Here’s how many South Africans are buying electric cars

A study conducted by the IAA’s Munich Mobility Show highlights a large disparity in the buying cars of electric vehicles around the world, with wealthier countries such as the US and China dwarfing the cars bought in emerging markets.

The report shows that there are approximately 10 million electric cars globally. In absolute numbers, the most electric cars are in China (4.2 million), followed by Europe (3.2 million) and the US (1.7 million).

“If we count the number of electric cars per 1,000 inhabitants, Europe leads the way. Statistically, there are 6.1 electrified vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to the global average of 1.4.

“The figures for international leaders Norway (81.0), Iceland (36.8) and Sweden (20.6) are significantly higher,” the group said.

The report shows that South America and Africa are far behind by comparison. Cumulative electric car registrations through 2020 in South America, a continent with a population of more than 420 million, were below 18,000, Reuters reported.

And the only registrations in Africa, a continent that is home to 1.2 billion people, were exclusively in South Africa and totalled just 1,509 cars through 2020.


Norway topped the global statistics for 2020, with electric vehicles accounting for 74.8% of total registrations, followed by Iceland (44.6%) and Sweden (32.1%).

These were followed by the Netherlands (24.7%) and Finland (17.7%).  The bottom half of the top ten was occupied by Denmark (16.4%), Switzerland (14.3%), Germany (13.5%), Portugal (13.5%), and Luxembourg (11.4%, 8.1).

Although the US ranks third internationally in terms of new vehicle registrations, it only appears towards the bottom of this table, at 2.1% (+0.2).

South Africa a long way off 

In a report published at the start of April 2021, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said that South Africa will make a push towards low-emission vehicles in the 2030s.

The department’s climate change plans are included in the draft Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which was published for public consultation at the end of March.

The NDC is seen as the ‘cornerstone’ of South Africa’s climate change response and includes the country’s commitments to the UN and Paris Agreement for the global climate change effort.

It also details the government’s proposed shift away from harmful greenhouse gas emissions to more sustainable fuel sources.

The NDC states that the long-term decarbonisation of the South African economy, will in the 2020s, focus primarily on the electricity sector.

This will give it time to introduce new renewable energy sources through the IRP programme and give the country time to recover after the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the 2030s, a deeper transition will take place in the electricity sector, coupled with a transition in the transport sector towards low emission vehicles.

The NDC also pledges to introduce a number of green transport options in the road and rail sector.

“South Africa will invest in energy efficiency, a range of green transport measures including electric and hybrid vehicles, mode shifting and the enhanced provision of safe and affordable public transport.

“All of these measures will be accompanied by just transition programmes to ensure that the costs of these measures to workers and communities are minimised and the benefits maximized,” the department said.

Read: Volvo’s first all-electric SUV is launching in South Africa

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Here’s how many South Africans are buying electric cars