Start-ups ready to grow sustainable transport

First published by EE Publishers

Entrepreneurs working on projects in sustainable transport are waiting in the wings for policies in the sector to be aligned in order to provide their innovations with the legislative framework they need to be commercially successful. The number of entrepreneurs working in this area are as numerous as their projects are varied.

Western Cape entrepreneur Neil du Preez’s start-up, Mellowcabs, has designed electric mini-cabs, similar to the Tuk-Tuks that are popular on the rest of the continent.

The three-wheeler Mellowcabs are aimed at urban commuters who need convenient, affordable taxi-type transport in cities. The solar panels, hydrogen fuel cells and other technology used in these vehicles is unique to South Africa.

In a similar project, 2Life has developed neighbourhood electric vehicles – something between a traditional golf cart and a luxury sedan. These are ideal for transporting clients or staff over short distances.

ZingCo, another local company, has developed power-assisted bikes called Zing Bikes. Although they look like scooters, they are pedalled like a bicycle, with an electric motor that kicks in to assist the rider. This makes them easier to use than ordinary bicycles, and increases the range and speed.

Meanwhile, Pretoria-based company GridCars has developed the eSpanBoni, or work donkey. It’s a three-wheeler delivery cart that transports goods and can be modified for different uses. It’s ideal for small business owners that work in industries with heavy equipment, like gardening, or for delivering stock to shops.

Marketing and commercialising these unique products will become much easier once the regulatory framework is in place to support them.
Things are likely to move faster in this area after a Department of Trade and Industry recently released a research report that examines the many policies across government departments which impact the uptake of electric vehicles and other forms of low carbon transport in the country.
The release of this report is the first step towards the aligning and passing of regulations which will stimulate the industry.

The launch of the Electric Vehicle Industry Association (EVIA) – which aims to accelerate and coordinate clean transport in South Africa – in December 2016 will also be instrumental in ensuring that the wheels keep moving.

EVIA members include government departments, electric vehicle manufacturers, electricity suppliers and infrastructure providers, and entrepreneurs. The association is tasked with solving problems faced by the industry, from regulations to finance to awareness.

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