Is Ethiopia ready for electric cars?
If you ask entrepreneur Carlo Pironti if Ethiopia is ready for electric cars, his answer is a resounding 'Yes'. His new plant will soon be churning out six EVs a week.
Wed, Apr 07, 2010 at 01:57 PM
When most people think of electric vehicles, they picture a large metropolis filled with commuters lining up to take advantage of centralized charging stations. If entrepreneur Carlo Pironti’s new venture takes off, people may also consider an African prairie to be an ideal electric car setting as well. Pironti has opened an electric car factory outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is planning to produce six EVs per week, eventually ramping up to 30 per week once the plant reaches full production capacity.
Pironti is building the Solaris Elettra thanks to an initial investment of $600,000. The vehicle will use parts from 57 different suppliers and a chassis made in Korea. Pironti’s initial business plan calls for exporting the vehicle to Europe in addition to selling it within Ethiopia.
However, the Ethiopian market for an electric vehicle is extremely small. The Solaris Elettra is expected to come with a $12,000 to $15,000 price tag. To help facilitate sales of the vehicle, Pironti will also offer recharging stations. Unfortunately, the electrical infrastructure in the country is still being developed.
There is one big problem with the recharging stations; they come with a very high price tag: $40,000. Granted, the station can recharge five vehicles at once, but your average consumer is not going to need a five-car recharging station. It is likely that these stations are meant to be purchased by businesses or even municipalities and offered to owners as a centralized pay-per-charge station.
According to an MNN article on the Solaris Elettra, Ethiopia’s per capita GDP is only $900. A $12,000 car for the average Ethiopian is equal to a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren for the average American — it isn’t likely to happen. Pironti hopes a credit system will enable Ethiopians to take advantage of the new electric vehicle technology, but even with a financing option available, it is unlikely that many Elettras will be sold in the country.
Pironti may be banking on exporting this low-cost EV to Europe and other countries, but with a wave of new electric cars from big name automakers hitting the market, Pironti may soon find himself looking for a new eco-friendly business plan.