electric vehicles

In a new report State of Electric Vehicles in South Africa, the national uYilo eMobility Programme addresses the four focal points of the current standing and future of electric vehicles in the country – which become extremely relevant during the COVID19-induced lockdown.

“Air quality, manufacturing, imports, charging infrastructure and government policy, are the main focal areas for electric vehicles in South Africa,” says uYilo.

“Each of these must be addressed in order for South Africa to follow the global transition to non-fossil fuel transportation, boost consumer adoption and to remain competitive on the international stage.”

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Plugging the problem: Addressing some misconceptions on EVs

Air pollution is a major problem globally, with as much as 80% of the world’s population living in an urban environment with pollutant levels that exceed WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines.

The Department of Transport Green Transport Strategy (GTS) launched in 2018 identified road transport in South Africa as being the primary source of transport-related CO₂ emissions, contributing to 91.2% of total transport greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from the combustion of petrol and diesel.

There are nearly seven million people who die annually as air pollution increases the risks of respiratory and heart disease, lung cancer, low birth weight and both children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable according to the WHO’s research.

This places a significant burden on the healthcare system and the weaknesses of that system are being exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic which is impacting human life across the planet.”

Automotive manufacturing has been a part of South Africa’s industry since the assembly of the Model T Ford began in February 1924.

This industry currently employs 110,000 people across the automotive spectrum. Along the South African Automotive Masterplan 2035 reaching targets of one per cent of global vehicle production and increasing local content from 39 to 60% with the goal of doubling employment in the value chain, electric vehicles will have to play a significant role going forward.

“Countries and cities worldwide are planning to ban petrol and diesel vehicles, some from as soon as 2025,” says uYilo. “With most of our vehicle exports to the European Union, where will our local production go, we cannot consider Africa as a dumping ground and if they should leapfrog directly into embracing the electric revolution, they would not even be a market consideration.”

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Plugging the problem: Addressing some misconceptions on EV

Electric vehicles in South Africa

Current import conditions do not favour electric vehicles and South Africa does not manufacture battery-electric passengers’ vehicles to provide for the mass market. This impacts consumer choice in the switch to electric mobility.

“Internationally, price parity for electric vehicles against conventional fuel vehicles is expected by 2023. Battery costs have dropped significantly and manufacturers are increasing production to meet consumer demand,” says uYilo. “Low sales volumes for EVs in SA are a reflection on the customs tariffs imposed. Petrol and diesel vehicles from the EU have a customs duty of 18% while for electric vehicles it is 25%. Then there is the Ad Valorem Customs Excise Duties and VAT.”

The charging network in South Africa is growing, there are currently around 214 public chargers in South Africa listed on the global community-based platform PlugShare which provide charge times from 25 minutes to six hours, depending on their location, power capacity and the vehicle battery size.

“Perceived range anxiety remains an issue for new adopters of electric mobility,” says uYilo. “International use cases indicate that as much as 70% of charging takes place at home and not at public chargers. Except for high mileage journeys, there is very little need for the typical car buyer to charge their vehicle in a public space and it always has full range when left plugged in at home.”

“In terms of grid impact, using the global five per cent average for the electric vehicle fleet, a similar fleet in SA would consume around 0.5 per cent of peak energy demand. South Africa’s current electric vehicle car parc stands at 0.009%.”

For South Africa as a signatory to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention which was adopted in December of 2015, SA is committed to a “peak, plateau and decline (PPD)” emissions trajectory. Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis tracking government climate actions and measures against them rates South Africa’s actions as “Highly Insufficient” by December 2019.

“Broader policy frameworks need to be aligned toward addressing the global climate crisis,” says uYilo. “For South Africa, it is especially challenging facing this as a developing country with priorities to reduce poverty and inequality.”