Despite only 66 electric vehicles sales in South Africa last year and virtually zero in the rest of Africa, Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) is considering introducing electric vehicles into the Rwanda market.
Thomas Schaefer, the chairperson and managing director of VWSA, confirmed this and added that Rwanda had the right ‘mindset’ to move towards electric vehicles.
Thomas Schaefer, Chairman & Managing Director at Volkswagen“We did a grid check, in Rwanda together with GRZ (Technologies) and Siemens last year and they are ready. They already get their electricity from 70percent renewable energy and that will change to 100percent in the next 10 years.
“They are trucking their fuel from the Middle East to Dar es Salaam, then 3000km by road into Kigali. What for? They could immediately go electric.” Schaefer further explains that fossil fuel is “super expensive” in Rwanda and which has drained their foreign exchange reserves. In other words, there is actually a strong economic case for EV’s in the region, beyond just the green case. A perfect combination.
“Now they can create their own electricity and go a different route. We will see,” he said.
Schaefer did not believe Africa was likely to adopt new technologies at a slower rate than the developed world and, as had happened in the telecommunications industry with the growth of mobile phones, believed countries would leapfrog to new technologies.
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“When we had discussions with Rwanda in the last year, they said their drive is on green and sustainability and environmental protection and to bring electric cars,” he said.
VWSA in June last year launched the first integrated mobility solution in Kigali, Rwanda. This was part of a strategy to play a leading role in the emerging automotive industry in Africa and comprised semi-knocked down local assembly, a new vehicle business and innovative mobility services in Rwanda.
However, Andrew Kirby, the president and chief executive of Toyota South Africa Motors, maintains a contrarian view. He says that sales trends for hybrid and electric vehicles in South Africa were completely contrary to global trends. He said hybrid vehicle sales declined to 135 units last year from 646 in 2014, while only 66 electric vehicles were sold compared to the 2015 high of 117 sales. Kirby adds that if sales of electric and hybrid vehicles were stimulated in South Africa, it would be stimulating the sale of imports and expensive vehicles, which was not a solution for South Africa.
Picture Credit: Volkswagen SA