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Increasing demand for electric vehicles in SA

But price is one of the major barriers to electric vehicle adoption – AutoTrader.
One suggestion is that it should be government policy for bus fleets to be 50% electric going forward. Image: Balint Porneczi, Bloomberg

Demand is increasing in South Africa for electric vehicles (EVs) but the price of these vehicles is one of the major barriers to EV adoption in the country.

AutoTrader South Africa CEO George Mienie said it saw a 211% increase in demand in searches for EVs in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year.

“South African shoppers are actively looking for opportunities to buy electric vehicles, though the major challenge is still the initial purchase price,” he told the Smarter Mobility Africa conference on Tuesday.

“Consumers want an EV under R500 000. That is where the debate should be centred – education and price and looking at things like incentives, government taxes,” he said.

Mienie said 87% of respondents to the 2021 South African EV Buyers Survey by AutoTrader, in partnership with Smarter Mobility Africa, have never been inside an EV.

He stressed that consumer education is a big part of consumer adoption and the supply of EVs in the country is another challenge.

However, another eight EVs will be launched into the South African market in the first quarter of 2022.

“BMW has just said they are going to put 25 hybrids and battery EVs on South African roads by 2023, which is also encouraging,” he said.

Read: Government, auto sector look to accelerate new-energy vehicle production in SA

However, Mienie said a big portion of the corporate world needs to get involved in EV adoption and he questioned why corporate businesses are not incentivised to create more demand for EVs by, for instance, giving their employees company EVs.

Drop in the ocean

uYilo Electric Mobility Programme executive Hiten Parmar said original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have had various approaches to the introduction of EVs in South Africa and EV adoption has been very slow.

By June 2021, about 1 400 plug-in EVs had been sold in the country, he said.

“That is 0.014% of our total car parc fleet of 10 million vehicles, which is nothing to be proud [of],” he said.

However, Parmar said there has been a lot of development around the framework for infrastructure development, with the deployment of charging infrastructure driven by OEMs largely in the main towns, public areas such as shopping malls, and on highways at traditional fuel service stations.

Parmar said South Africa currently has almost 300 charging points across the country and, in terms of its low EV car parc, is well positioned at this stage in terms of charging infrastructure.

Mienie added that with 300 charging stations in the country, South Africa has one charging station for every four vehicles versus international statistics that show there is one charging station for every 20 vehicles.

Parmar said South Africa is facing some unique challenges in terms of EV adoption but the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition is trying to address them, of which the main one is the duties imposed on EVs.

“We look forward to the scenario changing in 2022,” he said.

‘Most EVs will cost more than R1m’

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai, head of innovation and partnerships at Distributed Power Africa based in Kenya, said most of the EVs that will be launched into the South African market will be from German OEMs and most will cost more than R1 million.

Kuhudzai questioned when more affordable Chinese EVs from brands such as Great Wall Motors and Haval will be launched in the country.

Mienie said that given the success of Haval in South Africa, he could not see why Chinese brands will not be successful from a battery EV point of view in the future – despite the current state of affairs in terms of the tax environment, import duties and ad valorem taxes.

He added that the second-hand market brings the average price of vehicles down and gives consumers access to vehicles, but the new vehicle market needs to feed that market first.

He believes this is where the challenge lies with EVs.

Missed opportunity

Busmark SA CEO Patuxolo Nodada said it has had an electric bus available for about eight years but it’s not yet on the road because there is no charging infrastructure.

Nodada said it should be government policy that fleet owners with buses should be 50% electric going forward.

“There is an opportunity for all of us to go to zero emissions through public vehicles without necessarily promoting electric vehicles.

“We have an EV that costs less than R500 000. We have it designed and a prototype that has been standing for quite some time and that vehicle could be delivered into the market,” said Nodada.

But there is no big buyer and in South Africa there are no incentives linked to EVs currently,” he said.

Nodada said one of the biggest barriers to entry is that buses are bought by municipalities, which are dysfunctional in terms of such opportunities.

He believes this situation needs to be improved and for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) function to be taken away from municipalities and be consolidated at either provincial or national level.

Focusing on ‘smart’

Gauteng MEC for Public and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo said the province has already adopted its roadmap towards 2030 – ‘Growing Gauteng Together 2030’ (through smart mobility) – and is one of the leading champions of smart mobility.

Mamabolo said transport is critical for the economy: it creates opportunities for growth, it generates jobs and facilitates international and cross-border trade, and links the province with its key trading partners.

“Smart mobility is central to the whole of society. It allows people to connect with places and shapes how we live our lives.

“There are changes taking place, particularly around technology, and we must leverage these changes to make our situation and lives better and our economy very much competitive.

“We do this in full realisation that transport is more than just travel. It connects people, it provides access to jobs, communities and goods and delivers vital social services,” he said.

Listen to Fifi Peters’s interview with Paul Boynton of Old Mutual Alternative Investments (or read the transcript here):




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Remember to take your own generator with you. While you grab a burger you can charge your battery.

An electric car in SA is about a useful as a steam toothbrush.

Or a hairdryer that works under water. To buy anything that relies on power from Eskom is lunacy.

