Sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have been quite slow in South Africa but are now showing signs of significant progress. In the first four months of 2022, 138 battery electric vehicles were sold in South Africa. Now, one year later, sales of battery electric vehicle have doubled over the same period. 284 battery electric vehicles were sold in South Africa from January to April of this year, representing a 105.8% change according to reports released by naamsa.
In the overall market, 175,678 units domestic vehicle sales were recorded from January to April 2023, an increase of 2,291 units or 1.3% compared to the same period last year. The 284 battery electric vehicles sold during that period means that BEVs are still only 0.16% of sales in South Africa. Yes, that’s less than 1% of sales. Lots of work ahead to grow BEV sales in South Africa, but at least there are now some encouraging signs.
In the same period, 43 plug-in electric vehicles were sold in South Africa, down 21.8% compared to the same period last year. So, BEVs were up 105.8% and PHEVs down 21.8%, perhaps the market is now more inclined towards BEVs, but it could also be due to a limited supply of PHEVs in the market. 1,725 plugless hybrids were sold in South Africa over that same period, up 7.9% compared to the same period last year.
The jump in EV sales in the first four months of the year, in a year in which electricity rationing has been the worst ever in South Africa’s history, shows that loadshedding is probably not the main concern for EV buyers in South Africa. In fact, AutoTrader South Africa’s Buyer Survey showed that there were other concerns on potential EV buyers’ minds. 65.4% of the respondents say that the high initial cost of purchase is the main concern. Duration of charging as well as the perceived lack of public charging infrastructure were the other major concerns. It was interesting to note that although range anxiety was further down the list, with 20.9% saying it was one of the main concerns, 37% said they would want an EV with a range of 500 to 700 km per charge. 700 km range is Mercedes-Benz EQS territory, and there are not many affordable EVs with that kind of range.
It’s good to see EV sales in South Africa are on the up. Could 2023 be the year BEV sales breach the 1,000 mark? It looks like it. South Africa really needs more BEV models to be made available, especially the more affordable ones. The South African BEV landscape has been traditionally characterized by the premium models from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Volvo — electric vehicles that start from well over R1 million ($51,000). There is some hope, though, as more affordable models are starting to come to South Africa. The upcoming Ora Good Cat/Funky Cat will help shake things up in the South African market. The Ora Cat’s pricing for South Africa has just been announced. As reported in the local media, the Ora Cat will start from R716,900 ($37,000) for the 63 kWh battery version. Models with higher trims will go up to R915,900 ($47,100).
The Ora Cat will be a game changer in a market that is starved of more affordable BEVs, given its range of about 390 km in combined city/highway driving and a real-world range of 340 km according to EVdatabase. If we use the real-world range as stated in EVdatabase, the 63 kWh Ora Cat has almost double the range of the Mini Cooper SE, yet the Ora will now be $1,000 cheaper and become the most affordable electric car in South Africa.
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