Electric Vehicles In South Africa: Where Are We Now?

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South Africa’s uYilo Electric Mobility Program, a multi-stakeholder, collaborative program focused on enabling, facilitating, and mobilizing electric mobility in South Africa, has just released its State of Electric Vehicles in South Africa report. According to the report, 1,119 plugin electric vehicles had been sold in South Africa by the end of 2019. It’s interesting to see that the sales were practically evenly split between battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). 545 (49%) of these were BEVs and 574 (51%) were PHEVs. These numbers give an interesting look in to the state of electric vehicles in South Africa even though they are low compared to other markets with mature EV industries such as Europe, North America, and China.

BEVs have a 49% market share amongst plug-in vehicles in South Africa despite only 3 models ever having been available on the market to date. In fact, only the BMW i3 has been consistently available since 2015, hence it topping the sales charts with 405 units sold since 2015. The first-generation Nissan Leaf was discontinued after a short run, perhaps due to the now infamous battery degradation issues in warmer climates like South Africa that were made worse by the fact that the Leaf did not have an active thermal management system. The Jaguar I-PACE has sold an impressive 46 units since its launch in South Africa in 2019. Those are decent figures for a BEV that retails for over R1,7 million ($91,000).

“South Africa imposes punitive duties and taxes on imported EVs which have contributed to the relatively low sales,” 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 percent while for electric vehicles it is 25 percent. Then there is the Ad Valorem Customs Excise Duties and VAT.”

Despite having 10 models available, essentially 8 more than the BEVs if we remove the discontinued 1st generation Nissan Leaf, PHEVs just edge out BEVs at 51% market share. Could this mean South Africans are not too worried about range anxiety? The two BEV models have done quite well under the circumstances. Interestingly, BMW models top both BEV and PHEV charts, with the i8 Roadster as the top selling PHEV with 295 units sold despite its R2.4 million ($130,000) price tag. South Africa’s love for BMWs could be an advantage for the new BMW X5 xDrive45e that comes with a 24 kWh battery pack providing an all-electric range of about 80 km. Very impressive for an SUV of its size. It has already sold 31 units since launch late last year and could potentially be a game changer in the South African EV space due to its impressive all-electric range. 

South Africa BEV and PHEV Sales
South Africa BEV and PHEV Sales

We believe 2020 will be a turning point and will see BEV sales figures break away and dominate based on 2 points:

1) More BEVs Coming to South Africa in 2020/2021

Several full electric vehicles are coming to South Africa soon, including the Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC, the New 40 kWh Nissan Leaf and the 62 kWh Nissan Leaf e+, the Opel Corsa-e (hopefully), and the new MINI-E. BMW South Africa seems to be the one that is really going all out to promote electric vehicles in South Africa. The fossil fuel versions of the MINI already have a huge fanbase in South Africa and the new all-electric MINI should do well with an EPA range of 177 km. It is expected to be priced from about R589,000, just a bit cheaper than the current sales lead, the BMW i3 that is priced from around R700,000. Volkswagen has also announced that it will bring the ID.4 in 2022, adding to the lineup of BEVs on the market.

Nothing yet, though, from Elon and Tesla on when we will see the S3XY plus Cybertruck lineup in this part of the world.

South Africa’s Charging Infrastructure map

2) Growing Public Charging Network

There are now 214 public chargers in South Africa and the network is growing all the time (image above). These are starting to pop up everywhere, from shopping malls to airports, and most importantly along the major highways. This will certainly bring in the next tier of buyers. Up until now the buyers have been mostly staunch EV fanatics who make up the typical early adopter. The next tier of buyers would take comfort in that South Africa’s public charging infrastructure is scaling up nicely to support seamless intercity travel.

Related story: New Generation Of German Luxury Plug-in Hybrid SUVs Could Help Influence EV Adoption In Africa

All images courtesy of uYilo


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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since.

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has 754 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai