GoMetro, a global mobility management technology company, on Thursday, announced a research partnership to investigate and advance the feasibility of an electric minibus taxi in South African conditions by testing production vehicles in the country in 2023.
In a press release to newsrooms, the company said, “project team, consisting of GoMetro, MiX Telematics, HSW, ACDC Dynamics, and various entities within Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Engineering, will conduct rigorous and extensive testing in and around the town of Stellenbosch, as well as putting the electrification of the minibus taxi sector firmly on the national agenda by means of an educational roadshow in all nine provinces in the course of 2023”.
To that effect, GoMetro added that it has identified a number of viable electric minibus taxi models from various markets, the first of which will be on South African shores by the end of the year.
“The acceptance and practicality of the model will be extensively tested with taxi owners and drivers, in order to identify the use-cases and conditions where an electric taxi would make the most sense,” it said.
According to Justin Coetzee, GoMetro CEO, the introduction of the electric mini-buses will be in line with the latest market trends. “Taxi drivers and owners are very interested and intrigued by the idea of an electric minibus taxi and are constantly asking us when the first electric minibus taxi will arrive on our shores”, says “We have built valuable relationships with a large number of taxi associations, and the ever-increasing fuel price is a massive concern among owners, drivers and riders alike, as there does not seem to be any relief in sight. The industry has long acknowledged that business as usual will not suffice – and that change is required, especially after the effects of COVID-19”.
The aim of testing different models over the coming months is to establish which vehicle will be best suited to the South African public transport industry, and what spectrum of operations are conducive to the range capabilities of the vehicles. In addition to testing the vehicle itself, the project team wants to engage with the automotive sector and policymakers to encourage proactive discussions with the government around the reduction of duties and the promotion of the adoption of electric vehicles in the transport sector.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are heralded as a silver bullet to globally decarbonise the transport sector. The development of low-carbon transport in cities is part of the global agenda to delay climate change and relates to many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. While EV sales have increased substantially in the Global North and many global vehicle manufacturers plan to stop production of combustion engines as early as 2030, in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the transition to EVs continues to be painstakingly slow.
Some Sub-Saharan countries like Kenya have a head start in electrifying their public transportation though through private initiatives.
Earlier this year, BasiGo, an e-mobility start-up headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya flagged off the first electric buses in Kenya for passenger use. Swedish-Kenyan EV start-up Opibus also introduced the first locally designed and assembled all-electric mass transit bus in Kenya which is currently undergoing a pilot test before commercial rollout in the second half of 2022.
While Africa rushes to catch up with the rest of the world in EV public transportation it faces infrastructure and cost challenges. The continent is still plugged with electricity blackout, poor roads that are not ideal for EVs and the lack of charging infrastructure and minimal government support.
Before the transition is made, commuters will continue to feel the pain every time the price rises on the pump.