Is South Africa ready for the Electric Vehicles Disruption?

Is South Africa Ready For Electric Vehicles?
Is South Africa Ready For Electric Vehicles?

Quick summary

This article is discussing about the readiness of South Africa to welcome Electric Vehicles into the Automotive park. Main points raised are below:

  1. Lack of infrastructure and investment
  2. How is South Africa progressing?
  3. Third-party investment and lower import costs
  4. Eskom’s power issues


Climate change and global warming are increasingly having more of an influence on people’s day to day decision making. Whether it’s through recycling, eating less meat or reducing their energy usage, the public is making more and more eco-conscious choices.

The automobile industry is no different. It is now common for consumers to opt for the products on the market which have a minimal effect on the environment. In this case, electric vehicles. This is a divided market, in terms of attitudes from the public and market leaders. There have long been questions over the reliability of electric vehicles. However, this hasn’t stopped a high number of leading car manufacturers investing heavily in EV’s. Many recognise the potential in the industry, and should these questions over EV reliability be answered, they won’t want to get left behind.

In South Africa’s case, there are even more obstacles in the way of moving forward with EV’s. These include an over-reliance on fossil fuels, the infrastructure in place, high import costs and financial difficulties with the countries main energy provider, Eskom.

Lack of infrastructure & investment

Many countries have joined the Paris Agreement, in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the effects of climate change. South Africa is one of these countries, they have since developed their integrated resource plan. The country, however, is still miles behind when it comes to providing enough charging stations for an investment in an electric vehicle to be a worthy one.

South Africa have stated their intentions to reduce their carbon footprint. Introducing more electric vehicles onto the market would help them to meet these aims. Currently, however, they lack the infrastructure in place compared to other countries. There are only 200 EV charging points in South Africa. To put this into perspective, the UK has 25,000 and is 5 times smaller than the UK.

Many other European countries are aiming to be all-electric by 2040, banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars.

This is the level of intent required from South Africa for Electric Vehicles to be a viable option for the public. EV’s have become a popular alternative to fossil fuel vehicles in many countries. However, this is due to a large investment from the government as well as incentives provided for opting for an EV.

Countries such as China, Norway and cities like California have supplied plenty of charging stations for people with EV’s. Norway also offers free charging points and parking for drivers with an electric vehicle.

One of the consumers’ main concerns over EV’s is their reliability and battery life. Travelling long-distances in South Africa is currently difficult, requiring diversions in order to recharge often enough.

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FIGURE 1 – EVs charging station sign

How is South Africa progressing?

South Africa may be behind countries such as China and Norway when it comes to infrastructure, however, they’ve shown signs of heading in the right direction.

There are three electric vehicles currently on the market in the country, the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and the BMW i8. These manufacturers provide 13 charging stations across the country. BMW and Nissan also have an agreement in place which enables drivers of these electric vehicles to use either manufacturer’s charging stations for their EV. It’s efforts like these to improve charging accessibility and convenience which will ultimately convince South African drivers to switch to an EV.

Third-party investment & lower import costs

Tesla is the market leader when it comes to designing and supplying electric vehicles. They also invest heavily in charging points to improve accessibility for drivers of all electric vehicle manufacturers, not just Teslas.

There were plans for Tesla to operate in South Africa in 2019, however, the import costs of electric vehicles dissuaded Elon Musk to do so. These costs are much higher than that of petrol and diesel vehicles.

If the South African government fails to invest in the infrastructure for electric vehicles to thrive, then they must make it easier for third-party manufacturers to do so.

In the US, any consumers who purchase a high-end Tesla are given access to Tesla ‘superchargers’ located in various locations around the country. These enable Tesla owners to charge up quickly then get back onto the road. If the South African government were to lower the import costs for electric vehicles, this would encourage other parties and manufacturers to invest in the EV industry, including its infrastructure.

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FIGURE 2 – Wind Farm in South Africa

Eskom’s power issues

Once there has been a greater level of investment from the government and third parties in order to improve the infrastructure for electric vehicles, there is still the issue of South Africa’s unreliable power supply.

A country full of charging stations will require a reliable power supply, something which South Africa has lacked in recent years. The country is currently unable to fulfil their energy needs, meaning they are experiencing planned rolling blackouts, otherwise known as load shedding. This is due to Eskom, the countries main energy provider being in copious amounts of debt and struggling with severe maintenance and operational issues.

If South Africa is to move forward with the Electric Vehicle revolution, there is plenty of change needed. This includes a greater investment from the government on the countries infrastructure, as well as more leniency on EV import costs to encourage investment from third parties. However, all of this would be redundant unless Eskom are able to consistently provide enough energy for Electric Vehicles, which may require greater dependence on renewable energy resources.

Author: Callum McPhillips

Callum works for Battery Experts. Based in South Africa, they provide a range of batteries and power supplies for personal and commercial use.


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