File Picture.
Growing up in my back of beyond village Mashite in Limpopo, I dreaded one moment: those Eveready PM10 batteries going flat and stopping those Blaupunkt turntables from giving us music.

We would be dancing to our big brothers’ 78RPM vinyl records, when – all of a sudden – the high pitched voice of Steve Kekana sounded deeper than that of Barry White.

The up-tempo dance along number would drop to the pace of the slowest of snails.

We would disconnect the dead batteries, and leave them in the sunlight to recharge.

When in the early 1980s TV hit my hood we learnt about the versatility of car batteries.

Since back then TV started in the afternoon and went off around midnight.

The battery would hold out until early in the morning, when we would be watching the John Tate-Kallie Knoetze boxing contest, only to flop on us.

Unless you had a spare battery, this would mean the end of entertainment just as the action was heating up; short for, John Tate giving Kallie a whipping.

I reminisced about this when I visited the City of Tshwane Sustainability Week at the CSIR Convention Centre this week; and stopped by at an exhibition stand by Nissan.

Typical of these big multinationals, I thought, as I marvelled at their bright inviting stand with white couches and Ottomans, and their attendant LED side lamps.

This equivalent of a townhouse was also kitted out with a coffee machine and a juicer to hook up their countless visitors with fresh fruit juice all day.

I sampled everything on offer; what else could I do in these days of economic recession and downgrades?

The odd thing, however, was this blue Nissan sedan parked next to the massive lounge.

Connecting the car and the stand was a power cable.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I asked what the deal was.

A very enthusiastic Hiten Parmar, director at uYilo e-Mobility Programme, was on hand to school me.

Based at the North Campus of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, uYilo is one of seven initiatives under the auspices of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).

This is a specialist agency of the highly under-appreciated Department of Science & Technology, established in 2013 to “stimulate and fast-track the uptake and roll-out of electric mobility technologies to support the global revolution and transition towards sustainable transport solutions”.

What is that, exactly? Back to the fancy lounge.

All the cups, close to 50, of cappuccino or fruit smoothie from the juicer and the side lamps were powered by the car battery.

Nissan calls this car Leaf.

It is a battery-powered automobile which runs as quiet as can be.

All the dashboard tells you, like a cellphone screen, is how much battery life you have left and how far that can take you in kilometres.

Parmar told me that the battery costs about R28 to charge fully, and can keep the car running up to 160km.

You then need to charge it for 6 hours or, if you have a fast charger, 20 minutes.

The fascinating upside for Africa is what he called V2G technology. V2G stands for vehicle-to-grid.

Once the car battery is charged, he explained to me that you can use it to light up your house.

Unlike my rural village and its short-lived batteries, this sounds like a way to go for Africa in fighting the deficit in access to electricity; more than 500 million Africans still do not have power.

Why then is the Leaf not a standard feature on our roads, if it emits no exhaust fumes and is good for our carbon footprint?

The answer is such cars still attract duties as luxury imports.

Unless these cars are manufactured locally, as desirable as they and the V2G technology might be, e-mobility will remain elusive, as will cleaner air.

However, if they can power homes, we should do everything to make them a reality.

* Kgomoseswana is author of Africa is Open for Business; media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and a weekly columnist for

African Independent – Twitter Handle: @VictorAfrica

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Sunday Independent