A Vote for Electric Cars in Nigeria

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By Joseph Anetor, ficm

 “Change has a bad reputation in our society. But it isn’t all bad – not by any means. In fact, change is necessary in life – to keep us moving … to keep us growing … to keep us interested … Imagine life without change. It would be static … boring … dull.”  – Dennis O’ Grady,

Few weeks ago, Senator Ben Murray Bruce of 8th Nigerian Senate introduced a bill to the House seeking to phase out petroleum and diesel-powered cars in Nigeria by 2035. They would be replaced by electric vehicles. That will be exactly 16 years from now.

Senator Bruce, in his argument in favour of the Bill, said amongst others, that combustion engine cars have continued to cause deaths through uncontrolled pollution. He went further in his argument to predict that electric cars is the solution we need to finally put to rest the controversial and unending issue of fuel subsidy.

But in a swift reaction akin to resistance, the senate leadership stood the Bill down on grounds that it was not reasonable to compel Nigerians to use electric cars. They also went further to advise resistance to the introduction of electric cars to enable Nigeria sell her oil, which it produces in abundance. This position, though patriotic, does not serve Nigeria’s interest in the long term.
Much as it is understood that oil forms more than 80 per cent of Nigeria’s total budget, the world will not wait for Nigeria to exhaust the sale of her oil before moving forward. The world is already counting down to oil and embracing other alternative energy sources due to the challenges of environmental pollution that comes with the exploitation and use of oil.

Though no country has yet legislated on the ban of petroleum and diesel cars, a lot of them have already set timelines to phase out combustion engines. Italy has a target date of 2024, Norway, Greece, Spain and Mexico 2025, India, France, Ireland, Israel, Belgium and Netherlands have all set target dates of 2030 while the United Kingdom and Germany are both looking at 2040.

A number of states in the United States of America including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and others have also set a timeline of 2050. The intention is to have vehicles on the road with zero emissions.

What this signal to all who care and are change ready is that consensus is building among nations of the world on the need to move to zero emission vehicles. The target dates above might just represent mere political/policy pronouncements but auto makers are already responding to this through changes in strategy and investment decisions.

Daimler will spend $11.7 billion to build 10 all-electric and 40 hybrid models with plans to electrify its entire line-up according to a Reuters report. Tesla is already in the forefront for the manufacture, sale and distribution of electric vehicles, while Acura, Zoyte, Jaguar, Mercedes etc. are also in the hot race to establish a firm hold on the electric vehicle market. From this year (2019), every model Volvo launches is expected to have an electric motor. Ford is keying in while GM is adding two more electric models alongside the Chevy Bolt, eventually ditching the combustion engine overall. In faraway China, China’s Volvo will only release electric vehicles this year.

Research indicates that these policy pronouncements are already driving down market share and resale values of diesel vehicles with an 8 per cent reduction in the rate of new registrations since 2015 in countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. In resale value, diesel cars lost between 6 per cent -17 per cent in the first half of 2017 in the UK and Germany.

Global attention is currently focused on how to minimize air pollution. Available data shows that in UK alone 40,000 deaths are linked to air pollution while India faces air pollution crises that is responsible for 1.2 million deaths per year with attendant negative impact of 3 per cent loss on its GDP. The UN estimates that a total of 4.2 million people die every year due to stroke, heart diseases, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases caused by ambient air pollution. The UN believes that policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management can effectively reduce key sources of ambient air pollution.

While it is generally acknowledged that it will take some time to change the game completely by shifting from diesel and petroleum vehicles to electric ones, a major transition toward zero emission cars is already well on track.

Nigeria cannot live in isolation. We must begin to plan. Such planning should lead us to asking some or all of the following questions whose answers are also buried therein. Can we stop this ongoing disruption? The obvious answer to this is a NO, NO! Then, what should we do? What steps should we take to avoid the adverse consequences of resistance to this unavoidable change that is happening before our eyes? Does this change come with any benefit? If yes, how do we leverage it to our advantage? The time to embrace the looming change is NOW!

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