South Africa Electric Car Sales Are “Humorous”

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

I generally wouldn’t cover electric car sales in a market where there are so few as in South Africa, but I found the absurdly low numbers somewhat “humorous,” the #1 electric car on the market is also quite funny, and I know we have some South African readers, so… here we are.

Basically, the story is that only three electric cars seem to be on the market in South Africa — the BMW i3, BMW i8, and Nissan LEAF. This just backs up the argument that BMW and Nissan are the most serious conventional automakers regarding the electric car market.

Interestingly, in this tiny market, the extremely expensive BMW i8 is actually the best-selling electric car. 😛 Granted, it just has one more sale than the BMW i3, but nonetheless…

Jose Pontes, who collected the numbers, does note that 2015 sales are already more than electric car sales in all of 2014 (160 vs 140), so that’s something. As a percentage of the new car market, they are up to 0.04% (yikes) from 0.02% (super yikes).

Here are the charts and table:

South Africa EV Sales 2015 - July

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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22 thoughts on “South Africa Electric Car Sales Are “Humorous”

  • That is quite humorous. Especially since Elon Musk comes from SA. If we could just get those darn prices lower…

    • Jeez, didn’t even cross my mind that it’s Elon’s home country. Oy.

      • I think you should write “the afro-american Elon Musk” everytime his name is mentioned. =P

        I wonder why he is yet to be on a ranking for “richest afro-americans” or “most influential afro-americans”. Oprah and Obama has nothing on him.

        • Hahaha, I soooo should. 😀 Then he might find our site! 😀

        • No, no… Technically I am an indigenous Australian, but that word, I don’t think it means quite what the dictionary says it does. And I suspect that might be true for the word
          Afro-American too.

          • I’d happily call you indigenous Australian to keep calling Musk an Afro-American. 😉

    • I wish he and Lyndon held onto their South African accent.

      • They definitely don’t sound American to me… for the most part.

          • Not allowed in my country, but I assume it was someone with a very strong accent, which I assume Elon & Lyndon never had. 😀

          • Not very strong.

            But very disappointing that a bloody 360p resolution video with only 1135 views is not allowed to be seen in USA.

          • It’s a permission thing. Some videos are blocked in foreign countries for some reason.

  • It is indeed his home country. BMW is quite well received in SA as they have production there. Same thing with VW and MB, strange they don’t offer their EVs there… gas prices are too high for average South Africans.

  • Speaking as a fellow antipodean, I can tell you there are definiately countries where companies make no serious attempt to market electric cars. Only Tesla has made an genuine effort here in Australia and I’m afraid they’re a bit pricey to drive in a country where we hit kangaroos more often than textbooks.

  • Buying an EV in a country with rolling blackouts on an almost daily basis and no change expected in the forseeable future is a tricky proposition. Add in a combination of diesel generators and PV and it might work, but at a cost too high for the average SA car owner.
    Electric vehicles require a steady and affordable supply of grid electricity. In countries where neither of those can be taken for granted, EV adoption will continue to lag behind.

    • South Africa should have good solar, how about wind?
      And with blackouts, if you are off grid with PV and wind and maybe a small battery for back up then the wind would charge the car over night?
      I do not know how the income levels are in SA, would think overall lower that some other counties?

      • It has excellent potential for solar (both CSP and PV), wind and biomass. There is also quite a bit of hydropower potential left untapped.

        SA’s problems are political:

        1) The ruling party is tied closely to mining unions that defend the coal industry.
        2) Electricity generation is dominated by an inefficient, bloated state monopoly called ESKOM.
        3) The government pressures ESKOM into connecting low income households and keeping rates low without giving matching subsidies.
        4) The government keeps throwing money at megaprojects like new nuclear reactors and huge new coal fired power stations that run years behind schedule but keep contractors connected to the ruling ANC in the money.

        Small-ish auctions for renewable capacity are frequently held. Those are open, transparent and highly competitive. The results are clear: wind and solar projects get delivered on time and within budget, and they sell their power on to ESKOM at prices competitive with any thermal power station.

        SA is a growing country with rising demand and a growing middle class. It needs nimble, competitive developers that can deliver moderately sized, distributed projects at a rapid pace – not monstrous power plants that take decades (!) to build.

        As for the blackouts: going off-grid is still hugely expensive and that gets even worse if you have to generate enough electricity for your home and your car (which can use more electricity than the rest of your house combined).

        • Thank you for all the info, sounds like a lot of the problems are sort of my home country, Canada, mainly political, with hope of change after October 19 this year.

          • While both countries face a mainly political problem, there is also a fundamental difference between both: Canada has a right wing government ideologically opposed to RE, SA has an unreconstructed leftist (some might say marxist) government whose ideology renders it unable to get things done.
            If there is one universal truth in politics, it’s that pragmatic centrists deliver while principled lefties and right wingers fail. Keep that in mind on the nineteenth 😉

    • This is a car that basically needs no servicing.

      And you can remotely turn on the heating (and perhaps cooling) using a smartphone app.

      A lot of Tesla supercharging stations have batteries already, perhaps because the grid cannot cope with such a large draw of current at once.

      I doubt many people use superchargers after midnight anyway.

      So Tesla could recharge their Powerwalls when Eskom is supplying power and discharge the batteries when there is a power cut.

  • If they can afford BMWi8, they should be able to afford a Tesla.

  • There are many factors that prevent South Africans from purchasing electric vehicles. In my opinion the following are the main causes of this distortion:

    1. Inequality: South Africa has one of the worst Gini coefficients in the world.

    2. High import duties: on vehicles to protect South Africa’s vehicle manufacturing sector.
    3. Extra tax on luxury vehicles: The luxury tax is based purely on price, so a Nissan Leaf ends up being classified as a luxury vehicle.
    4. Electricity crisis: South Africa’s rolling blackouts (load shedding) are likely to persist for a few years.

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