Rental car companies and other fleet operators are some of the major drivers of vehicle sales around the world. This is why there has been a lot of excitement around Hertz’s deals with Tesla and Polestar, for example, as well as SIXT’s deal for 100,000 BYD cars. Just the other day, SIXT announced that it is getting its first 500 BYD ATTO 3s in Australia. Going electric is not just better for the planet, but also great for cost savings due to their lower operations and maintenance costs.
The car rental industry also plays a key role in South Africa’s new passenger car sales market. Last month, the rental car industry accounted for 16.2% of sales. 31,072 units (almost all ICE vehicles) were sold in total in January in South Africa, according to NAAMSA’s recent monthly update. 16.2% of that is about 5,000 vehicles. A couple of years ago when I visited South Africa on a long term stay mission, I looked far and wide for a rental car that was electric. I couldn’t find one. Perhaps the situation is slightly better now. One car that could potentially catalyze the growth of electric car sales in the car rental industry is Great Wall Motors’ Ora Good Cat. The Good Cat is said to be coming to South Africa this year. In fact, the CEO of Great Wall Motors South Africa, Conrad Groenewald, recently confirmed in an interview with Cars.co.za that the Ora Good Cat is indeed coming to South Africa.
When it arrives, it is expected to enter the market as the cheapest electric car on the market. South Africa desperately needs more of these affordable EVs, as the majority of models available in South Africa at the moment start from over R1 million ($57,400). Estimates say that the Good Cat is expected to retail in South Africa for around R600,000 ($35,000), which would make it the most affordable fully-electric model in the country. This pricing will be in line with the pricing of the Good Cat in Malaysia where the 400 Pro is priced from RM139,800 ($32,000) while the 500 Ultra is priced from RM169,800 ($39,000). The Pro version of the Good Cat has a 47.8 kWh battery, giving a real world range of about 275 km, according to EV-Database. The other version has a larger 63.1 kWh. So, a 5-door hatchback with more range than the current version of the Mini could enter the market and become South Africa’s cheapest EV, displacing the Mini Cooper SE. This could really be a game changer in South Africa’s EV market and help accelerate sales. The car rental market could catalyze this growth.
Assuming the Good Cat lands in South Africa soon and takes a 5% share of the sales coming from the car rental market, the Ora Good Cat would be selling about 250 units per month. That is half the number of BEVs sold in South Africa in the whole of 2022. 250 per month would be 3,000 BEVs a year initially. This could have a big effect on the entire EV ecosystem in South Africa. For example, this will lead to the accelerated installation of charging infrastructure at major hubs such as airports, shopping centers, and other places frequented by rental drivers, which could be easily picked from vehicle tracking data that the rental companies already have.
South Africa’s EV charging infrastructure continues to grow, and just last week, Audi South Africa, in partnership with Rubicon, has brought 43 additional electric vehicle charging stations online across the country. These chargers can accommodate a total of 57 EVs simultaneously, at varying capacities, regardless of model or brand ownership. This is in addition to the brand’s contribution of 70 EV charging connection points nationwide a year ago, when Audi was the first to bring ultra-fast chargers to South Africa. The latest rollout includes the very first DC 200kW fast charger in South Africa, which is installed at the largest shopping mall ever built in a single phase — Mall of Africa. The EV battery of an e-tron GT can be recharged about 15 minutes. The solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed at Mall of Africa is one of the largest of its kind in the Southern hemisphere, making this installation a progressive statement towards sustainable charging.
The rest of this second phase of infrastructure investment comprises four 100kW (DC), eight 60kW (DC), five 25kW (DC), and twenty-five 22kW (AC) fast EV charger installations at convenient locations across the country to serve all EV customers. A growing rental fleet of EVs would incentivize charging infrastructure companies to ramp up their investments.
Rental cars are also a great way to get many people to experience the world of electric mobility before they make the jump to get one of their own. Another major benefit would the fact that car rental companies refresh their fleet quite often and feed the used vehicle market. This will provide a steady stream of used EVs, providing buyers in this market with access to more affordable EVs. Although due to lower maintenance costs associated with EVs, car rental companies may not dispose of EVs as quickly as they would ICE vehicles, they would eventually feed these EVs to the used vehicle market as well.
Great Wall Motors has build a loyal following in South Africa and already has a good network of dealerships and support services. Some of its popular ICE vehicles in South Africa include the P Series Pickup truck and the Haval duo of the H6 and Jolion. The introduction of the Ora Good Cat could perhaps help influence other brands to enter South Africa and offer similar EVs and even smaller EVs such as the BYD Dolphin and BYD Seagull, for example. These types of small vehicles are quite popular in the South African car rental market. I am excited about the Ora Good Cat’s (also known as the Funky Cat in the UK) imminent arrival in South Africa. Chinese EVs are starting to fill up the streets of Europe, and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing them in South Africa. It’s time to open the floodgates of EV sales.
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