No escape from high fuel prices

Electric cars not a solution yet.
The recently launched Audi e-tron SUV is one of the crop of electric vehicles that could benefit from higher oil prices – everywhere other than in SA. Picture: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A lot has been said about the petrol price reaching a new record of above R17 per litre and the possibility of further increases due to rising oil prices and a weak rand. Every household has seen its monthly fuel bill increase dramatically this year, in some cases to thousands of rand per month.

There is no real alternative other than to employ every fuel saving tip possible.

Unfortunately, electric cars are not yet a solution to the dilemma. Their disadvantages still outweigh the benefits of never having to pay for fuel again.

A recent newspaper supplement lists 10 different hybrid cars to consider, but shows only one pure electric car available in SA: the cute BMW i3.

Toyota offers its well-known Prius hybrid, as well as its Auris in hybrid form. Porsche offers a hybrid version of the four-wheel drive Cayenne and the Panamera saloon, while Mercedes-Benz counters with its big SUV in the market for hybrid vehicles.

Lexus sells two hybrid models in SA, while BMW has the most hybrids on offer with four different models. The BMW i3 is available as a hybrid as well as a pure electric car.

The Tesla Model S, arguably the world’s most successful electric car, is not for sale in SA, nor are about 50 other electric cars offered by manufacturers such as Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen, Geely, Smart, Chevrolet and Hyundai.

Twenty minutes with a calculator and a piece of paper to list the pros and cons explains why electric cars are a huge success in only one country in the world, Norway.

In Norway, more than 50% of new cars sold so far this year are pure electric, plug-in hybrids or conventional hybrids. The Nissan Leaf and the luxury Tesla models are the biggest sellers as Norway has overcome the two greatest disadvantages of electric cars: their high cost and limited range.

The price of electric cars is subsidised by up to 50% in Norway, making them cheaper than their petrol or diesel equivalents. The government has indicated that it would like to ban sales of new fuel-driven cars as early as 2025.

With a surface area of some 325 000 square kilometres and 1.7 million of its population of 5.3 million resident in and around the capital Oslo, Norwegians don’t drive long distances. Most worthwhile destinations are within the 300 km reach of an electric car.

And electricity is cheap, with 98% of all electricity generated by hydroelectric power plants (although the country had to import electricity from Denmark in the last six months due to low rainfall, which curtailed the output of the hydroelectric plants).

The motoring environment in SA is vastly different to that of Norway. In comparison, SA is a huge country of 1.2 million square kilometres. A pure electric car with a range of 200 km to 300 km, which takes about four to eight hours to recharge, would turn a trip from Gauteng to Amanzimtoti into a travel excursion of a few days.

According to BMW, the electric i3 can also be recharged with a rapid charger at a BMW dealership in about 40 minutes. In practice, this means that a long weekend in Cape Town will include several trips through traffic to a dealership before you can start sightseeing and enjoying the good life.

And the i3 is very expensive, with a list price of nearly R640 000. 

One should also remember that electricity isn’t free and, in the case of SA with its reliance on coal-fired power stations, it’s not governmentally friendly either. According to two different owner forums, the i3 consumes some 20 kW of electricity per 100 km, at a cost of nearly R40 at the local municipal rate of just less than R2 per kW. According to BMW, its 120d uses 3.9 litres of diesel per 100 km, which will cost around R61 at the current price of R15.69.

Compare the savings of R22 per 100 km of the electric car to the difference in price between the 120d at R524 000 and the i3 at R637 000 and decide whether it is worthwhile, even considering that motorists rarely achieve manufacturers’ consumption claims. The higher maintenance of a diesel vehicle is less of an issue if one includes a maintenance contract.

A hybrid offers a better alternative. In the BMW stable, the hybrid versions are only slightly more expensive than the economical diesel models and offer fuel savings of around 60%. However, there is a big price difference between hybrids and petrol models – a case of charging a premium for the benefit of lower running costs.

