Time for electric cars

Ahmed Kotb , Tuesday 10 Aug 2021

Egypt has started testing locally produced electric cars with a view to starting production next year, reports Ahmed Kotb

Time for electric cars

In its bid to push up sales of zero-emission vehicles, Egypt has received 13 electric cars from the Chinese company Dongfeng Motor Corporation to try out on the streets of the capital as part of an agreement with Al-Nasr Automotive to locally produce such vehicles starting in mid-2022.

Of the 13 cars imported, nine are being tested by drivers of one of the international ride-hailing companies operating in Egypt this week in order to test their endurance and quality, including battery efficiency and performance, before settling on the final specifications of a locally produced electric car.

The car, to be called the Nasr E70, will be manufactured by Al-Nasr Automotive in cooperation with Dongfeng, with about 60 per cent of local components used in the manufacturing process. This percentage will increase over time, according to the agreement signed by the companies, in an effort to localise electric car-manufacturing with a capacity of 25,000 cars annually.

Effat Abdel-Ati, head of the cars division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, believes that the production of a locally made electric car is necessary to keep pace with the global tendency towards electric cars instead of traditional fuel-powered vehicles.

Seeing the vehicles on Egyptian streets for trial, he added, was important in order to monitor their advantages and disadvantages and any modifications they might need to better suit the local market.

“Creating the necessary infrastructure is one of the most-pressing challenges in the transition to electric vehicles in the near future,” Abdel-Ati said.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources announced at the end of 2019 that the availability of electric-vehicle charging units would be mandatory for petrol stations starting from 2020.

Additionally, 3,000 electrical-charging stations are planned to be established in a partnership between the ministry of electricity and renewable energy and private sector companies, with 1,000 stations to be established in the first phase starting next year in conjunction with the first phase of production of the new Nasr E70 car.

Abdel-Ati said that one of the most important steps in this project would be launching an awareness campaign to increase popular demand for electric cars, along with finding incentives to encourage more people to buy them.

He added that the initiatives of scrapping old cars and converting vehicles to run on natural gas had come at the right time and would support the electric car industry.

The initiatives, kicked off last year, aim to reduce pollution and save the environment and help Egypt to benefit from recent discoveries of natural gas. Global trends also emphasise the use of cars that use environmentally friendly fuel.

The natural-gas cars were introduced to reduce carbon emissions, and the electric cars would further reduce the dependence on traditional fuel and benefit from surplus electricity, Abdel-Ati said, adding that they would also save hard currency spent on importing petrol.

According to the Ministry of Petroleum, Egypt imported 3.5 million tons of fuel in 2020 at a total cost of LE24 billion (about $1.5 billion).

The country enjoys a surplus of electricity production at around 58,000 Megawatts (MW), according to the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, with local consumption of around 33,000 MW.

Last month, the government approved a proposed tariff for selling electricity to electric-car charging stations, as well as a tariff for charging electric cars, provided that the price was reviewed annually based on the financial data available. The tariffs are due to be announced officially within the next few weeks.

Most car-makers have announced plans to shift completely to producing zero-emission vehicles by 2035 to 2040, and they target sales of such vehicles to reach 40 to 50 per cent of the total by 2030. Improvements in technology, especially in the batteries powering electric cars, are continuing to be at the heart of the research and development efforts of car makers.

The government is encouraging the growing use of electric vehicles. Egypt’s new electric car project has announced government support of LE50,000 for the first 100,000 buyers of the Nasr E70. Taxi drivers can also replace their old vehicles with electric ones benefiting from the incentive.

The E70 works entirely on electricity, with its battery power ranging between 50.8 and 61.3 kWh, and the charging time ranging from eight to 9.5 hours. The price of the electric car manufactured in Egypt will range between LE300,000 and LE320,000.

Currently, electric car sales globally account for less than 10 per cent of total sales, but sales in 2020 and the first half of 2021 have suggested a significant increase in the market share of zero-emission vehicles.

According to statistics from the European Auto Industry, during the second quarter of 2021 registrations of electrically-chargeable cars continued to expand in the EU. The market share of battery electric vehicles more than doubled — from 3.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 to 7.5 per cent this year — while plug-in hybrids made up 8.4 per cent of all new cars sold.

The ratings agency Fitch Ratings predicts a 50 per cent increase in the sales of these vehicles by the end of 2021.

According to the US financial service Bloomberg, passenger electric-vehicle sales are projected to increase sharply, rising from three million in 2020 to 66 million in 2040. Globally, electric vehicles will represent more than two-thirds of passenger vehicle sales in 2040, with Europe and China leading the transition, it said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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