S01E05 Everything e-mobility: Ecotourism and lithium-ion batteries with Hiten Parmar

Posted On: February 3, 2022

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S01E05 Everything e-mobility: Ecotourism and lithium-ion batteries with Hiten Parmar

Our hosts, Yanesh Naidoo and Goodwill Mabena, sit down with Hiten Parmar to chat about uYilo’s journey and how they are democratising e-mobility in South Africa. We gain insights into this company – who they are and what they have contributed to e-mobility.

We discuss:

  • the relationship between uYilo and Jendamark
  • the contributions of Hiten Parmar to the industry
  • skills development and the skills gap in South Africa
  • the shift in tourism and the rise of ecotourism
  • different types of batteries in electric vehicles
  • and much more…



“As much as you want to increase affordability and access to battery products, you don’t want to compromise on the safety of these products.”Hiten Parmar

Hiten Parmar has a passion for contributing to advancements within the transport and energy sectors globally through deployment of technological interventions to solve major economic, competitiveness and societal challenges.

Hiten stands as a leading executive, thought leader and industry expert, with over 15 years’ in his chosen profession. As Director of South Africa’s national electric mobility programme, he delivers on the mandate of enabling electric mobility across both the public and private sectors.

He also serves as liaison for multiple sector-related forums within South Africa, as well as internationally on advancing the electric mobility ecosystem.

Learn more about uYilo:


01:26 – How uYilo and Jendamark started working together?

  • The relationship started when Hiten was encouraging Jendamark to get into the alternative energy space and the e-mobility space.
  • Since then, Hiten and uYilo have been a great source of information to help with Jendamark’s electric vehicle strategy.
  • Through his guidance, Jendamark has two key R&D projects on the way and is developing an electric charger and a small vehicle to help with transport between our two factories.

02:52 – We believe that there is no great technology without greater people behind the tech and, as a way of introduction, who is Hiten Parmar?

  • Hiten Parmar said he dedicated his entire career to the automotive industry, starting out with internal combustion engines and shifting his focus to the technology side.
  • In the early stages, he focused on automation lines, building cars and then later moved to research and design of the technology of the internal combustion engine/engine control/vehicle control.

04:40 – How has uYilo overcome the huge skills gap in South Africa?       

  • When technology matures, there is always innovation that comes into play, but behind the technology are the people, and there will always be a need for skills development.
  • There is a big skills gap globally, and it is even worse in South Africa.
  • We are aware that, with the technology maturing at this rate, the skills gap is increasing too.
  • uYilo understands that it’s not just about the vehicle itself but about the ecosystem around electric mobility.
  • In every new market that is developed there is a need for skills because without the skills, the success rate will be low.
  • Over the past eight years, we’ve grown our skills internally and have contributed to skills development externally to fully acknowledge the gap.

07:02 – What are the projects that uYilo is working on within the mobility space?

  • Our facilities extend from the battery side, where we focus on testing the batteries and the accreditation of all the testing that happens.
  • Then we have the vehicle system, which includes the smart grid ecosystem, or how the vehicles interact with the grid and the whole energy system.
  • Over the years we have worked on ecotourism projects where we focused on utility vehicles in the tourism environment.
  • There is growth within ecotourism projects in Africa. That is unique to us and not as competitive as the commercial vehicle and passenger car markets.
  • We have completed e-bike projects, utility vehicle applications and worked closely with OEMs to utilise second-life EV batteries, looking at vehicle-to-grid, and inclusion of solar and energy management.

09:05 – What is ecotourism?

  • Tourism and agriculture are moving to the green environment and that is creating an industry shift and a huge opportunity, especially for Africa.
  • There are several markets that are looking at bringing the green agenda into tourism.
  • When you look at game viewing for example, guests often smell the diesel fumes and also hear the noise created by the trucks, and it isn’t a good experience for the environment, especially the animals.
  • The question becomes: What is the opportunity for bringing e-mobility into tourism?
  • We have seen in Botswana they have started integrating electric safari boats and electric game-viewing vehicles.

12:03 – What are the opportunities within the ecosystem?

  • The opportunities lie in looking at the complete value chain and the whole supply chain of e-mobility, and not just the vehicles.
  • Especially in South Africa there is a huge market for solar energy and, because the sun is not always shining, that gives rise to the need for storage facilities.
  • This is where we utilise second-life EV batteries, which are retired from EVs and can be reused to store energy.
  • When you think about using the battery in our car to support your home environment, it starts getting exciting.
  • EVs or traditional vehicles are only used between 5% and 7% of the time because, most of the time, they are parked either in the garage at home or in the parking lot at work.
  • EV technology is looking to exploit that opportunity to support the energy system.

20:01 – What are the different battery types available in the market?

  • There is a huge evolution in battery technology.
  • In the old internal combustion engine there used to be lead acid batteries which were used to start the vehicle and power the lights and other items in the vehicle.
  • The lead acid was replaced with lithium ion batteries. Lithium technology is the main driver in electric vehicles as well as the new-generation internal combustion engine.
  • There are various types of lithium combinations out there, like phosphate or cobalt or other technologies.
  • Each manufacturer has a different preference and so the list is endless, but lithium composition is the main type of component in batteries.

21:31 – How do OEMs differentiate themselves in battery technology compared to others?

  • When it comes to competition, it comes down to battery safety and energy density, but safety is a big concern.

23:27 – Do we have battery regulations for the safety of products coming into the market?

  • That is very important because standardisation is critical for everything. It is what protects the consumer.
  • Internationally, we have standards that are being developed and, in most cases, we adopt those standards.
  • Our staff contributes in the international forum on the IEC as well as the SABS technical committees to make sure that we standardise products in South Africa.

25:07 – Can ordinary citizens import their own cells into the country and use them?

  • This is the role of authorities but, as we know, innovation and market developments move ahead before regulation comes in.
  • This is what certainly needs to be addressed by the authorities because, if not, we will have inferior products coming in.
  • We have alerted authorities to look into that and we expect some revisions in terms of specific criteria for lithium ion batteries coming into South Africa.
  • As much as you want to increase affordability and access to battery products, you don’t want to compromise the safety of these products.
  • There has to be balance between innovation and regulation.