In an effort to enhance electric-mobility development on a local level, global mobility management company GoMetro has brought together technology companies and researchers to pilot test the first electric minibus in South Africa by January 2023.
EVs are seen to be the solution to decarbonize the transport sector globally, and this effort by South Africa is part of a global agenda to reduce carbon emissions in cities around the world. While the adoption of EVs is growing exponentially around the world, the shift has been a bit slower in South Africa. This initiative by GoMetro aims to accelerate South Africa’s transition to greener and cleaner mobility.
The project team includes GoMetro, HSW, Mix Telematics, ACDC Dynamics and various entities with Stellenbosch University’s faculty of engineering. The group intends to conduct rigorous testing of the electric minibus and aims to conduct an educational roadshow across the nation in 2023. The group has a firm agenda to electrify the minibus taxi sector as part of its efforts to meet climate goals and sustainability targets.
The group has identified various electric minibus taxi models from different markets, and hopes to launch the first one in South Africa by the end of this year. The chosen model will undergo testing with owners as well as drivers, to identify the feasibility and use-case conditions where electric taxis would make a viable transport alternative.
Justin Coetzee, CEO of GoMetro, said that taxi owners and rivers have evinced a lot of interest in the electric minibus and were constantly enquiring when the first model would be available in the South African market. He also said that the company has built relationships with a number of taxi associations and drivers, who have expressed concern about climbing fuel prices for conventional modes of transport. Coetzee further added that many were of the opinion that change was needed, and were ready to embrace cleaner technology to further that objective.
Public Transport In South Africa
The project team has stated that the intention of testing different models for the South African public transport industry was to identify the best vehicle, as well as operating efficiencies and range capabilities of the vehicles.
In addition to testing various models for the transport sector, the group hopes to engage with policymakers and encourage discussion with the government in an effort to reduce duties, and enhance the promotion of electric vehicles in the transport sector.
Catherine Lewis, Executive VP- Technology at Mix Telematics, said that the company is excited to be at the forefront of this venture, since Mix Telematics is one of the frontrunners of innovation and technology in the transport sector.
Research Chair in the IoT division of Stellenbosch University, Professor Thinus Booysen, is scheduled to lead the team of testing experts. Professor Booysen said that the informal taxi sector needs to transform to EVs, but not much is known about the energy requirements. He also said that the unknown factor about EVs is overshadowed by the prospect of energy scarcity and dependency on coal. The Professor further added that the team was excited to be part of the project, and would prepare carefully for the transition to electric-powered minibus taxis. The taxi is due to be showcased at the Stellenbosch University campus.
Future of electric transport in South Africa
Dr Bernard Bekker, associate director of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), said that electrification of the transport sector in the country would raise technical and regulatory challenges to integrate electric transport into the existing grid infrastructure. Dr. Bekker further said that the challenges presented were unique to South Africa, where minibus taxis would represent a much greater proportion of the electric vehicle fleet than in many other countries in Europe. He added that the production of an actual electric minibus would provide impetus to address these challenges.
Founder and Managing Director of ACDC Dynamics, Mario Maio, said that the minibus taxi is firmly part of the South African landscape, and moves millions of people annually, but in an environmentally unsustainable manner. He said that ACDC Dynamics was proud to be part of the change to electric mobility, with the ability to supply battery charging networks across the region.
Ryan Webb, Managing Member HSW, said that the company is passionate about localizing manufacturing. He said that the Western Cape has the necessary technical skills and resources to establish manufacturing facilities to support the initiative. He added that companies like Barracuda Holdings, which is a customer of HSW and manufactures electronic products, were evident that high tech manufacturing capabilities already exist in the region.