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Groups flay Senate for rejecting electric cars

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Hopes of Nigeria entering the league of nations to massively reducing air pollution dimmed last week, following refusal of the Senate to approve the bill for the introduction of electric cars in the country.

The Electric Cars (introduction) Bill 2019 (SB.726) promoted by Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce was seeking for an Act for the phase out of petrol vehicles by 2035 and introduce electric cars.  The car is a plug-in electric automobile that is propelled by one or more electric motors, using energy typically stored in rechargeable batteries.

Nigerians are yet to be obsessed with electric vehicles due to many factors, including unreliable power supply and lack of government policy. Electric cars are cheap, environment-friendly and easy to maintain, but also provide an extra advantage of huge tax incentives and comes with subsidies from the government.

As of December 2018, there were about 5.3 million light-duty all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in use around the world. Despite the rapid growth experienced, the global stock of plug-in electric cars represented just about one out of every 250 vehicles (0.40per cent) on the world’s roads by the end of 2018.Essentially, electric cars have several environmental benefits compared to conventional internal combustion engine cars. They have lower operating and maintenance costs, produce little or no local air pollution, reduce dependence on petroleum, and also have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In their reaction to the death knell on electric vehicles, civil society groups said the rejection shows the Senate was not ready to ensure Nigeria’s realisation of the Paris agreement.For the Director of the ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, “the rejection of the bill does not indicate that the Senate is concerned about the nation’s economic viability. Abandoning petrol powered cars may actually be in the best interest of the Nigerian economy for a number of reasons including that the move would be bring up new businesses and create new jobs.

“Sticking to internal combustion engines while to world is moving on to electric and renewable energy sources may result in Nigeria becoming a dumping ground of cars that will become relics of a fading civilization.”According to him, not moving towards cleaner energy sources will lock-in pollution, and at the same time present the Senate as lawmakers that have a mindset that doubts the capacity of Nigerians to be innovative in a positive way.

Bassey views was collaborated by the Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Dr. Godwin Uyi He said: “The Senate is wrong on their decision. Every obstacle they think is on the way for the bill to pass ought to be addressed. We should be forward looking and not backwards. Nigeria should not be a dumping ground for obsolete petrol and dieseal cars. This is a major setback towards the realisation of the Paris Agreement and reduction in amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Also, carbon emissions from cars constitute a major source of greenhouse emissions.”  

In his submission, the Executive Director, Centre for Energy and Environmental Sustainability, Chike Chikwendu who also faulted the Senate decision, explained that their position also negates the Nigeria Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which commits Nigeria to reduce GHG emissions by 20 per cent unconditionally in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

Ben Murray-Bruce, senator representing Bayelsa east, has withdrawn a bill seeking to phase out petrol cars and introduce electric vehicles by 2035. The senator withdrew the bill after his colleagues bashed it on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on Wednesday.While moving a motion for the bill to read the second time, Murray-Bruce noted that the country was spending N1 trillion on fuel subsidy.

The lawmaker argued that by introducing electric cars, fuel subsidy “will automatically be gone” with the government having funds for eduction and infrastructure.
“Combustion engine cars has continued to cause deaths through uncontrolled pollution. Secondly, we have been spending over N1 trillion annually subsidising fuel in this country,” he said.“By introducing electric cars, fuel subsidy will automatically be gone and those funds will be used for infrastructure and education. All industrialised nations have set a date and Nigeria will be the first African country.“To charge your electric cars, all the filling stations will be replaced with solar charging stations. Thankfully, this country is blessed with sunlight 365 days in a year.

“Electric cars are outselling petrol cars as witnessed in Norway few weeks ago. It makes more sense to build Nigeria’s biggest power plant than refineries.”However, the two other senators who contributed to the debate kicked against the bill. Barau Jibrin, senator representing Kano north, said what the bill is seeking do is not “feasible.”“Making it mandatory that everyone should resort to using electric cars at a given day is not feasible,” Jibrin said.Multiple studies have found that electric cars are more efficient, and therefore responsible for less greenhouse gas and other emissions than cars powered solely by internal combustion engines. An EU study based on expected performance in 2020 found that an electric car using electricity generated solely by an oil-fired power station would use only two-thirds of the energy of a petrol car travelling the same distance.

Despite the challenges bedevilling Nigeria’s automotive sector, some assemblers have expressed interest to invest in the production of electric vehicles (EVs) in the country. Experience has shown that Nigeria usually turned out to be a dumping ground for a variety of banned products. Given its preference for used vehicles over brand new ones due to very poor purchasing power of the masses, it stands at a higher risk of dumping when other countries eventually phased out the use of conventional fuel cars.

Electric vehicles are a novel and eco-friendly technology designed to reduce man’s dependence on fossil fuel, and potentially a threat to the conventional fuel car market.Top auto assemblers like Volvo, a Swedish vehicle manufacturer, has committed to fitting every car it produced by 2019 with electric or hybrid engines, just as Germany’s BMW plans to mass-produce EVs by 2020, offering 12 models by 2025.A recent report published by the World Economic Forum, entitled “Electric vehicles for smarter cities: The future of energy and mobility,” also indicated that French multinational automaker, Renault, plans to produce 20 electrified models by 2022, while Germany-based, Volkswagen, will invest up to $84 billion in battery and EV technology to electrify all 300 of its models by 2030.
   
These transitional commitments to electric vehicles by manufacturers are not sufficient threats to the fossil fuel market, but a very imminent one to Nigeria, which relies heavily on foreign exchange earnings from oil.

Global strategies
Another report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), revealed that the sale of electric cars may rise by 24 per cent yearly till 2030. The Agency estimated that based on existing policies; there would be 125 million electric vehicles on the road, which could further rise to 220 million if strategies became more ambitious to meet global climate goals and other sustainability targets.
  
Of the one billion cars in the world, only two million are electric. But that will soon change, as costs diminish, and governments encourage the adoption of EVs to cut carbon emissions and fight urban pollution.Sequel to this, some cities across the world have set target year to ban the use of fossil fuel cars to mitigate the effect of gaseous emissions from them.

The cities include; Oslo the Norwegian capital, Madrid, Spain; Chengdu, China; Hamburg and Berlin, Germany; Copenhagen, Denmark; Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; Bogotá, Colombia; London, England; Mexico; and New York City, San Francisco in the United States of America.

Progress in Nigeria
To catch up the evolution train, Nigus Enfinity, an indigenous automaker, plans to introduce electric vehicles into the Nigerian automobile market this year, while its local assembly plant for EVs will be ready by 2020.The company Chairman, Malik Ado-Ibrahim, noted that many countries across the world have already set targets for the ban of fossil-fuelled vehicles with India targeting 2030, and the United Kingdom, 2040.He said Nigeria and Africa need to look inward to be at the fore of the automotive revolution, or risk becoming a dumping ground for banned vehicles from other countries.

In preparation for this, Ado-Ibrahim said his firm is already building a 100-megawatt (mw) solar power plant in Katsina, and Adamawa states.Ahead of the debut for its brand of EVs, he said Nigus Enfinity is partnering with a Chinese firm, Build Your Dreams, to import electric vehicles at affordable costs.“We are also working with BYD to get a local brand, and start an electric vehicle assembly plant for Nigeria from 2020. Gradually, we will move to an EV with an African DNA, starting in Nigeria,” he explained.
 
Although still not so popular, the Marketing Manager, Kia Motors Nigeria, Olawale Jimoh, revealed that Nigeria had already launched the use of EVs since 2015, as the automaker was the first to bring in such vehicles into the country.Accordingly, Jimoh said a number of people especially some government officials are currently driving electric vehicles. 


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