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South Africans Want Electric Vehicles — It’s Time For More Automakers To Step Up

South Africa doesn’t have the perfect environment to incentivize global automakers to rush to introduce more electric vehicles. Petrol and diesel vehicles imported from the EU into South Africa have a customs duty of 18%, while for electric vehicles it is 25%. There are also the Ad Valorem Customs Excise Duties and VAT.

It is crazy that in 2022, electric vehicles still have higher taxes than fossil-fueled cars in South Africa. A couple of years ago, Elon Musk was asked when will people get Teslas in South Africa. By Otis Ndlovu, he replied, “Would love to, but import duties are extremely high, even for electric vehicles.” These high import duties and taxes mean that South Africans can pay up to almost double the cost of some EVs compared to other markets.

Despite all this import duty drama, several brands have decided to take a leap of faith and dive into this South African market with an expanded range of models for 2022. Consumers can only buy what is available in the market, and these automakers should be commended for bringing electric vehicles in this current environment. BMW, which has been the trendsetter in South Africa since it introduced the original BMW i3, leads the way again and is introducing the all new BMW i4, the  iX, and the iX3! The initial allocation of the flagship iX has already been sold out in South Africa. Not bad for a vehicle starting from R1,650,000 ($108,000) for the iX xDrive 40 and R2,175,000 ($143,500) for the iX xDrive 50.

Last year, Volvo introduced the all-electric 78 kWh XC 40 P8 recharge, and the initial allocation for South Africa was sold out in just 4 days!  Very impressive for a car that starts at over R1.2 million ($79,300). The volumes may be small and these are vehicles targeting the upper middle class, but it helps to show that people do want electric vehicles, and if you bring them, South Africans will buy them. Orders for the XC 40 P8 are open again and interested South Africans can order them strictly online for deliveries in June this year.

Audi South Africa is bringing 6 all-electric models to the South African market this year. The list includes the following models:

  • Audi e-tron 50
  • e-tron 55 SUVs
  • e-tron Sportback 55
  • e-tron Sportback S
  • e-tron GT
  • RS e-tron GT

Reservations are already open for Audi’s e-tron range in South Africa and pricing has also been confirmed. Pricing starts from R1,990,000 ($123,000) for the e-tron 55 Advanced, and R3,300,000 ($204,000) for the Audi RS e-tron GT. Specialist e-tron dealerships include Bryanston, Rivonia, Sandton (in Johannesburg); Centurion, Hatfield, Menlyn (in Pretoria); Century City, Clairemont (in Cape Town) and Umhlanga & Audi Centre (in Durban). Mercedes-Benz is also bringing several models, including the EQA, EQB, EQC, EQE and EQS to  South Africa.

It’s a good start by the German trio, as this will add more models to the market for South Africans to choose from. Jaguar already introduced the I Pace several years ago, and also developed the Jaguar Powerway charging network in South Africa.

South Africa has one of the highest ratios of public EV chargers to EVs in the world. Thanks to the hard work of several stakeholders, such as BMW, Nissan, Jaguar, GridCars, evCrowdRoute (now called Breev), and BluePlug, among others, the charging side of things has grown significantly over the years. EV drivers can take long road trips comfortably along South Africa’s major highways. With the German trio along with Jaguar and Volvo now covering the premium electric vehicle segments, South Africa now just needs cheaper EVs. BMW’s Mini Cooper SE remains the cheapest highway-capable EV in South Africa. It starts at R642,000 ($42,000). However, South Africans really need EVs priced below R500,000 ($32,000). This was validated in a recent survey by AutoTrader in the car industry mid-year report from January 2021 – June 2021. 

It’s time other automakers bring more affordable EVs to South Africa and not try to wait for the perfect conditions, especially on the import duty and taxes. We are starting to see more right-hand drive models being introduced in the United Kingdom, in Thailand, and in Australia. These include Great Wall Motor’s Ora Good Cat (Thailand and UK), SAIC Motors MG’s ZS EV, MG5, MG’s Marvel R (Thailand and UK), as well as the BYD new Yuan Plus and Dolphin to be introduced in Australia soon. Even Mazda now has a RHD MX 30 EV.

There is now also quite a good selection of small EVs in China that are eyeing the markets, such as Hozon and its Neta V, which is also already available in right-hand drive in some Asian countries. These more affordable right-hand drive EVs would find a ready market in South Africa. The good thing about automakers which already have a presence in South Africa is that most of them also have dealer networks and relationships in East and Southern Africa, meaning that it would then also be an avenue to introduce these models in the region.

Interest in electric vehicles is growing in South Africa. Autotrader’s report also says that over 285,000 searches of EVs were conducted in the first 6 months of 2021. This was a significant increase of over 211% compared to the same period last year. It’s time for automakers to bring cheaper EVs to South Africa to help accelerate the transition to electric mobility.

 

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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. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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