The Electric Vehicle Industry Association’s (EVIA’s) first goal is to demonstrate to the South African public that they can use electric vehicles (EVs) with confidence, says South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) cleaner mobility programme GM Carel Snyman.
The second goal is to ensure that EVs become more affordable in South Africa, followed by the sharing of information, the roll-out of charging infrastructure and the facilitation of local component manufacture to support these vehicles in the domestic economy.
Taxes and import duties on EVs, similar to other vehicles imported into South Africa, currently stand at about 43%, says Snyman.
It is possible for government to reduce this number, as an incentive for the public to acquire EVs, he notes.
Zero-emission EVs are heavily subsidised in most of the countries where they are on sale.
Sales of EVs in South Africa have struggled, partially owing to the hefty price tag on these vehicles.
Nissan could only sell seven Leaf EVs in 2016, compared with 35 in 2015. BMW’s i3 had a better year, though, with sales of 76 units, compared with 82 in 2015.
Snyman says the argument that government would lose a considerable amount of funding from the fuel levy should fuel sales fall owing to the large-scale roll-out of EVs, holds no water.
“EVs may even save the country the construction of another refinery.”
He believes the savings achieved on oil imports would more than make up for the loss in income from fuel sales.
“In 2014 crude oil was South Africa’s biggest import, at $16.2-billion, with refined petroleum at $6.13-billion.
“One could also argue that the large-scale roll-out of EVs would provide consumers with more money to spend, which should stimulate the economy on the whole.”
It is clear that the global automotive industry is steadily moving towards the large-scale roll-out of EVs, adds Snyman, not only in terms of private cars, but also commercial and public transport vehicles.
“Electric mobility has become an imperative in any country, such as South Africa, that wishes to clean up its carbon footprint,” says Snyman.
“London last week faced a red alert, with residents warned to stay indoors due to high levels of air pollution – now consider what Johannesburg looks like, especially in winter.”
EVIA was formed in 2016 by a number of roleplayers in South Africa’s emerging EV industry, in order to assist the roll-out of electric mobility in the country.
The association is endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The association’s founding members are BMW South Africa, Gridcars, Nissan South Africa, SANEDI (a government body) and uYilo, a programme of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).
The aim is to expand EVIA to include parties such as asset financiers, power producers and relevant government departments – for example, the departments of Science and Technology, and Energy.
Snyman does not believe South Africa will see the launch of any new EVs until the country ensures a “more welcoming environment” for the technology.
EVIA is currently partially funded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. Snyman envisages that future funding will flow from membership levies, among other sources.