18 December 2020

    Nafisa Akabor

    The electric vehicle landscape in South Africa

    The future is electric.

    The future is electric. We’ve seen these words all over but according to Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance report called the Electric Vehicle (EV) Outlook 2020, more than half of passenger vehicles sold globally by 2040 will be electric.

    It puts the current EV market share at 2.7%, which is expected to climb to 10% by 2025, then to 28% by 2030, making it more than half at 58% by 2040. The report also acknowledges the impact Covid-19 has had on EV launch plans globally, but it expects over 500 different models to be available by 2022.

    Taking a closer look at SA’s roadmap

    Over the last few years, South Africa has seen several electric vehicles enter the market, starting with the Nissan Leaf, which made its debut back in 2013. It was the world’s first mass-produced battery electric vehicle (BEV), powered by a 24kWh battery that delivered 195km range from a single charge with a top speed capped at a modest 145km/h.

    It previously won European Car of the Year in 2011; the first EV to ever hold that title. However, due to technical issues, the Leaf is currently not being sold in South Africa. The second-generation Leaf made its global debut in 2019 but Nissan SA is yet to announce local launch dates.


    Nissan, in partnership with BMW jointly rolled out ChargeNow public charging stations across SA, including dealerships.

    BMW brought out its full-electric i3 in 2014, which had a 22kWh battery. It has subsequently been replaced with the second-generation i3 with a battery capacity of 42kWh. The i3 also comes in a REX (range extender) model with a petrol boost, which is being sold alongside the hybrid i8.

    Another impressive luxury EV that went on sale last year is Jaguar’s R1.68m I-Pace. It has an output of 294kW and is powered by a 90kWh battery that delivers a range of up to 470km from a single charge. Like all EVs, it features regenerative braking that recharges the vehicle as soon as your foot is off the accelerator, without touching the brakes.

    Wondering who bought a R1.68m EV in SA? At launch in March 2019, the company announced its allocation for the year was sold out but could not comment on sales figures.

    The state of EVs in 2020 in SA

    Fast forward to 2020 and two more EVs have entered the market in the midst of a global pandemic. The Mini Cooper SE arrived earlier than intended as lockdown restrictions eased. It is being billed as the “cheapest EV on sale in SA” (or least expensive), starting at R642 000. Its 32.64kWh battery delivers a range of 217km, excluding what regenerative braking can achieve.

    The Porsche Taycan Turbo S was also launched recently, which starts at R4-million. It features newer tech, such as an 800V charger that can charge the vehicle in 22.5 minutes through a 270kW power output. It has a 93.4kWh battery with a range of 370km.

    What does the future hold?

    More EVs are expected to hit our shores, such as the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the Audi e-tron, VW ID.4, and BMW iX. Meanwhile, GridCars has been rolling out charging stations across the country in partnership with local manufacturers who are building their infrastructure.

    EVs are subjected to higher import duties of 25% vs the 18% on ICE (internal combustion engine) imports. It is safe to say we are still in the infancy stages, seven years later. Until those costs come down – SA government needs to come to the party – EVs remain exclusively for the wealthy and early adopters.

    Nafisa Akabor