First electric vehicle road trip in Africa highlights innovation


As the first-ever electric vehicle road trip (EVRT) in South Africa toured the national uYilo eMobility Programme in Nelson Mandela Bay – Port Elizabeth on 7 October 2019, awareness around sustainable mobility innovation in South Africa shifted up a gear.

The EVRT Africa, driven by Generation.e in partnership with the Department of Transport, Gauteng Provincial Government, and African Alliance for Energy Productivity, is demonstrating that not only is it possible to drive from Pretoria to the Cape Town in an electric vehicle, it is showing how, when all stakeholders pull in the same direction, both the environment and downstream industries and enterprises stand to benefit.

uYilo is an initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency and serves as a strategic initiative in the Department of Transport’s Green Transport Strategy, promoting the electric vehicle ecosystem and enabling the opportunities that exist for the country towards smarter mobility. As a multi-stakeholder programme, uYilo has various initiatives that include government lobbying, industry engagement, pilot projects, skills development, enterprise development and thought leadership.

Interestingly, Nissan, one of the participants in the Smarter Mobility Africa conference and a member of the EVRT Africa team with its second generation Nissan LEAF model, has showcased its bi-directional charging technology in partnership with the uYilo eMobility Programme.

Ben Pullen, CEO of Generation.e, says: “As we endeavour to drive awareness around electric vehicle transport and push for a move towards smarter mobility as a whole, working alongside an organisation like uYilo enables us to bring innovation to the public’s attention, like the bi-directional charging technology Nissan and the uYilo eMobility Programme worked together to showcase.”

Hiten Parmar, Director of the national uYilo eMobility Programme highlights that the programme’s mandate includes enabling, facilitating and mobilising the electric mobility ecosystem in South Africa with both government and industry. “For this reason, we welcomed the EVRT Africa to tour the uYilo facilities hosted within eNtsa at the Nelson Mandela University,” says Parmar.

The Nissan LEAF’s CHAdeMO bi-directional charging technology allows the energy stored in electric vehicles batteries to be utilised for a variety of applications beyond just powering mobility.

“The Vehicle-to-Grid, Vehicle-to-Home and Vehicle-to-Load systems allow the Nissan LEAF vehicle’s battery to be used for both smarter mobility, as well as energy storage for an array of household applications,” says Kabelo Rabotho, Nissan Marketing Director.

Parmar adds that the technological innovations also shows how smarter mobility can be a trigger for a variety of other applications, which in this case is a broader contribution to the energy ecosystem.

Parmar says that partnerships such as these prove that electric mobility technology has the potential to trigger immense innovation and service opportunities down the line.

Innovation in smarter mobility does come with challenges, however, including wider stakeholder knowledge of the electric mobility ecosystem, political and public will, and funding.

“As a baseline, political-will is an enabler in every country. We also need industry to be aware of disruptive trends, what they entail and the many opportunities they provide. Initiatives like the EVRT Africa is bringing public awareness about organisations such as ours and our partnership with Nissan and others, all working with a common purpose in mind,” says Parmar.

Pullen says that the participants at the Smarter Mobility Africa summit, the EVRT Africa, uYilo eMobility Programme, Nissan’s LEAF, the other brands that took part in the EVRT Africa including BMW and Jaguar, and all other partners have the same vision: smarter mobility for South Africa and Africa as a whole.

“Smarter mobility doesn’t only include vehicles – it is a fundamental shift in how we perceive and develop the transport ecosystem,” says Pullen.


About Author

Blessing Ngorima, originally from Zimbabwe, is passionate about Technology and Innovation across Africa. Ngorima began his career by working for several leading Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies. He currently runs monthly events to teach the public on how to build and operate drones. Ngorima is a Contributor and Features Writer at BizNis Africa.

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