With the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera, the difference between a hybrid and the equivalent petrol model is around R500 000. The difference in price between a hybrid and petrol-powered Toyota Auris reflects the same trend: the hybrid sells for R427 000, while the petrol versions are priced between R280 000 and R378 000. But this little hybrid still uses nearly four litres of fuel per 100 km.

It seems the best alternative is to opt for a smaller, fuel-efficient car at an affordable price until Elon Musk gets back to work and improves his batteries further.

Meanwhile, we can expect no reprieve from government in the form of lowered excise duties or reduced levies on petrol and diesel. Although it is reasonable to expect economic benefits from lower fuel prices, government has no leeway to reduce these taxes.

Reducing tax by R1 per litre will not make a huge difference to the motorist – it will still leave petrol at an expensive R16 per litre. But government cannot afford to lose even R1 in fuel tax. A reduction of R1 in fuel levies will reduce tax by more than R23 billion, while National Treasury had to increase Vat to 15% in the last budget to raise a much-needed R26 billion.

Since then, government’s finances have probably worsened with lower-than-expected tax revenues and more ugly surprises from state-owned companies. If the declaration at the end of the Jobs Summit is anything to go by, consumers might have to brace for more taxes – on things like bottles, light bulbs and electronic goods.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


I have an i3 all electric, my points:

1. My consumption averages 15kWh/100km.
2. My elec does not cost R2/kWh, more like R1.34
3. So that is 20c/km
4. There is no way in hell a 120d runs 3.9l/100km in town so donthat math on what reviews say is 5.8l/100km in urban use

Recharge at Charge Now stations is free by the way. Yes there are too few, but that will change – network effect. Side benefit is reserved parking spaces 😉

One thing that will have to change is that I pay no contribution to RAF or road infrastructure.

From a driver perspective, it is brilliant. Insane torque off the line, it drops sports cars – though only up to about 40km/h when they go roaring past in shock that a little sewing machine was two car lengths ahead.

By 2025 I predict half of all new cars will be pure EV or hybrid

I could not agree more.

Also a 120D in a best case senario on town probably does 5.2L/100KM
And Diesel is not R15.6, Diesel is now more expensive than petrol at somewhere in the R17 region depending on where you live.

Can’t wait till I can get my EV to replace my Up, I just need to upscale the PV array on my roof and I will be propelled forward daily thanks to that big burning ball in the sky.

Johan, yes, I’m also a proponent for EV’s.

If funds was no object, initially I liked the i3 Range-extender model (with the 650cc twin-cyl engine, that drives a powerful generator. Actually a Kymco superscooter engine, sold under BMW scooter banner 😉

However, if one can stick to city driving, the ‘ReX’ version is an unnecessary complexity. Ingenious yes….but then one is saddled up with servicing the oil & air filters of the integrated generator…which defeats the purpose of all-EV where there is NO servicing required.

That’s another advantage of EV’s: no services. No oil/filter/plugs/pricey CAMBELTS!! etc. No exhaust repairs..but that’s rare these days with unleaded fuels. Accepted, shocks & suspension components will still have to be replaced as a any normal car.

But there’s a bit caveat presently: after say 5-7 yrs of use, the battery back will have to be replaced, as it will be down half to its range. In an Oct 2017 CAR-Mag article, the i3 battery replacement was quoted to be R339K 🙁 That is the only major cost drawback of any EV. In the USA a $8,000 battery replacement was quoted.

If chemical engineers can improve EV-battery tech & allow prices to drop with more widespread adoption, I’m all for it.

Actually, even for a typical 2-car family, one being an EV makes sense: the EV is used by the spouse doing innercity trips/school runs/errands, and the 2nd petrol/diesel car/SUV/bakkie is the family’s weekend/long-distance holiday vehicle.

Open road/high cruising speeds are obviously an EV-range killer. Stop/start city use (e.g. suburban ‘rat-running’) is where EV comes to it’s right, as it uses zero energy when standing still in traffic. 🙂


My first visit to a dealer will be Feb 2020 for a compulsory brake test/service. That benefit of low/no service is going to cause fundamental changes to dealer business. Factory will have to give larger margins as most dealers cannot survive without workshop. But, in the low/no service does a factory need a dealer?

