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You were promised electric cars – but makers may not deliver

By NUNBEN DIXON, Head of Automotive: Gumtree Auto

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The reduction of carbon emissions is high on the agenda for several countries, including the UK, India and China. The introduction of affordable electric vehicles (EVs) are held up as a panacea to the pollution problem governments around the globe are facing. In Norway, EV’s are exempt from acquisition tax, VAT, tolls, ferry fees and in some cities, they enjoy free parking.  The UK’s Road to Zero strategy aims to eliminate petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, France offers a €4,000 rebate to car owners trading in their diesel vehicles and Denmark has plans to ban petrol and diesel car sales within the next decade.

Most automakers have at least a version of a hybrid or electrical model intended for the mass market in the works and forecasts by the likes of DNV GL (Det Norske Veritas) believe that 50% of all cars sold in 2033 will be electric. ChargePoint, operator of the world’s largest charging station networks, predicts that they will see a 50-fold increase in the next six years.  

But while governments and industries are gearing up to go green, the reality is that the uptake has been, and could remain, slow, says Nunben Dixon, Head of Gumtree Auto.

“Despite more than half of consumers saying they would consider buying an EV, electric vehicles represent less than 1% of all vehicles sold globally. There is still a long way to go and many markets have realized that their projections were overly ambitious.”

In Australia, only 1350 of the 1.15 million cars sold in the country are electric despite initial predictions that fifty percent of new vehicles sold on the continent would be electric by 2020.

The most prominent reason for low sales remain the cost. A vehicle making use of a 90-100kWh battery pack is dependent on a cell costing between R250,000 to R350,000 – the average cost of an entire fossil fuel-powered car. In Australian, the cheapest EV is still priced around R700,000.

“Ordinarily, with economies of scale you can assume that mass production will always lower costs. However, these batteries are dependent on a number of materials which may actually see price increases – cobalt and lithium.”

While policies are encouraging the sale of EVs, raw material sourcing is largely unregulated and unstable. The politics surrounding the acquisition of these materials are also notable. 60% of lithium utility lies in non-battery applications but McKinsey suggests that EVs will cover 75% of the lithium requirements within the next six years – a sizeable shift. The control of the market lies within four companies which jointly hold 98% of the market, two of which are based in the US and one in China.

“Whether we like it or not, political control plays a significant role in the cost of your car. Consider the effects of the trade war between the US and China last year. China is the biggest market for EVs in the world. As the situation intensified, China imposed a 40% import tax on Tesla resulting in an overnight price hike of R280,000 per vehicle.”

The use of cobalt is considered another contentious issue. 65% of the world’s cobalt reserves are concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has been marred by instability. This could pose the next challenge for automakers: removing cobalt from batteries. Cobalt is critical in extending battery life after recharging, removing it leads to more electronic waste.

AlixPartners conducted a study that has found more than a quarter-billion-dollars in research and development and capital expenditures have been spent on EVs across the globe, with many models destined to be unprofitable.

“Automakers are in a tough position. EVs are lauded as the future of transportation, consumers are supportive of it, their competitors are working hard on it and they cannot afford to miss the opportunity. But they may also take on a significant financial loss because in pursuing that opportunity,” says Dixon.

“The lesson here is that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. Most R&D budgets are steering towards the development of EVs, rather than the improvement of petrol and diesel models. The solution that will lower emissions and replace fossil fuels may not have been invented yet.”

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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