For electric bus to work it just needs its daily km as range – they anyway return to depot?

Price is the issue, people don’t want to do the math on cost of ownership over time. So say 750k EV purchase price but you then have 25c/km operating cost versus 650k ICE purchase and then have 150c/km operating cost.

EV need to develop to stage that purchase price the same with same tax treatment. Here EV are taxed higher than ICE! Overseas, EV are heavily subsidized. Both are wrong

They are subsidised up to a point. Once they sell a certain number of models, the subsidies end. The subsidies for fossil fuel companies, however, just go on and on. In 2020 alone, they amounted to $5,9 TRILLION.

Sure. To be fair though, fuel price carries the RAF and various levies probably not far from half the pump price. My EV is not contributing to RAF or Roads. So if ICE uses 10km/l for 170c/km and my EV is 25c/km, about 80c of that saving is “taxes”

For me electric buses seem like no brainer given smog from diesel and low operating costs and recharge in offpeak at depot. Offpeak we have lots of cheap energy about 50c/kWh so electric bus would absolutely murder a diesel in operating cost. Why is it not common? Other countries have battery-less electric metro rail and trams maybe?

Johan, you are forgetting the “Taxi Mafia” factor, they will never let cheaper EV buses get off the ground! Recharging stations will be destroyed, as well as Dealerships, for sure!

And if taxis go EV, well the traffic congestion will be chaotic, a 25 liter jerrycan cannot sort that one out in the fast lane at peak traffic hour!

Perhaps they should start with a base model, like Volkswagen did in the beginning. Nothing fancy.

Watch the chaos unfold!

SA is a large country (and ruled by an even larger bunch of boxes…), so you will need battery capacity to get along. Imagine stuck in Pofadder while you are waiting for your battery to recharge. Another option is to get your flat battery swopped out with another battery already charged and that someone before you abused (and cANCer tax it to the hilt, else how are they going to recover the losses made on reduced petrol sales?). What is the carbon footprint for all these batteries and battery charging systems? This whole green electric car story reminds me of the Y2K rip-off.

You drive to Pofadder that regularly? Thoughts and prayers.

What!???? Are u telling me this whole green thing is just one big scam!?? Lol

Please ask Nissan why they aren’t importing the Leaf. This would likely sell below R500,000 and would make a great deal of sense. Nissan as a company has gone through a lot of issues lately but still, why not bring the Leaf to South Africa?

I suspect that its the manufacturers who don’t really take this market seriously when it comes to EVs, even though S. Africans are quite happy to spend considerable sums of money on cars and really have few alternatives in the form of public transport.

To be fair they get zero assistance from the S. African government, which still applies a higher duty to EVs than regular cars (who can understand why) and has made no effort to incentivise their take-up.

The reality is, we are missing out on new technology that offers a great many advantages over ICEs… and we are rapidly heading towards R20 a litre at the petrol pump.

Do you mean coal fired electric cars?????????????

Since virtually all electricity is generated by coal fired power plant what is to be gained by having electric vehicles?
Surely the big thing would be EV batteries charged by renewable power systems. Then it makes sense.

Like the automotive industry the energy industry is undergoing change, so this ideal you mention will be realised one day. It just takes time. The problem with ICEs is they create pollution every time you drive them. Also they require much more maintenance than an EV. Also electricity is still cheaper than petrol at this time. So there are several advantages to driving an EV in and of itself. My sister who is based in London has a BMW i3 and has not had to deal with the current queues, etc at petrol stations due to the UK supply issues. They just plug it in every night and its ready to roll in the AM.

The range is still rubbish on EV’s
The battery pricing is still crazy and the battery pack has an extremely limited lifespan
Major questions around what happens when anE V catches fire during an accident?
Are these EV’s set up to be 100% recyclable? (Taking Pyrolysis D-cycling of tyres and all plastics into acocunt)
Apart from celebrities harping on about Climate change (Soon changed from Global Warming), when will we truly hear from Internationally Accredited and truly independent Climatologists not beholden to anyone who has a finger in the ‘green’ pie?

Even R500k is too much, think a basic electric car for around R300k and I can see some people who’s lifestyles it will fit. Pensioners and people who are now working from home, if you’re mainly home based and can put up a few solar panels, it could be a good solution. You don’t need a lot of solar panels to charge the car if you don’t drive much. I have a small backup UPS with batteries connected to solar panels and they basically sit idle until Eskom decides to switch off the power, they could be charging a car and it would cost me zero extra money.

Another stumbling block (for SA, and other 3rd world countries) are the availability of electrician skills set.

You try to phone any electrician for a domestic call out job, most are tied up with existing work for a few days.

Just imagine when we all happily drive EV’s (using our domestic solar PV panels), and when there’s an electrical fault somewhere…which will come….movement/vibration is not exactly friends with wiring/battery connections…and we have a shortage of auto-electrical skills….I don’t want to know how expensive the labour rate per hour would be. (Car repaired….and phoof….there goes the whole month of electricity savings)

And with less use of fossil fuels, Govt will collect less tax on fuel…so they’ll try to get inventive to recover tax elsewhere.

End of comments.





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