South Africa has barely entered the race

 ·8 May 2024

South Africa is lagging behind other nations spectacularly when it comes to the sale of electric vehicles (EVs).

A recent analysis conducted by The Outlier showed that South Africa only sold 1,080 EVs in 2023 – hundreds of thousands of units behind countries with similar population sizes.

According to the International Energy Agency, the total number of sales of EVs in 2023 in various locations were:

  • China – 8.1 million
  • USA – 1.4 million
  • European Union – 2.4 million
  • South Africa – 1,080
EV 2024-05-07
Graphic: The Outlier

“The high price range, lack of variety and charging stations are some reasons why South Africans have been slow to take to the green road,” said The Outlier.

Most of the electric vehicles available in South Africa are high-end cars from manufacturers such as Volvo, Porsche and Mini, with a starting price of around R642,000, meaning that accessibility remains relatively limited.

Hopeful EV boom in South Africa

Despite the relatively slow pace of sales compared to other nations, South Africa has been looking to make progress in creating an environment suitable for EVs.

Facing electricity challenges, South Africa has outlined a two-phase policy approach for electric vehicle (EV) transition, as detailed in the government’s Electric Vehicle White Paper.

The global automotive landscape is undergoing profound transformations triggered by climate
mitigation and adaptation legislation and the associated technological disruptions,” it said in the paper.

“Failure to transition the automotive industry [in South Africa] will likely result in the loss of key export markets for both assembled vehicles and automotive components,” for the largest automotive manufacturing hub on the African continent, it added.

This paper said that government policy looks to support the manufacturing and sales of EVs in South Africa and reduce carbon emissions (which government has made numerous binding commitments to) by incentivising EVs

However, the strategy emphasises producing and exporting EVs rather than boosting domestic demand and sales in its first phases, hoping that this will make South Africa competitive in a booming EV market.

Trade minister Ebrahim Patel recently announced a 150% tax deduction on investments in the local production of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles from March 2026.

Companies have also been pumping money into setting up renewable charging stations across the country.

A recent notable investment is that of a South African EV charging station contractor signing a memorandum of understanding with an energy storage systems manufacturer that will bring 120 renewable supercharge stations across South Africa to the value of R1 billion.

Back in 2018, the South African government committed to convert 5% of the public and national fleet to cleaner alternative fuel and efficient technology vehicles by 2025, with annual increase of 2% thereafter.

It also committed to add 40 solar-powered public EV charging stations per annum.

In hopes of accommodating this anticipated boom, Drive South Africa has launched a new Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Map to help drivers find their nearest electric vehicle charging station, with hundreds already operational across the country.  

Read: 8 electric vehicles coming to South Africa in 2024

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