No need to worry about the battery. The i3 has an 8 year warranty for 80% of original capacity. So if range now 200km then 8 years later still minimum 160km. I’d like to get my hands on a battery pack from a write-off, would be very nice UPS or solar battery.

I went pure electric, not range extender for most of the reasons you mention.

Just purchased a petrol car, probably my last one if sa gets it act in order and for once gets ahead of the curve.

The main issue they have to resolve is range. 300km is not enough to do much with in any big sa city. That is a few days of driving for normal people.

It’s coming but not here yet.

Not far away now I suspect but I can imagine a world where everyone ie driving battery, using solar at home and work to recharge while parked and with a smart grid that can use this massive decentralized set of generators and storage to manage the grid. Has a lovely logic and symmetry to it.

One advantage is you can park in front of Eskom’s head office parking lot, where they have the charging stations that are empty

@Johan. Your comment “dropping sports cars off the line” gave me a good chuckle *lol*
(…I can imagine a Porsche or Ferrari driver revving his engine at the red traffic light next to you…while you can’t ‘rev’ your electric motor in return in frustration;-) ….BUT then within the first 40-meters’ distance or so, the sportscar driver realised an EV pulls off like getting launched by a steam-catapult off an aircraft carrier’s deck *lol*

I had similar fun some years ago, when owned a brilliant SUZUKI “BURGMAN” 650cc superscooter. It’s the only scooter with an electronic-selectable CVT-gearbox…3 modes..manual/sport/tiptronic. In the correct mode…almost like launch-control….I left many surprized 1,000cc superbikers behind at intersections, while they’re still getting their clutch-release/throttle modulation correct. My superscoot then clears the intersection with a superbike in trail, and a few metres beyond, then the superbike rider comes roaring past, flat out….to save some lost ego *lol* Great fun!

Where on God’s green earth did you think suck this hogwash

Do your research first before writing such hogwash. With jaguars Ipace coming to sa next year and the charging network going online end of November driving from jhb to Durban takes six hours with one stop to recharge and a cost of 345 zar for that trip.

I suggest you read up. The Nissan leaf is already in SA and version 2.0 comes next along with the etron from Audi.

Come now be credible not moronic.

Your figures cannot possibly be correct.

2018 H1 figures by geography are:
China: 394 000
Europe: 195 000
USA: 122 000
Japan: 27 000
Other: 45 000

So how is Tesla Model S possibly the world’s most successful electric car? Maybe the world’s loudest marketing spend? Maybe the largest media following? But not largest sales, not most successful.

You have to go to China, which has more than half of global sales over the first six months of 2018.

DO YOU MEAN COAL FIRED ELECTRIC CARS?????????????????????????


Sure, for many users their recharge will be from coal fired electricity

1. I offset more than five times my EV via solar on my roof
2. Half of SA petrol comes from coal through fischer process that has double the emissions per liter than normal crude refining has.
3. Making petrol and burning it in internal combustion engine in order to turn a shaft is very inefficent compared to EV from coal.

Anyway, you are free to like electric or not. I have EV and ICE, each for its own purpose

@Zokey. What you’re trying to say is, when I shave with my Phillips ELECTRIC shaver…I use wattage which is generated from burning coal?

No worries, soon I’m going to attempt a home-made conversion to my (non eco-friendly) electric shaver, into a tiny petrol-engined model instead.
I have an idea: I’ll remove a prop-engine taken from a radio-controlled toy airplane…and try to marry the gearing-rations to the shaver. Once I get that right, I’ll have a ‘roaring’ shave, wiping out my beard and skin in flames….

…at least I will have a nice masculine smelling ‘octane’ fragrance aftershave *lol*

Paragraph 16 states “…with its reliance on coal-fired power stations, it’s not governmentally friendly either….”

If even something like this can slip by, how accurate is any of your other “facts”???

End of comments.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Moneyweb newsletters

Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us:

Search Articles:
Click a Company: