There are three possible scenarios for electric vehicle (EV) uptake in South Africa, says Jaguar Land Rover South Africa (JLRSA) dealer network director and electrification project leader Brian Hastie.
EVs are projected to make up around 50% of all global new light-duty vehicle sales by 2040, up from 3% in 2020 and a projected 11% in 2025.
The term EV here refers to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
JLRSA launched the I-Pace BEV in South Africa earlier this year.
The ideal scenario for South Africa is one where the country keeps up with the rest of the world, says Hastie – meaning 11% of light-duty vehicle sales are EVs by 2025, equating to 43 000 units.
Current local EV sales were just short of 150 vehicles in 2018, with the peak in 2016 at more than 250 vehicles.
There are currently five brands selling EVs in SA, namely Volvo, BMW, Nissan, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.
In the 11%-of-sales-by-2025 scenario, South Africa would be able to keep up with the rest of the world, as this scenario spells a gradual uptake, with sufficient time to create the best possible retail, charging and service environment.
“To create happy customers, we need a gradual uptake,” says Hastie.
However, “we’re behind the game already”, he adds. “We know this isn’t happening.”
The second scenario would be where South Africa starts to open its mind to the fact that EVs are possible, with sales and new models then coming “in a flood”.
“The problem with this is our ability to keep up,” says Hastie.
He says this scenario would probably see a rapid deployment of charge points, with the country losing control of standardisation.
“[The motor industry] would really struggle to provide a great consumer experience.”
The likelihood of this scenario happening is quite high, says Hastie.
Car importers currently have access to complete model ranges.
However, with the gradual demise of the diesel engine – as diesel cars are facing a potential ban in a number of countries, especially in Europe – all the engine derivatives within a model range may soon not be available for import into South Africa, as diesel derivatives are likely to be replaced with EVs.
This means there will be less consumer choice in South Africa, as the country will not be able to accept the EV derivatives as the infrastructure to support these vehicles does not exist.
“We will not have access to these vehicles, unless we become more EV friendly,” says Hastie.
The final scenario is that “we’ll just carry on in our little world”.
This could affect the local automotive manufacturing industry’s ability to produce vehicles for the export market, says Hastie.
Local production requires some degree of local uptake in order to create scale, but how can the country produce EVs if there is no local demand, he asks.
“We will fall behind and it will be very difficult to catch up,” says Hastie.
The haphazard growth of EV sales will also mean that charge point rollout will not be in sync with growth in the EV car parc.
Consumers will also have poor confidence in EVs, especially as the level of competence on the showroom floor and in workshops will not be up to standard.
Resale values are also likely to nosedive under this scenario.
Hastie adds that there are a “massive amount of documents and policies to support EVs” in South Africa, but that rollout is somehow still “just not happening”.
“[The technology] is still new enough for us to catch up. The further behind we fall the more difficult it will be to catch up.
“My call is for all the agencies and departments to actually engage with the car industry . . . to somehow create an environment where EVs are a commercial reality.”
Hastie says it is necessary for create some incentive for EVs in South Africa, such as a zero emission incentive.
As EV sales grow, this incentive can be scrapped.
EVs are currently subject to a higher import duty than other cars imported from Europe.
An incentive will help to shift consumers’ minds to see that EVs are proper cars that are cheap to run and fun to drive, says Hastie.
“We need a little spark to get the momentum going. Once we have momentum, we can pull back again. In our local context [EVs] are not going anywhere, because we don’t have that spark yet to make it all happen.”