South Africa Really Shouldn’t Be That Far Behind Australia In EV Adoption

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Sales of battery-electric vehicles breached the 500 units per year mark in South Africa for the first time ever. Last year, 502 BEVs were sold in South Africa, up from 218 in 2021. With only 1024 BEVs sold since 2018, its clear to see that sales of BEVs have been slow in South Africa compared to similar auto markets around the world. This is due to the limited variety of BEV models in the country, coupled with the high import duties and taxes levied on electric vehicles. This means most of the vehicles available in the global market would end up being quite expensive compared to their equivalent ICE vehicles if they were introduced in South Africa. This price difference would be more prominent in the smaller vehicle segments, making it a bit challenging to sell those EVs. Taxes in South Africa are set at 18% for ICE imports vs 25% for EV Imports. There is also the ad valorem tax for EVs which pushes the cost of an EV to more than 2X that of the average price of a new ICE vehicle of a similar make/model in most cases.

That being said, if we look at Australia, a market where BEV sales have also been slow and are now showing signs of traction, the market shows that South Africa should really be further along compared to where it is now even under the current environment. For a long time, Australia also didn’t offer much in terms of incentives or policy compared to other countries in the developed world such as those in Europe, China, and the US.

Let’s take a closer look at both Australia and South African auto markets in terms of annual vehicle sales. In 2022, just over 1 million vehicles (1,081,429), were sold in Australia. In South Africa, just about half of that were sold in 2022 (528,963). Looking at some of the common vehicles in the top of the sales charts in both countries, the Toyota Hilux pickup was the top selling vehicle in Australia, selling 64,391 units in 2022. The Hilux was also the top selling vehicle in South Africa, selling just about 50% of those Aussi numbers (32,203). Toyota was the top selling brand in both countries, selling 231,050 units in Australia and in South Africa selling close to 60% of the numbers from down under (132,035). The Isuzu D-Max pickup numbers were much closer for both countries as seen in Table 1.

Table 1: Snapshot of both the Australian & South African Vehicle Sales Market

Sources: , and

As you can see, sales of similar vehicles in both countries can give us a fairly good indication of both markets. OEMs with EVs that are doing in Australia well should therefore be encouraged and less skeptical about how their EVs will fair if introduced to the South African market.

Looking at the electric vehicle sales side of things, over 30,000 BEVs were sold in Australia in 2022 compared to only about 500 in South Africa. BEV sales in Australia were 60 times the number of BEVs sold in South Africa in 2022. That gap looks way too big if you compare with the total size of the vehicle market. Due to the high import duties and taxes for South Africa, it would be a bit tough for the BEV market to mimic the total market and achieve around 50% of the sales in Australia.

Selling about 15,000 BEVs in South Africa under the current tax environment could be tough, but South Africa could achieve maybe sales of around 7,500 as shown in Table 2. While there are quite a number of BEVs that are sold in both countries from the likes of BMW, Volvo, Mercedes Benz, and others, there are way more BEV models available for consumers to buy in Australia as compared to South Africa. Australia also has a range of more affordable BEVs from OEMs such as Hyundai, Kia, MG, and BYD that are not yet available in South Africa but would certainly help move sales if offered in South Africa.

Here is a table showing the sales performance of some common BEVs and some that are not available  in South Africa that I feel should be offered in the South African market.

Table 2: Australia vs South Africa BEV Sales 2022

Source: Australia Electric Vehicle Council, naamsa, and Lightstone Auto

The South African market is promising, for example, Volvo offered a limited release of some models in South Africa last year and they were sold out in 24 hours under this same punitive tax regime. Consumers can only buy what is available in the market. If all those models offered in Australia such as the Hyundais, Kias, MGs, and especially Teslas were available in South Africa, there would be a big jump in sales even under the current conditions. I have spoken with a lot of people in South Africa who are waiting for Teslas to be offered in the market before switching to an EV. Its seams Tesla is the “electric brand” people want, plus some feel a special connection to Elon who is from South Africa.

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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 732 posts and counting. See all posts by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai