Why farmers should think electric

Green technology like electric vehicles will catapult the African agricultural sector into the future. Image credit: Rham Equipment

Why farmers should think electric

Green technology like electric vehicles will catapult the African agricultural sector into the future, writes Leon Louw, WhyAfrica founder and editor. 

Agriculture will play a vital role in the revival of Africa in the aftermath of Covid-19. The agricultural sector in Africa presents massive opportunities for local entrepreneurs, especially after the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) kicked into gear in January this year.

Moreover, agriculture in Africa can become the baton carrier for green technology as we move into a more environmentally-conscious world. Many farms have already switched to renewable energy, and solar panels and wind turbines have become a common site at farming operations across the continent.

In a recent address to a global audience, Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, identified energy, agriculture, and infrastructure as critical areas of investment potential for a post-Covid-19 recovery in Africa.

“Agriculture potentially offers massive investments in climate-smart crops and new technology to build more resilient food systems,” said Dr Adesina.

EVs take root in Africa

It is crucial not to exclude agriculture when it comes to developing new technology that will improve efficiencies and take the world to a net-zero carbon emission target.

The Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution is well underway globally and is taking root in Africa. The agricultural sector is a large potential market for EVs, but the uptake in Africa has been slow to say the least.

Not many companies have entered the market yet, and those that have, could not prove the benefits of introducing EVs to farmers wanting to go electric. But, that is about to change.

South African equipment manufacturer and technology company Rham Equipment and German electronic specialist Huber Automative are in negotiations with legendary Toyota Landcruiser to work together to launch a product that could ignite another agricultural revolution in Africa.

The eCruiser is still as tough as its diesel-driven cousin, but it is a lot lighter, has more torque, and in the long run, will not cost the farmer an arm and a leg. In fact, the real benefits of hardly any maintenance cost and fuel expenses will become apparent in the farmers pocket in less than two years. And like its cousins, the Electric Cruiser (and its battery kit) will last almost a lifetime.

Running optimally in underground mines

The beauty is that the Electric Cruiser has been tested in other extreme environments. Rham has been manufacturing underground mining equipment for more than 40 years and has used this knowledge and experience to develop this new workhorse. Whilst the eCruiser has been used mostly in the mining industry up to now, the vehicle’s potential in the agricultural sector is massive.

According to Kevin Reynders, managing director at Rham, the idea is to eventually manufacture more than 60% of the unit’s working parts in Africa. “All we do, really, is convert a normal Landcruiser into a battery-operated vehicle that will be able to operate in Africa’s harsh underground mining and agricultural environments,” says Reynders.

Huber has done extensive testing on the eCruiser, and Reynders is convinced that it will be in high demand in Africa. It is ideal for transporting men and equipment and will be extremely useful in any sort of farming operation.

“The Electric Cruiser has been continuously field-tested in the salt mines of Germany since 2017 and has also done duty in Canadian and Irish hard rock mines since 2016, so we know that they are robust enough to withstand South African conditions,” says Reynders.

The well-known durability of the Toyota Land Cruiser combined with the cutting-edge E-Drive system of Huber Automotive and the local manufacturing capabilities of Rham, makes this partnership a no-brainer.

Why electric is better

According to Fabian Schneider, Key Account Manager at Huber Automotive, the battery size has been optimised for a driving range of up to 150km per shift. “The battery can be fully recharged within two hours, without the need of cost-intensive fast-charging infrastructure,” says Schneider. Existing solar panels can easily be used efficiently to recharge batteries with renewable energy.

With 45% gradeability and AllWheel-Drive support, the vehicle can drive under the harshest conditions, without losing its well-known power. “It is the optimal vehicle to cut energy and fuel costs significantly. At the same time, it ensures a high health and safety standard by avoiding noise and diesel particle emissions,” explains Schneider.

Reducing CO₂ emissions with its sustainable power pack, the Electric Cruiser brings massive advantages and slashes the ecological footprint of farming. Furthermore, in the long run, the costs of consumables are substantially lower in comparison to diesel-driven equipment.

Reynders says Rham is currently demonstrating the first unit and has ordered further units. “We can also build the unit to client specifications – it is well within our capabilities to do that.

Surprisingly, there are not many fully electric Land Cruisers out there right now, and this one, being tried and tested, is quite unique. “At Rham we have built up an exceptional pool of knowledge around battery storage and autonomous equipment, so if we combine all these components, we have a winner.”

Huber’s IP lies in the vehicle controls and the long-time experience – their battery savings and efficiencies are exceptional. Huber’s secret lies in their controllers. The German controllers and the management around controlling power from the batteries are superior.

At a time when the input costs in the agricultural space continues to climb, and farmers have to improvise to not be dependent on external sources of energy (which is not possible in remote parts of Africa anyway), investing in the eCruiser is one of the best things a farmer would ever do.

The Electric Cruiser can exceed an average speed of 90km per hour, which is perfect for farmers. To fully charge a battery takes about two hours due to an onboard charger, however, to get to an 80% charge will take about one hour. The battery will last up to 300 000km.

As the agricultural sector enters the exciting new world of future farming and modernisation, the new eCruiser is well positioned to partner with, and spearhead the transition of Africa’s farming community.

 

Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.        

WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter or digital magazine, and for more news on Africa, visit the website at www.whyafrica.co.za or send a direct message. WhyAfrica launched its first ever digital magazine in November. If you are interested in contributing or advertising in future issues, please contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za. We have a wide range of different packages and combo deals to give your company the greatest exposure to a rapidly growing, African readership.       

 

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