custom-made electric vehicles with optimum specifications suited to the Nigerian and African environment. In parallel, e-mobility startup MAX has also made significant strides by deploying its electric motorbikes in Nigeria during the same period. Additionally, in 2022, the Nigerian government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Israeli and Japanese companies to start manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs) in Nigeria.
These are notable strides, and they signify the growing presence and potential of EVs in Nigeria’s transportation landscape. Now is the ideal time for Nigeria to embrace and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, leveraging the momentum created by the recent milestones and collaborations.
As the infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) continues to expand and more people witness the advantages of electric mass transit buses, the interest and attention towards owning EVs will inevitably increase among citizens.