In 2020, over 3.2 million electric cars were sold despite the market slowdown due to Covid. This is a significant increase from the 2.26 million units sold in 2019. Europe took the lead in new registrations of electric vehicles last year, largely due to stringent emissions regulations that have forced automakers to take urgent action. China and the US continue to play a key role in the registration of new electric vehicles. There are over 1 million charging points worldwide, and the cost of charging an electric vehicle ranges from $ 0.06 to $ 0.8 per kWh in regions like North America.
Tesla sold nearly 500,000 cars in 2020, which was the most successful year in history and ultimately drove stock prices “to the moon”.
There are currently over 500 electric car models worldwide. Most of these are made in China, where a war is brewing between new and old automakers trying to outdo each other in selling electric vehicles. There are two main types of electric cars: battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). BEVs are purely electric cars that are charged externally. Examples are Tesla cars, VW ID.3, Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC, Xpeng cars from China and more. PHEVs combine an electric motor and an internal combustion engine to reduce emissions. They can be charged externally while the ICE is being refueled normally. This includes cars like the VW Golf GTE, the BMW 330e, the Toyota Prius, and more.
But while the West is experiencing a major shift in the automotive industry, one region has yet to face that new dawn – Africa. The continent relies heavily on imported cars, with little being made internally. High taxes on cars mean large numbers of people are choosing used cars. There are no formal tax credit plans for those buying BEVs or PHEVs. This means that the idea of an electric car is still a hobby or a business choice in most African countries.
Those who defy the idea of owning an all-electric car in Africa will venture into the unknown, a car purchase decision that begins as a mission to separate the myths from reality.
Tesla Model X 75D in Kenya
But is it doable?
We visited a man in Nairobi, Kenya, who recently became a Tesla owner, the first known in East and Central Africa. Jayesh Patel has been driving fast JDMs for much of his life, his last daily driver being a Mitsubishi Evolution X. The jump to a Tesla Model X was motivated by his Mzee (father) whom he describes as a pioneer with great interest in new things before anyone else to try out. Jayesh was able to give us valuable insight into what it takes to be a Tesla owner in Kenya.
While this case study is from Kenya, most African countries have not seen convincing demand for electric cars. The ordinary citizen is still dependent on gasoline or diesel cars. In reality, however, most people would like to escape the high fuel costs of electric cars. Tax credit and adequate infrastructure would be the main reasons for this thing.
Tesla Model X 75D Specifications
|Battery capacity||75.0 kWh|
|Electric range||400 km ~|
|Acceleration 0 – 100 km / h||5.2s (manufacturer stated, feels much faster!)|
|Top speed||210 km / h|
|power||245 kW (333 hp)|
Interview with a Tesla owner in Nairobi, Kenya: Model X 75D
Question: Where do you charge your car from? Are there charging stations in Nairobi?
Reply: I charge it at home using a single-phase or three-phase connection. I only know of one charging station in the city center, but I’ve never used it.
Question: How long does it take to charge?
Reply: Approx. 12-14 hours via the single-phase connection. And 3-4 hours with the faster 3-phase connection.
Question: How long does the charge take?
Reply: A full charge takes about 400 km.
Question: Do you have a quick charge option?
Reply: The 3-phase connection is our fastest charging option and takes 3-4 hours from 0-100%. For this connection we had to buy 2 chargers, each in our private locations. The supercharger option is not available locally. A quick search found that installing a Supercharger would cost about $ 150,000.
Question: Running costs. How much do you spend on electricity compared to a gasoline-powered SUV owner? Have you performed cost comparison tests on your former gasoline / diesel car?
Reply: The cost savings are clearly noticeable. It costs us approximately KES 1,000 (USD 9) for a full top-up, which can take up to 2 weeks based on our current driving style. In comparison, an SUV owner will spend between 5,000 and 7,000 KES ($ 45 and $ 63) on a full tank.
Question: Maintenance costs. Who is doing your service?
Reply: So far so good, we have no maintenance costs. We just had to switch to a new set of tires and brakes. It’s like a phone. What do you have to wait other than to charge it regularly? Perhaps the only other thing we need to consider as a “service” is the HEPA filtration system – Tesla’s air conditioner that filters out pollen, bacteria, etc. We have to order the filters from the UK.
Question: Has KPLC (local power company) provided you with special equipment or special power adjustments to support your charging needs? Any special modifications?
Reply: No special modifications, the standard single phase does the job quite well. A 3-phase connection makes work even easier if your property is equipped with one.
