Globally, there is a rise in the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and battery storage systems, especially in regions where there is a lack of constant, reliable energy supply or more economically feasible solutions, Electric Vehicle Industry Association representative Carel Snyman said during a panel discussion on the second day of the Africa Energy Indaba, on Wednesday.
Spurred by the adoption of cleaner, but intermittent energy sources, declining prices and regulatory subsidies, battery energy storage systems are being increasingly used across the electric system.
The recent growth of the battery storage industry globally has prompted considerable investment, particularly in lithium-ion batteries, used in EVs, as well as in countries' electricity grids.
The rapid development of the global EV market has seen a simultaneous rise in battery manufacturing capacity to support demand.
Sub-Saharan Africa, however, needs to revamp and modernise its transport systems to support a growing population, said Snyman.
Sector development agency GreenCape sustainable transport analyst Khanyiselo Kumalo pointed out that EV sales now contributed to about 5% of overall global vehicle sales, compared with 1% ten years ago.
While global uptake is happening at an exponential rate, the update of EVs in Africa is lagging behind, she added.
She said the biggest opportunity for South Africa, while policymakers catch up to incentivising EVs, is manufacturing in the value chain of EVs, such as batteries and charging infrastructure.
Kumalo believes that it is not the price of EVs that is limiting its adoption in South Africa and the rest of Africa, but rather that the vehicles are not fit-for-market.
“Consumer behaviour in South Africa typically leans to being brand loyal and they do not switch easily to other brands or modes of transport.”
Meanwhile, South African Independent Power Producer Association representative Thomas Garner said South Africa could potentially manufacture EVs at global standards and at affordable prices, but said policymakers were prohibiting such manufacturing through incentivising only combustion-engine driven vehicles and not EVs.
Kumalo pointed out that the government was unlikely to incentivise EVs, as it earns a great deal of revenue from fuel levies.
This also impacts the rate at which original-equipment manufacturers are willing to produce EVs, rather than import them.
Snyman noted there was a 43% tax cost when EVs are imported. While EVs are still relatively more expensive to buy than traditional vehicles, EVs become cheaper to own than a petrol-driven vehicle after five years.
Households that use solar panels to power their homes and charge their EVs could benefit from lower cost of ownership even sooner.