Electric vehicles start carving their way in Egypt

A report by the Egyptian public policy consultancy Lynx stated that electric vehicles represent less than 1% of the global car fleet.
Sunday 10/11/2019
Fireworks burst during the start of the electric vehicle rally in the new administrative capital, east of Cairo.  (AP)
Much-awaited competition. Fireworks burst during the start of the electric vehicle rally in the new administrative capital, east of Cairo. (AP)

CAIRO - Egypt’s new administrative capital was the site of the second energy efficiency competition Electric Vehicle Rally, consolidating a project aimed at boosting the local electrical vehicle sector and promoting clean technologies.

The event, in which 270 Egyptian undergraduates representing 15 university teams participated, gave competitors an opportunity to showcase capacities of vehicles they conceived and produced in four exhibitions that tested efficiency, speed, performance and endurance.

The Electric Vehicle Rally — EVER — was established in 2017 by graduates of Cairo’s Ain Shams University and members of its Faculty of Engineering innovation hub who had participated in international electric vehicle competitions. The first similar competition in Egypt took place last year. The 2019 edition expanded the number of participants and saw a significant improvement in the quality of the vehicles.

“Now we had more teams joining us and we have 15 vehicles on the track instead of nine,” said EVER Project Director Ali Hosny, who added that the vehicles were, on average, lighter and faster than those of last year.

The competition represented the culmination of an 8-month programme during which participating teams developed an electric vehicle from scratch. Initially 31 Egyptian colleges registered but, after two assessments by a panel of judges, with experience in the automotive industry, that considered technical reports and team presentations, the number was reduced to 15.

The selected teams then had six months to fabricate, develop and test their product. The nine teams that participated in the 2018 competition were partially funded based on improvements they had introduced. Among new entries, one was fully funded, four partially funded and one completely self-funded.

“[Throughout the project] you get to know how to design from the ground up a working vehicle… and you manufacture your own design [in a way that] you end up seeing how your design in a computer programme becomes real,” said Hassan Nassr, a 22-year-old student at the Higher Technological Institute and the team leader of its Apex Racing Team, which won the competition. “It was a wonderful experience.”

During the programme, participants had experienced mentors who supervised and offered recommendations in all stages, including conceptualisation, design, manufacturing, testing and the competition.

“The [nine] old teams focused on improving their designs and did amazing progress but the newcomers also surprised us with great designs,” said Mohamed Abdelshakour, one of the mentors. “All cars [devoted] incredible attention to details.”

EVER’s primary objective is to increase the pool of local engineers to boost an electric vehicle industry in Egypt that contributes sustainable development of the country. Special attention is given to the creation of interdisciplinary engineers with knowledge and experience in all the stages of electric vehicle development.

“EVER’s main goal is capacity building and we have achieved it for the second consecutive year [because] this time we had more universities that were able to finish their cars, we built more human resources and we produced better vehicles,” said Hosny.

A report by the Egyptian public policy consultancy Lynx stated that electric vehicles represent less than 1% of the global car fleet, despite growing interest in environmentally friendly electric mobility. In the Middle East and Africa, and in Egypt in particular, the outlook appears less encouraging, given relatively cheap oil prices, weak regulations on vehicle emissions and a lack of infrastructure and policy and regulatory frameworks for the sector to develop, the report said.

A compromise of Egyptian authorities with the electric vehicle market, however, has recently borne fruit. This included the introduction of electric vehicle charging stations in the country in February 2018, tax and importing exemptions for private electric cars last January, the prospect to build a factory to produce power stations with China announced in October and the steps to introduce electric vehicles in public transportation.

Hosny said those measures will help Egypt improve its local electric vehicle sector.

“Now there are partnerships with top manufactures to open assembly plants in Egypt and, given that projects like EVER are training more university students, in the short term it will be possible to build electric cars designed 100% locally,” he said.

For most participants, EVER was the first approach to the entire product life cycle of an electric vehicle from designing to development.

“The competition is very helpful because [the programme] represents the main core of the automotive industry in particular and other industries more broadly, given that it addresses its main points,” said Bichoy Essam, a 23-year-old recent graduate in mechatronics at Ain Shams University and the leader of the team that won the prize for the competition’s most efficient vehicle.

The winner of EVER 2019, whose main sponsor is the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology of the Ministry of Higher Education, will receive a prize of $31,000. The runner-up team from the Egyptian Russian University will get $15,500 and the third place Zagazig University, $7,750.