In an ever-changing world, keeping up has become increasingly important, lest we are left behind. Our understanding of the automobile today is vastly different from when it first began in the late 1800s. A single person has hardly been credited with the invention of the automobile, but in 1886, German inventor Karl Benz patented his Benz Patent-Motorwagen, and with that, we can say that it was truly the invention of the automobile.
Britannica notes that Leonardo da Vinci considered the idea of a self-propelled vehicle as early as the 15th century. The Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy, still exhibits a working model of the vehicle based on sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. According to encyclopedia.com, it can also be said that the founding of automobiles is the result of a series of inventions that began in 1769 with the creation of a steam-driven road vehicle by French military engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot (1725–1804).
Several other names can be attributed to the beginning of the automobile, including J.H. Genevois, Henry Ford, Karl Friedrich Benz, and Wilhelm Maybach.
Over the years, automotive technology has evolved from the mere idea of self-propelled vehicles or steam engines, or inventions only credited to a handful of countries. Now, automobiles are multifaceted machines with still much more to be achieved and so much to still hope for.
The impact of automobiles on the human experience
Because automobiles are now multifaceted machines, they have had several tremendous advantages and impacts on the human experience over the years.
In 1896, Henry Ford, an American businessman and engineer revolutionized car manufacturing with a profound effect on society. By using an assembly line to mass-produce one type of car with basic features, he was able to turn out cars more quickly and at less cost, translating into more people being able to afford to own a car. He was able to apply his idea to build an inexpensive and affordable car. More and more people started buying cars there, so everything started to change.
Among the most affected by the automobile’s sudden popularity were bicycles, railroads, and horses. Eliminating the horse and carriage system also resulted in cleaner cities. In the past, manure from horses filled the city streets but with the increase in automobiles, the streets were now free of manure and people thought their cities were becoming clearer as a result.
A major economic impact at the time was that the early automobiles created a great deal of employment because the manufacturing companies hired workers to put together the cars, which meant that many jobs were created. Even now, according to ACEA, the automotive sector is responsible for the direct and indirect employment of 14.6 million Europeans, representing 6.7% of total EU employment.
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In addition to providing people with convenience, privacy, and ease of travel, cars also provide a lot more. They have become home to several businesses. Cars and other automobiles have also become an integral part of the modern world. The automobile industry has opened doors to a number of businesses.
Among the many innovations and businesses that depend on automobiles are courier companies, food truck businesses, and transport companies, including shuttle bus services between states and ride-hailing companies like Uber or even regular taxis.
The state of the automotive ecosystem across the Globe Reports from Industry Week, as far back as 2007, indicate that the automotive industry was one of the world’s leading industries and economies. Almost half of the world’s oil consumption came from its production of 60 million cars and trucks each year.
Four million people were employed directly in the industry at the time and there were even many more indirectly. In other words, the state of the automotive industry has been a major one for some time.
A Forbes article by Sarwant Singh describing the top trends for the automotive industry for 2021, predicted transitions from fuel-powered cars towards electric cars (EVs). “Aging populations, rising air pollution, increasing road accidents and, need I add, the pandemic will spotlight the importance of health, wellness and wellbeing (HWW) feature in cars,” Singh wrote.
The state of the automotive ecosystem in Africa – challenges and prospects
Global warming has become a major issue, and people are starting to realize it. The major culprit behind this pollution is the toxic emissions caused by the burning of fuels by automobiles. It is no surprise environmentalists are not the biggest fans of most fuel-consuming cars.
According to the EPA’s estimates, transportation (mostly passenger vehicles) is responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the number of electric vehicles (EV) sales worldwide grew by 41% in 2020.
In Africa, the story is not different. On a continent where 40% of the global exports of used light-duty vehicles are being exported, there is less attention to the rising concern for global warming and the need for fewer fuel-based vehicles.
South Africa seems to be the country most involved in the adoption of these EVs. Globally, South Africa ranked fifth in the ratio of public electric vehicle (EV) chargers to electric vehicles in 2020. Only Korea, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Netherlands rank higher according to ESI Africa.
A major challenge with the adoption of EVs in Africa is the unstable electricity condition in many of the countries. According to Aljazeera, the lowest electrification rate in the world is in Africa, where just over 40 percent of citizens have access to electricity, and about 640 million Africans lack access to energy. Amidst these challenges, a few countries are already tapping into the potential of EVs. Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Namibia, Nigeria, and South of course are on this list.
Outside South Africa, several initiatives are already underway to localize the electrification of vehicles in Africa. The Kiira Motors company has launched locally produced electric buses in Uganda. Kenya’s National Youth Service has also supported the development of electric three-wheelers, and Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Cairo are currently piloting electric bus technologies.
In Nigeria, the Jet Mover Electric Vehicle (EV) launched with a significant investment drive in a bid to create more cost-efficient renewable energy vehicles in Africa.
While these countries have made strides, more needs to be done across the continent. Africa has so much potential, but only time will tell whether it can join other continents in pursuing a world that utilizes fewer fossil fuel machines.