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Shortcomings in education system highlighted in automotive seminar

Nov 15, 2021

Edem Folli, who is responsible for skills development at the uYilo Mobility Programme, recently highlighted the shortcomings in the South African education system in terms of preparing people to work in a world where electronics is the key, particularly where it involves new energy mobility solutions.

Folli was speaking during the second of a series of “Let’s Talk Business” webinars organised by Automechanika Johannesburg in association with Absa. This online seminar, titled Sustainable Automotive Technologies and Skills Development, was a precursor to the staging of Automechanika Johannesburg 2022 from March 15-18 next year.

These “Let’s Talk Business” webinars are one of the outflows from Messe Frankfurt in Germany, which has had to adopt its Automechanika business model to include a strong presence in the digital environment as its face-to-face exhibitions were severely curtailed due to the pandemic.

“At present less than 30% of current Grade 12 learners study mathematics for their matriculation certificates, which is a vital subject for further studies involving electronics,” explained Folli.

“In addition, the pass mark for mathematics is only 30% which is totally inadequate too. There is also presently only one NQF4 course on new energy available in South Africa. Local universities and TVET colleges need to put a new focus on e-mobility and developing the requisite skills. What we need is to future-proof our education system so that we develop the necessary skills for this important new industry.”

This call to build electronic skills in South Africa was echoed by Khutso Sekgota, of Monitor Deloitte, who revealed that infotainment was now the area of research and development where most vehicle manufacturers are now concentrating. He said that an average of 14.4% of R&D spend went on infotainment, with other areas of high concentration being Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), sensors, batteries, and fuel cells, followed by electric drivetrain development and electronics. By comparison, only an average of 2.9% of R&D spend is now earmarked for developing internal combustion engines (ICE).

Sekgota added that 30% of all new automotive patents registered in the world involved ADAS.

Vishay Rabbipal, Head of Renewable Energy at Absa, compared the new thrust to switch to EVs to the upsurge in the sale of diesel-engined passenger cars over the past 14 years since 2007, which was just before the global economic meltdown. Although the purchase price of diesel cars is higher than that of a similar petrol-engined car, fuel consumption is up to 30% lower which drove sales of these models. The share of the passenger car market by petrol-engined cars fell from 73% in 2007 to 63% in 2016.

“This swing to an alternative power source such as electricity with higher initial cost but lower running costs can be echoed by EVs, although the current EV roadmap that sees the South African car parc in 2050 made up of as many as 2.9-million EVs by 2050 looks rather optimistic,” said Rabbipal.

He also gave his view on the question of how many kilometres must be covered by an EV before it overtakes a fossil fuel ICE car in terms of lower ownership cost. His estimate is 60 000 km. Rabbipal also added that the number of public charging stations in South Africa was expected to grow from 134 in November 2019 to 250 by November 2021.

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