Question: How do you survive power outages in Nairobi?
Reply: This is how you survive a power failure with a phone. You just have to be prepared that the car is not empty. In any case, power outages only last a few hours. In extreme cases, a generator can save your day.
Question: Do you carry special chargers when traveling? What precautions do you take when you go on a long drive?
Reply: Planning is the key. We don’t have a formal charging system. It is best to call your hotel or destination in advance and let it meet your charging needs. Calculating stops based on your actual range will help you make informed decisions.
Question: If you charge 100% and leave the car idle, does the charge remain or does it drain slowly?
Reply: The environmental conditions play a key role. Tesla reports a loss of approximately 1 to 4 miles, or 1 to 3% per day, if left parked and unplugged. This is known as a vampire drain. Just like a phone, it depends on the settings, the outside temperature, etc.
Question: Do you have an autopilot and do you use it?
Reply: Yes, but this function is inactive in our region. Tesla turned it off for a variety of reasons, but if I drove the car in Europe it would be active. However, all other driver assistance and safety functions remain active.
Question: Are you getting wireless updates?
Reply: No. This is also another feature that has been disabled for this region. There is also no manual override.
Question: Do you get a tax credit after importing an electric car, as this is in line with the global goal of reducing CO2 emissions?
Reply: No, unfortunately we don’t. In fact, it’s considered an extremely rare luxury item, and it didn’t help being the first in the country either. Compared to other countries, local electric car taxation acts as a deterrent rather than an encouragement.
Question: What is your experience as a new Tesla owner?
Reply: It’s like nothing I’ve driven before, the acceleration is out of this world. The driver assistance and warning systems are more advanced than any German car I’ve driven before. They are the closest thing to a robotic car.
Question: What is the average tax amount for those looking to import a Tesla into Kenya? (The prices of the cars depend on the seller, options, equipment, year, etc.)
Reply: For this particular trim (75D), the average tax is 7,000,000 KES or $ 75,000 ~.
Question: CyberTruck. Seems like the perfect car for Africa. Will you consider it after launch?
Reply: I am not sure if I am being honest. The car is quite big for our streets and everyday ease of use may not be as convenient as that of an X, S, Y or 3 model.
Question: If you met Elon Musk what would you ask him to do for the African market regarding Tesla ownership.
Reply: I would ask him to add Kenya or East Africa to his market list so we can benefit from updates like any other Tesla owner. In terms of service there isn’t much to ask for as I mentioned earlier that the service is almost non-existent. You can do this from home, change tires, and so on.
Electric vehicles have taken the industry by storm and expansion is only just beginning. While the idea of owning an electric vehicle in African countries or other remote areas without manufacturer support seems daunting, we concluded that the transition is indeed smooth and effortless. Charging stations do not have the same “weight” as petrol stations. While it is unreasonable (and unhealthy) to have a gas station in your house, having a charging port or station in your house is perfectly normal and economical.
The cost savings, especially in Africa, are far greater than an EV user in the west, largely because fuel costs are well over a dollar in most African countries. And that’s just the cost of fuel. The maintenance costs for used cars imported into Africa are directly proportional to the large spare parts market in the region. Not to mention, most of these replacement parts come in second place as brand new parts are heavily taxed and unaffordable to the majority.
The thematic performance of the X 75D model puts any other daily driver we could find on the road to shame. A round car that goes shopping, picks up the children every school day and drives on drag strips on weekends without sweating.
Perhaps the only thing that would make the transition to electric vehicles easier, especially in Africa, is the tax credit. This Model X was taxed as a Range Rover, Land Cruiser 200, or Bentayga with full option. All of these have high CO2 emissions, which, however, were neglected during registration. Mainly because the tax advisors weren’t well informed and the government doesn’t have a formal zero-emission car tax law, even though Kenya is working towards Sustainable Development Goals – mind you, UNDP and UNEP are both in Nairobi.
However, we believe that electric vehicles play a more important role in Africa than ICEs. Car affordability is still a “rich man’s sport”. Any useful option in a car is considered a luxury and taxed accordingly. Options such as sunroofs, driver assistance systems, heated seats, leather seats, larger wheels, etc. – all of these are heavily taxed. The normal citizen is left with the choice of a heavily used car that is several years old and whose security systems are exhausted. Instead of dumping banned diesel cars in Africa, electric vehicles should be available and affordable for everyone. The culture of “this looks too fancy, tax it twice” should be a forgotten habit.