The South African EV market is starting to pick up now after a slow start. High import tariffs levied on EVs as well as the lack of an EV policy and supportive frameworks have been some of the main barriers to adoption. Despite all this, a lot of progress has been made in South Africa’s EV sector. There is a growing charging network covering some of the major highways, such as Johannesburg to Durban and Johannesburg to Cape Town. A lot of shopping centres, malls, and other places within major cities and towns are also installing charging stations. There are now more BEV models available in the South African market that people can choose from as well. These include models from BYD, BMW, Great Wall Motors’ ORA brand, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, SAIC Maxus, Volvo, and Audi.
Audi offers several battery electric vehicle models from its e-tron range. What about Volkswagen Group’s main brand, Volkswagen? Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) has conducted several pilots for the e-Golf fleet, including long-term use as courtesy vehicles at its dealerships as well as giving some vehicles to members of the press and other key stakeholders for long-term evaluation and reviews. VWSA has also been evaluating a DC fast charger that has lithium battery storage as part of the system. The so-called flexible autonomous charger could be an ideal candidate for the African market, where it could reduce some of the challenges around grid capacity as well as frequent grid power outages experienced in a number of countries on the continent.
VWSA will soon be evaluating the ID.4 for the South African market. The ID.4 is perhaps more suited to the market given the rising popularity around crossover/SUV type vehicles. It could also be more competitive in the market from a pricing point of view. Like in any market around the world, there is still a lot of work to do from an education point of view to raise awareness about EVs in South Africa. Which is why I was excited to see VWSA showcase the ID.4 at the recently held South Africa Auto Week hosted by naamsa, South Africa’s Automotive Business Council. Also, there was another surprise star at the VWSA Stand, the ID.Buzz Cargo! Both of these vehicles are not yet on sale in the South African market, but it was great to see them take centre stage at a major automotive event in South Africa.
VWSA Chairperson and Managing Director Martina Biene moderated one of the sessions at Auto Week. The panel included Co-CEO and Executive Director of Marketing and Sales for Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Mark Raine; Riaz Haffejee, Special Advisor to the DITC and IDC; Sihle Mdluli, Executive Business Development at Africa Rainbow Minerals; Waldemar Andre Christensen, Managing Director at Volvo Trucks SA; as well as Thandi Kabini, Head of Commercial and Asset Finance at ABSA Group. Some of the discussions zoned in on what needs to be done for South Africa to unlock all of its potential in the EV ecosystem. Martina Biene and fellow key stakeholders in South Africa’s auto industry are looking forward to the upcoming National Budget Statement to be delivered by South Africa’s Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, next month for any guidance on the much anticipated EV policy for South Africa. Martina Biene highlighted that a pronouncement by the South African government on the EV policy is critical, and she is keeping her fingers crossed that there will be some positive news on November 1 when the National Budget Statement will be read.
In another interesting development, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has partnered with DHL for the pilot test of an ID.Buzz Cargo fleet in South Africa. Four ID.Buzz Cargo units will be placed at the DHL centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban for a period of six months. The units will be utilized for a specialized last-mile courier service at these centres as part of DHL’s local pilot test of its global zero emissions logistics target. The introduction of the ID.Buzz Cargo test fleet is the first step towards the realization of Volkswagen Group South Africa’s electric vehicles strategy for the Volkswagen brand in South Africa. The test fleet will assist Volkswagen in building awareness of its electric vehicles in South Africa and obtaining learnings that are key for the brand’s electric vehicle strategy.
Images courtesy of VWSA
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