The free movement of people, as well as goods and services, is critical for the socio-economic progress of any society, as such, it is very crucial to consider the automobile industry and its elements such as the manufacturing and models of vehicles and their movement so far in Ghana, after 65 years of independence.
On the eve of our country’s independence in 1957, a Ghanaian journalist named Moses Danquah claimed: “We are riding confidently on the crest of the wave to greater economic prosperity, to greater social and cultural achievements, and to eventual independence. We have reached this glorious stage largely through our progressive and efficient facilities for transportation—through our progressive, almost dramatic change from a static society to a mobile society.”
Nationalists like Danquah and Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah seized on the symbolism of mobility, declaring a new slogan for the new nation-state: “Forward Ever, Backward Never.”
For Ghanaian nationalists, automobile technologies in particular embodied African creativity, resilience, and resistance to a form of British colonial rule that sought to limit African opportunities and control African economic development. However, automobiles and automobility were also symbols of the promise of a modernist future.
The effects of the gradual influx and current prevalence of automobiles in the country mean I can now safely say: Welcome to the traffic capital of the world. Despite numerous measures to address the problem, including the recent suspension of road tolls, millions of commuters are choked with frustration as they go about their daily business in our commercial capitals, even in a country that is well-known as the Gateway to Africa.
It is time to look at e-mobility, not only as it relates to the evolution of vehicles but also with regards to addressing some of the current problems with the traffic situation. When e-mobility is discussed within the automobile industry and by some connoisseurs, the discussion has a tendency to centre around battery cells, fuel, and cathode active materials.
Now, surely, the discussion of materials for the evolution of cars is the ‘fuel’ of e-mobility, but there is much more to address to make this transformation in the automobile manufacturing sector happen – such as materials, coatings, and coolants plus the electronics aspect – that are just as much of a driving force behind e-mobility.
Will we ever go on e-mobility?
Yes! For sure.
Automobility, in our context, cannot be discussed without the vision laid down by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The future vision was rooted in the dynamism of inner-city life, but new motor transport technologies are ensuring that even the most remote villages and farms are connected to the new Ghanaian culture of cosmopolitan automobility.
In creating a ‘mobile society,’ these nationalists claimed, Ghanaians were poised to seize their rightful place in a global community of prosperous nations.
The Western patrons and factory workers, who associated motor transport technologies and cultures of automobility with the individual autonomy and industrial prosperity of private car ownership, African drivers in twentieth-century Ghana used these new technologies to create comprehensive passenger transport systems that facilitated the prosperity and mobility of a wide range of entrepreneurs, from cocoa farmers to urban wage laborers. Motor transportation had its roots in the early investments and movements of cocoa farmers in the southern Gold Coast, who used motor vehicles to bypass colonial railways and control the movement and sale of their produce.
Regulatory efficiency for mobility
Electricity is administered through an inefficient state-owned power distribution system. With EVs coming, are we ready and can we sustain the usage? The fact that about one in three Ghanaians is illiterate limits productivity and mobility in the automobile sector. The government is trying to divest 27 highly indebted and loss-making state-owned enterprises including the Tema Oil Refinery, Electricity Company of Ghana, and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation.
Ghana has four preferential trade agreements in force. The trade-weighted average tariff rate is 11.0 percent, and five nontariff measures are in effect. The government generally does not discriminate against foreign investors except in key sectors, but the overall investment regime lacks efficiency and transparency. The financial sector has undergone reform, but access to financing remains limited to help elevate the automobile sector.
The auto e-mobility
When it comes to auto e-mobility, there are special coating materials for the battery box which are necessary to inhibit flame initiation, as well as protect the steel box against corrosion triggered by the electrolyte. The battery box is coated with a specific e-coat technology with high throwing power at low film builds. Due to its formulation, it is eco-friendly as it requires a lower baking temperature.
The optimum temperature range to charge and discharge the battery is between 95° and 104° F (35° and 40° C). Special coolants need to be developed with a minimum of ion content and traces of water to manage the temperature and feature electromagnetic shielding, i.e., electromagnetic waves must not be transmitted outside the battery box.
Innovations for mobility need holistic approaches
According to an online portal, Wardsauto, “creating automotive solutions requires a holistic view of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) requirements for new materials, especially when it comes to the interaction of components of the electric powertrain and surrounding materials.”
For example, PU (polyurethane) Thermal Conductive Adhesion does not adhere well to metal or to a PE (Polyethylene) film with which the battery cell is wrapped for insulation reasons. In such cases, companies must leverage the right connections between expert teams in their own company and specialists within their suppliers. A broad portfolio of automotive solutions and experience enables manufacturers to provide customers with a 360-degree, all-encompassing approach.
Auto e-mobility conversion can succeed if the industry lifts its game
If we could think outside the box and beyond the boundaries of our automobile industry, we can see that today, many companies are being committed to driving collaboration toward an efficient and sustainable automotive value chain.
Just a few weeks ago, a new report indicates that German carmaker; Volkswagen is in talks with Huawei for a possible acquisition of the tech company’s autonomous vehicle unit. The autonomous driving unit of Huawei is a fast-evolving enterprise that draws massively from Huawei’s rich vein of technology and proprietary products in the autonomous driving evolution.
An example of this is the automotive alliance, Catena-X. It sees itself as an extensible ecosystem in which automotive manufacturers and suppliers, dealer associations, and equipment suppliers, including the providers of applications, platforms, and infrastructure, can participate equally. The purpose of Catena-X is to create a uniform standard for information and data sharing throughout the entire automotive value chain to improve quality, efficiency, processes, sustainability, and more.
Ghana is 65 years now. The cost of fuel and the mobility of drivers and passengers has traversed the boundaries between urban and rural, city and village due to the type of vehicles plying the routes. In doing so, it has created a uniquely Ghanaian form of automobility which would be more efficient with e-mobility.