Electric Vehicles set to grow in SA

Justin Manson
  • South African electric vehicle (EV) sales see a 431% rise from 896 units in 2021 to 4,764 units in 2022
  • EV growth set to accelerate through the expansion of renewable power generation and local manufacturing
  • Government support for EV strategy with lower taxes, charging stations, and subsidies can stimulate consumer demand

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (October 05, 2023) — As the global community celebrated World EV Day in September, South Africa reflected on the structural challenges standing in the way of better uptake of electric vehicles to help reduce carbon emissions. Although the South African EV industry is currently small in comparison to other markets, Justin Manson, Sales Director at Webfleet, Bridgestone’s globally trusted fleet management solution, examines the market and predicts that it will expand thanks to government backing and private sector investment.

The Automotive Business Council (Naamsa) reported that new energy vehicle sales increased by 431,7% from 896 units in 2021 to 4,764 units in 2022.

Although only 502 of those were fully electric (out of 528 963 total vehicles sold), this represented the highest number of pure EVs sold to date and expected to be exceeded in 2023.

However, with limited charging infrastructure of just 78 charging stations across the entire country, growth of EVs, that are still expensive relative to combustion engine cars, remains slow. However, with Naamsa gearing its original equipment manufacturers to begin negotiations with their global headquarters for investments in new manufacturing facilities or the addition of new production lines in existing facilities to include proudly South African EVs. With more affordable models, people could be more willing to make the shift, considering the potential fuel savings. For vehicle manufacturers, the matter is clear, export markets for South African produced cars, primarily European, are rapidly going electric.

One forecast predicts a 23,8% global compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of new EV sales for the period 2023 to 2030 to 45 million in use by 2030.

The South African EV market still only had around 1,700 units in use by the end of the first quarter of 2023, and the forecast for the Africa EV market is a CAGR of around 10% for the period 2023 to 2028. Beyond that, that growth rate should double, as the EV market becomes more efficient.

Fleets to drive EV growth in SA

It is most likely that the fleet industry (especially last mile deliveries) will drive the growth of EVs.

South Africa currently has issues with load shedding and a generally unstable electricity grid, which makes EV use difficult, from a planning point of view.

Businesses with vehicles driving short distances could overcome this by installing charging stations at their depots, using solar and inverters for overnight charging, and using by using artificial-intelligence powered fleet management systems, to monitor the charging process, energy usage, charge status and remaining driving distance.

The environmental impact of EVs

Part of the reason behind the slow uptake of electric cars has been the recurring energy issues in South Africa. Most EVs still rely on charging from a predominantly carbon-based power source.

However, despite load shedding lasting longer than anticipated, it has brought a silver lining with it. South African homes are increasingly installing substantial solar and high-volume power storage (battery) systems. Not only can drivers cut their driving emissions, but they can also now personally ensure their vehicles are running on sun power.

Additionally, the environmental impact of EVs is generally more favourable than that of internal combustion engines, especially when powered by clean energy sources. EVs have emerged as significantly better and are the future of mobility. They offer reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a lower carbon footprint, and decreased noise pollution.

Government support and the future of EVs

The government should consider supporting an EV strategy with lower taxes on imports and production, subsidising charging stations, and stimulating consumer demand. Such measures would encourage local manufacturers to invest in new production lines, consequently reducing emissions from imports.

With this in place, the forecasted growth up to 2030 could double within the period leading up to 2040, both locally and globally. Webfleet has made significant investments over the last few years, in line with its sustainability strategy.

Fleet management services launched for EVs are continuously improving as both EV and telematics technology evolve. Webfleet will continue to invest in EV technology as part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy and because the EV market is here to stay and grow, technology and real time reporting will play an important role in the success of the EV market in the future. 

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