Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

‘Gear up for electric cars’

Globally, about 10-million electric cars on the roads — but only 1 509 of them are in South Africa. According to a recently released global ranking by the Munich Mobility Show, the world’s largest vehicle show, China tops the list of countries with the most registered vehicles, with more than four million of these cars on its road.

China is followed by the United States (1.7-million), Germany (702 981), the United Kingdom (447 486) and Norway (433 609).

Local industry experts said that South Africa needs to expedite its shift into the industry, which will benefit the economy, motorists and the environment. 

Gaylor Montmasson-Clair, a senior economist at the nonprofit economic research organisation Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) said: “You are seeing all the signals from manufacturers globally. More and more of them are setting targets to transition to only electric vehicles. So it’s not like the world is going to carry on making internal combustion engines just for us.”

The department of trade, industry and competition did not respond to the Mail & Guardian’s queries about its plans to support electric vehicle adoption in South Africa. But Minister Ebrahim Patel is consulting the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) about the development of policy on electromobility and related matters.

The director of the uYilo e-mobility programme, Hiten Parmar, said the government and industry have been having discussions about electric vehicles for the past 18 months. They most recently met last Thursday. 

uYilo was established in 2013 to facilitate electric vehicle development in South Africa. 

Parmar said South Africa has a strong local vehicle manufacturing industry, which, before the Covid-19 pandemic, contributed about 7% of GDP. 

“Because we have such a strong manufacturing industry, that has dictated the normal import-export regimes that are in place.”

He added: “And I think what’s happened is that international technology developments have moved quite quickly, while the incentives around local manufacturing [have] not specifically acknowledged electric vehicles.”

In June last year, the TIPS published a paper on how South Africa can use electric vehicles to galvanise industrial development. 

The paper, compiled for the department of trade and industry and Naamsa, noted that the main factors hindering electric vehicle adoption were high costs — exacerbated by VAT, excise tax and import tariffs — as well as limited product availability.

The TIPS research recommended that the government review taxes on electric vehicle imports or facilitate a preferential interest rate for electric vehicle finance to address high costs.

Parmar said the government also needs to provide local manufacturing with incentives. “Government can change the incentive programme for multinational car companies, which already manufacture in South Africa, so they can get rebates on local electric vehicle manufacturing. I think this is the biggest carrot that government can put out there.”

(John McCann/M&G)

The continued focus on internal combustion engine vehicles could hurt the local industry, especially as industry in the rest of the world is turning to more environmentally sustainable alternatives, Parmar said.

About 60% of the vehicles manufactured in South Africa are exported to the European Union, he said. But the EU is considering emission rules that could ban internal combustion vehicles by 2025. “South Africa could lose its principal markets of export — of its crown jewel industry — if it does not change to EVs [electric vehicles]. This is where production incentive programmes are critical.”

Montmasson-Clair said the probable effect of electric cars on the local vehicle industry and the economy must become a factor when considering new policies. 

“For me the primary reason for transitioning to electric vehicles is economics and the socioeconomic implications that are coming our way. With that comes some environmental benefits. But there are many other benefits,” he said.

More electric cars would mean that South Africa would not have to rely so heavily on fuel imports, which drive up the cost of petrol. And running an electric vehicle is much cheaper than a petrol car, Montmasson-Clair noted.

He said the government needs to send strong signals to develop the local electric vehicle market, which is already happening in the global market.

“We’re not the only country behind the curve, but the shift is evident. So we really need to get into gear about getting the market ready, consumers ready, the infrastructure and the policy framework and so on.”

Montmasson-Clair added: “Yes, we are behind the curve. But we are behind the curve with most of the world … So it’s not too late. It’s not too late at all.”

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate..

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

New sex abuse claims against aid workers exposed in DRC

Investigation finds extensive abuse of power by men allegedly working at organisations such as the World Health Organisation

Platinum records for South African mines

The miners are in a comfortable position as the world creeps towards a lower-carbon future

Denel money woes clip air force’s wings

A senior officer says the shortage of spares and and ability to service aircraft and vehicles has a negative effect on the SANDF’s operational ability

State fails at-risk children as R55m orphanage stands empty

Boikagong Centre in Mahikeng has been closed for almost two years because it did not meet safety requirements. The discarded children say they want a safe place to learn, but instead endure rape and other violence
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×