There are about 1000 battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in South Africa at the moment. There has been a limited supply of EVs in South Africa over the years, with very few models to choose from since 2015. However, there are now more models on the market for consumers to choose from than before. The charging network is also growing, enabling EV drivers to drive quite comfortably along South Africa’s major highways. Therefore, we should see sales of BEVs picking up.
Interest in electric vehicles is growing in South Africa, as shown in a recent survey which found that 64% of the respondents said they would buy an electric car in the next 5 years. To really get this market going, we urgently need a review of the import duties and taxes that are levied on electric cars. These are higher than for internal combustion engine cars in South Africa. We also need more affordable EVs. 72% of consumers are willing to spend up to R600,000 ($33,000) on an EV. Only the Mini Cooper SE is priced below R1 million ($54,000) in South Africa. The Mini Cooper starts from about R770,000. This means none of the EVs available for people to buy in South Africa are under the R600,000 that the majority of the would be buyers are willing to pay. Most of the EVs available are priced from well over R1 million. This is a missed opportunity for South Africa.
On the energy and infrastructure side, South Africa’s national power utility Eskom is gearing up to support the growth of the electric mobility sector in South Africa. At the just ended Smarter Mobility Africa Summit in Pretoria, Eskom Group Executive, Distribution Division, Monde Bala, gave a great presentation summarizing Eskom’s plans and progress so far on their mission to support the nascent electric mobility sector. Some of the highlights from his presentation included:
- Eskom is investigating deploying microgrids to support charging facilities in some areas
- Eskom is running a pilot project to introduce 15 EVs into its fleet
- Eskom is gearing up to accommodate EV charging and increasing generation capacity
Utility companies are often some of the largest fleet operators and therefore are some of the most ideal candidates for fleet electrification. Eskom has about 12,000 vehicles in its fleet. 10,000 of them are under the Distribution Division. Eskom’s pilot will initially focus on electric sedans, light delivery vehicles, panel vans, light trucks, and minibuses. The pilot will be executed in 3 regions initially. These will be Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.
The pilot aims to give Eskom first-hand experience with electric vehicles and therefore provide the blueprint for the larger rollout of electric vehicles in its fleet. Eskom will be collaborating with all the key stakeholders in the EV ecosystem, including EV charging firms, petroleum fuel companies and their retail sites for strategic charging locations, vehicle OEMs, local governments, and municipalities, as well as commercial property owners and retailers.
In his presentation, Monde Bala also highlighted that in the future customers will be able to participate in a distribution flexible market thanks to digitalization as EVs are able to provide grid services and demand flexibility. Eskom also plans to manage EV charging during peak times by introducing time-of-use tariffs for residential customers. Eskom has already submitted its proposed residential time-of-use Homeflex tariff to South Africa’s Energy Regulator, NERSA, for approval.
It’s great to see that utility companies on the African continent are keen to play a key role in catalyzing the growth of the electric mobility industry. Studies show that most people charge their electric cars at home and overnight. Increasing the penetration of EVs on the market means that these utility companies will be able to sell more kilowatt-hours during off-peak periods, boosting their revenues and unlocking some efficiencies from their generation plants.
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