The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 6



The world is seeing an accelerated move away from traditional fossil fuelled transport applications. Most developed countries are banning internal combustion engines from 2020-2050 and most major cities have already started to ban internal combustion vehicles.

For a developing nation such as Namibia this means one thing, that the country will be seen as a dumping ground for internal combustion engine vehicles in the foreseeable future. Without proactive policies and investments into the electric transport space, Namibia will face risks of Carbon penalties and being costed out of international trade. 

It is further seen that developing countries are not as focussed on environmental management practices when it comes to their transport sectors. The reasons are varied, however fears for loss of jobs and escalating operational costs in this sector are part of this phenomenon.

It is important to note that the change over to electric vehicles will take about 50-60 years. Some sectors such as light passenger to heavy commercial vehicles will show the fastest adoption, however the market place for ICE vehicles and service stations will continue long into the future. The opportunity lies within the process and how new skills are developed to grow jobs and opportunities.

At first glance low priced used vehicles may sound attractive, however no amount of carbon tax can and will stop the damage these vehicles are doing to our environment. Short term mentality needs to be replaced by long term vision.

Furthermore it must be made clear that Namibia has no yearly roadworthy MOT system in place to test vehicles in order to measure their exhaust gasses and as such these high polluters continue to operate on our roads. It’s lack of focus such as this that is keeping Namibia from leading the African pack. Namibia is however actively involved in ensuring The Paris Climate Agreement requirements are met, however our data and as shown focus is not on changing our behaviour, rather reporting on it.

Our Namibian transport network consists of:

  • Planes (Regional & International),
  • Trains (Regional & International), 
  • Marine (Sea and Freshwater), 
  • Light Passenger,
  • Construction & Industry (Forklifts & Machines), 
  • Busses (Local & Regional)
  • Light, medium and heavy commercial

Additional polluters are power generation and the burning Liquid petroleum gas.

The Way forward for an Electric Transport Future is not based on if and when, it is happening now and should be treated as a current change!

First of all to be competitive from a pricing point on the world stage Namibia needs to produce power in the future for not more than N$0.30/kW/h.

Why would this be important? It will enable us to compete for manufacturing and value add commercial activities internationally. With Namibia’s current over 30% unemployment rate its key for all economic and social development plans.

The important factor towards transport is at a retail price of N$0.50/kW/h – N$1.00/kWh for electricity. This will cause our transport costs to be considerably lower and sustainable than the current situation with the added benefit of being sensitive to the environment irrespective of our long distances driven as a result of Namibia’s far off boundaries.

Fossil fuelled- and Nuclear electricity generation are now more expensive than renewable energy and the costs associated with a centralised power generation and the distribution network is not viable for Namibia with our low population and large areas to be serviced.

The solutions is clear and it lies within Renewable energy generation and storage that are both Centralised and Decentralised.

The cost difference of an average passenger vehicle when an Electric Vehicle is compared to a fossil fuelled vehicle in relation to cost of km brings out the potential operating cost of ownership which will only get better as the base price of EV models become more affordable.

The current operational savings are substantial. A Normal passenger class EV such as an Hyundai Kona 64kWh does 8.2km/kWh @ N$2.41/kWh = 0.29 N$/km and a frugal ICE 12km/L = N$1.13/km. If you manage a fleet these type of figures should make you want to re evaluate your current fleet solutions.

The relative savings with medium to Heavy vehicles are exponentially higher, making their case to strong to dismiss at any level. This total cost of ownership has passed the tipping point and will continue to offer increased value.

The future of transport is electric and autonomous. Most countries are starting to ban internal combustion engined vehicles with most setting 2040 as their last year of allowing sales. Volkswagen announced that the company will seize ICE development in 2026, except unfortunately for Africa? 

The 2040 timeline offers Namibia 21 year to prepare. If we look back at the time changes took over the past 28 years then we have a problem. When you add 2026 to the mix its only 7 years from now, then it becomes apparent that the opportunity is now.

Our economy is fossil fuelled and moving away from that will cause economic losses for some. Namibia does not have an periodic CO2 and roadworthy testing program for vehicles. Pollutants are not seen as an issue, although our vehicles are polluting more than their counter part as say in Europe where testing is done. Why have nothing been done? Namibia like many other African countries will become the dumping ground of every type of used vehicle, which will continue the fossil cycle for many years to come, with no focus on actual pollutants, our environment and people will suffer not only from poor air quality but also financially from carbon taxes.

Electric vehicle solutions are up and running across the globe with proven lower cost of ownership when compared to fossil vehicles. Zero emissions, generally safer vehicles and just as practical with equal range and features makes a compelling argument for their uptake.

There is a zero probability that this disruptive change will not happen in Namibia and Africa. Namibia is in a enviable position as it is a small country when looking at its vehicle, truck and train fleets. The changes needed can be done in a short time frame, giving Namibia the enviable position as a world and African leader in this field. Now factor in the new skills, infrastructure and cost benefits and the decision is a no brainer and policy makers should push to establish the right environment to enable this transition without delay.

The new electric powered transport market will be focussed on autonomy, car sharing and other mobility services that don’t currently exist. Remember vehicles are now part of Moores law and as such will only developed faster and faster.

Convergence of technologies and open source drives and expedite change. Its this tip over point that will surprise and catch out governments and consumers alike.

Current private vehicles are used 4% of their total life time and its the second most expensive investment a consumer will make. Together with poor asset utilisation and the potential savings offered with new business models will drive further uptake for change.

When full autonomy is available and the car share model is the norm then the total new vehicle market is estimated to fall with 70%. This will change how cities are planned as less parking will be required, financial institutions will no longer have vehicle volume to finance and many current income streams from industry and government will be affected. There are equally many new opportunities that are not available now that will come forward. 

It is also interesting to note that vehicle use with the pay as you go car share model will be only 10% of normal vehicle ownership costs. Additionally as renewables take over for electricity production, consumers will receive a 60% reduction in cost. These are just two examples where consumers will save money and there are many such examples. The point being that cash flow for private, industry and government could be positively affected. Enabling spending on health, education and other areas currently under pressure from disproportionate high transport and energy costs in Namibia.

There are many resources, however the writer and lecturer Tony Seba has published a book about disruptive technologies that is well worth the read with details about past and future changes in technology. Nato Zondagh is also worth mentioning as he shared some insightful research on the subject. 

As a final thought about the transport space, Transnamib, Namibia’s rail operator should invest in Hybrid locomotive upgrades to its fleet as the company is planning to refurbish its entire fleet over the next few years and should only purchase cleaner hybrid tech thereafter. Its an more affordable and sustainable money saving step that will set the tone within the Namibian government. Its unclear why Namibia has not fully embraced renewables, but the opportunity is there for the leaders to stand up and take charge of this all important environmental issue.

The technology is available and its not waiting around for Namibia and Africa to one day decide to become participants. There are challenges, negatives and positives in this process. Its our choice to get acquainted and start the conversation or not.

The times we are living in are historically the best times to be a human on earth. There are opportunities, money and abundance. These things are not equally divided, yet its there for anyone to attain. We should use this technology advanced and relative well off time to enable a better tomorrow. Once the earth is gone its gone and its this generation that will decide the timeline.

by Willem Baartman

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