As the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) increases in leading markets around the world, a new study has captured how South Africans feel about battery-powered cars.
The 2021 South African EV Buyers Survey by AutoTrader in partnership with Smarter Mobility Africa, shines a spotlight on the disjunct between consumer perception and industry assumption about the use and ownership of EVs.
George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, released the results of the 2021 survey during his keynote address at the 2021 Smart Mobility Africa Summit, which kicked off today as a hybrid event in Johannesburg. He said data from SA’s largest digital automotive marketplace is proof that local EV appetite has grown year on year.
“South African shoppers are actively looking for opportunities to buy electric vehicles, though the major challenge is still the initial purchase price. According to AutoTrader’s data, there has been a 210% increase in searches for available EVs in South Africa,” revealed Mienie.
This sentiment is echoed by the number of respondents in the survey who said they were likely or very likely to consider purchasing an electric vehicle in the future, which increased to a significant 70% in 2021.
Still, as Mienie pointed out, cost remains one of the chief barriers to broader adoption, with the survey indicating such vehicles are still out of the financial reach of around two-thirds of consumers.
Interestingly, almost half of the respondents indicated they would consider purchasing a used EV over a new one, listing lower prices as the key motivating factor.
Perceptions around EVs often don’t match reality in SA
The perceived lack of national charging infrastructure, meanwhile, was again the most cited disadvantage of EV ownership. Encouragingly, this percentage fell two points from 2020’s figure to 59% in 2021, just ahead of charging time (likewise down two points to 58%) in second, and the initial cost of purchase (55%) in third.
Despite being often anecdotally cited, range anxiety (26%) was way down the list of the perceived largest drawbacks of running an EV, behind the potential impact of loadshedding (38%) and inconvenient charging options (34%).
Though 75% of respondents identified BMW as a brand with an EV option in its line-up locally, Tesla intriguingly remained top of mind in terms of product availability, despite its wares still not being commercially available in SA. It’s a similar case when it comes to the most trusted EV manufacturer, with 52% of respondents selecting the Bavarian firm and an astonishing 40% opting for Tesla.
“One of the major insights identified in the report is the fact that consumer perception, sentiment and expectations have not shifted markedly in the past year. This indicates the automotive industry needs to do more to educate the consumer, as many potential buyers are simply not aware of the EV products and infrastructure available in SA. For instance, while BMW is highly rated, South Africans place their highest trust in Tesla as a brand – even though it’s not available in South Africa,” concluded Mienie.
Smarter mobility options are growing across South Africa
Ben Pullen, Chairman of Smarter Mobility Africa, said it was great that so many of the key metrics noted in the survey are positive despite there not being a huge amount of activity around electric vehicles in South Africa during 2021.
“There haven’t been many new electric vehicle launches or announcements, neither have there been physical events which showcase the vehicles, yet the results are heading in the right direction. I look forward to seeing how the results develop over the next 12 months, especially knowing that there will be new electric car launches in South Africa in 2022, we as Smarter Mobility Africa will once again run the electric vehicle road trip Africa across South Africa in April 2022 and Cape Town has officially got the first Formula E race in Southern Africa in the race calendar,” said Pullen.
The 2021 South African EV Buyers Survey is now available online.
The three-day Smarter Mobility Africa Summit runs until 7 October in Johannesburg and online. Register for your front row seat to find out more about how EVs will change the face of transport in Africa.