Electric vehicle adoption surveys points to an earlier than expected shift

National EV Perception Survey

‘2020 & 2021 National EV Perception Survey A 2020 and 2021 national EV perception survey conducted on over 3 000 car buyers on SA’s biggest automotive marketplace over 12 months found that 1.8% of the respondents have owned an EV, 13% have driven one, while 68% would want to own one in the future. Most of the respondents, 86%, would be open to using an EV as their primary vehicle rather than a second vehicle. The unavailability of public and home charging infrastructure (61%), charging times (59.6%), and cost (55%) were cited by the respondents as the biggest barriers to EV ownership in South Africa. Reduced emissions (80.5%), reduced noise pollution (63.9%), and cheaper running costs (54.7%) were the top-three cited advantages of EVs. An interesting finding was that majority of the respondents aged 18-34 said they were more likely to purchase an EV in the next five years, while those aged 55+ were thinking of buying an EV within the next three years.’ ¹

Some takeouts

Most of the respondents from South Africa said that they will be more likely to buy an EV in the next three to five years! Our government should reduce the cost of ownership via subsidies and reduce import duty on imports (which is at the maximum rate for EV vehicles in South Africa . There is also the steady demise of Eskom. Despite these headwinds, it is clear that the EV revolution is also coming to SA. Maybe it will even be more sudden as we catch up with the industrial world (‘It changes gradually, then suddenly’ – Hemingway). I suspect some cheaper imports will reach our shores from China and maybe Vietnam and Malaysia soon. Prices will also drop in general worldwide as the production and competition ramps up towards EV’s as we have witnessed recently. There will also be competition with charger infrastructure suppliers. People and companies will also start to generate their own electricity by implementing solar.

Momentum is building, and change is inevitable. Yes, there are challenges unique to us, but we will find ways to overcome the challenges in an equally unique way. There are three factors: the availability of electricity, the cost of electricity and the cost of fuel. The crisis with Eskom is escalating and will not be resolved soon. This resulted in the opening of private power generation. The door is now open for private companies and individuals to generate up to 1 MW of power. This should go a long way in addressing the availability of power since South Africa is blessed with ample solar and wind power. Allowing private capital to invest in solar and wind power generation goes a long way in solving the impact of the energy crisis to the private sector and takes the pressure of the government to guarantee power provision. It is a given that the cost of electricity provided by Eskom will keep on increasing and this makes the business case of own power generation a no brainer. It is also notable that the City of Cape Town is offering to buy electricity from private producers. The third element of the energy equation is the cost of fuel. The cost of electricity for me at my home is R2,20 per kWh (for the first 600 kWh). My car consumes 14 kWh per 100 km. That is R30.80 per 100 km. At a petrol price of R20.80 per liter my equivalent consumption is 1,5 l/100 km. The business case to use solar to fill my car is better than to replace Eskom.

Mobility of energy

It is one thing to generate energy like electricity but many times we need to be able to transport it elsewhere. Eskom has a transmission grid as well as reticulation networks together with the municipalities. This is also becoming a challenge as was discovered with the latest RFP (Request for Proposals) round from the IPP (Independent Power Producers) where none of the wind power proposals were approved due to lack of capacity of the grid in that part of the country. So, it is one thing to generate electricity, but it still needs to be transported somewhere. An interesting solution to this challenge is the use of charging stations. If, for example we can generate electricity in the Northern Cape but struggle to transfer it to Gauteng, a number of charging station can be installed. Not only can locals now charge their cars using their own locally produced electricity but also the trucks and other vehicles passing through can charge their batteries. It is a form of exporting energy from a potentially energy rich area which can become a big enabler. Not only do we not have to transport fuel from the depos to all the filling stations countrywide, but we do not have to transport fuel from the refineries to the depos or oil from the harbours to the refineries and ultimately from overseas to our shores.

Another form of energy transition that is taking shape around the world is the generation of ‘green’ fuels like methanol and ammonia. These fuels help with the hydrogen economy by creating forms of hydrogen (NH4 and CH3OH) which are easier and more economical to transport. A current trend is to create these fuels in areas where sustainable sources (mostly wind and solar) are used to generate the fuels in a green way using seawater and electrolysis. This form of energy is especially attractive for Europe and Japan which are both net importers of energy.

Energy transition

We are at a pivotal juncture in our energy transition in South Africa. Many of our power stations are aging and needs to be retired soon. Our new power stations have many problems and cannot keep up. There is a shift to power generation done by the private sector and we should not expect Eskom to remain the sole supplier of electricity but allow competition in different forms to emerge. A lot of money ($8,5 billion) has been allocated to South Africa to assist with the process of moving to green energy with the Just Energy Transition Partnership agreement signed at the COP 26 climate conference and in a way, this could smooth the way to a new energy future. Coal fired power stations and old generation fuel distilleries should be allowed to die a natural death and, in the process, also the corruption and criminality that seems to have permeated the system. Let us now use the opportunity to transition to a more clean and acceptable use of energy.

AUTHOR: Theo Calitz


  1. Green Cape 2022 Electric Vehicles Market Intelligence Report
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