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Electric buses to be rolled out in Tshwane, eThekwini

16th February 2024

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Tshwane and eThekwini could see the roll-out of 39 electric commuter buses by the end of next year.

The introduction of the zero-emissions vehicles will form part of a pilot project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), and managed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI).

SANEDI, which has been appointed by the DBSA as the implementing agent, says the project will see the procurement of 39 electric buses (e-buses) and the associated charging infrastructure, enabled by the $4.7-million in funding that the bank secured from the GEF.

“Our objective with this project is to pave the way for the country to shift to electric mobility in the near future,” says SANEDI cleaner mobility programme project manager Tebogo Snyer.

The e-bus project was initiated by the DBSA in consultation with a number of municipalities that indicated they were interested in participating.

Conceptualisation started in 2018. Covid-19, however, halted the project.

Work resumed in 2022, and by late last year the DBSA managed to secure the necessary funding.

The City of Tshwane will be allocated 20 buses and eThekwini 19.

In both cities, electricity infrastructure will be upgraded and charging facilities installed, says SANEDI.

“The project will be implemented over a period of five years, with half the buses being commissioned in the first two years and the rest at a later stage.

“During this time, we will demonstrate the technical, operational, legal, economic and other feasibility factors, and bed down the specifications of the ecosystem needed to support e-buses in South Africa,” notes Snyer.

The first e-buses are expected to be on the road in the next 18 to 24 months.

Snyer says that although the intention is to procure local goods as far as possible, the e-buses “will have to be imported, as no local manufacturing capacity exists as yet”.

SANEDI indicates that once the project reaches the procurement stage – expected in six to eight months – “an open tender process will follow”.


“Our view is that electric vehicle (EV) technology leads the cleaner mobility field and will continue to do so for the next decade or so,” says Snyer.

He expects the technology to revolutionise the transport sector in the next three to five years on the back of improved and cheaper batteries, which will also lower the cost of ownership significantly.

Currently, SANEDI believes the total cost of ownership is 5% to 10% less than internal combustion buses; however, the much higher upfront price tags on e-buses are limiting adoption.

The main selling points currently are the absence of emissions and the opportunity to have an alternative to pricey imported diesel.

As for the impact of adding EVs on the national grid, Snyer says that switching from internal combustion engines to EVs in significant quantities will add additional load to the power grid, albeit of a different kind.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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