/ 25 June 2023

Buying an electric vehicle 101

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Range anxiety: The BMW iX xDrive 50 can travel up to 630km on a single charge. Photo: Lerato Matebese

You probably know by now that the automotive world is going electric as manufacturers push towards a common goal — zero emissions.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have a huge role to play, and over the past few years, the number of these vehicles on South African roads has increased as more people embrace the change. 

 While electric cars still cost a small fortune in this country, meaning few can afford them, as more and more manufacturers join the fray, EVs will become more affordable, even for the average consumer. 

That said, there are several tricky factors, given the complexity of owning an electric vehicle, especially in South Africa, where our electricity infrastructure is questionable at best. 

Charging infrastructure

Many will agree that the local EV charging network is growing steadily. However, it is advisable to have a workable plan to determine where you will be charging your vehicle. 

Almost all electric vehicles on sale in South Africa today come with home chargers that allow owners to plug their cars into a regular 220-230-volt wall socket — but it takes several hours for the battery pack to fully recharge. 

Although this is the easiest way to charge a car, there are pitfalls, such as the installation fee that most manufacturers charge to fit a wall-box charging socket and then, of course, there’s load-shedding. 

If that is not an option, the number of charging stations nationwide has grown significantly. EV owners can  charge their vehicles at some dealerships or at dedicated charging stations at shopping centres. 

It’s worth pointing out that charging stations vary in terms of capabilities — some are faster than others.

Most cities have several charging points but the same cannot be said about remote areas, so do your research before deciding to take the electric plunge.  

The driving range and battery capacity

It’s the one question that always pops up … what about range? In real-world driving conditions, range is everything, and many direct or indirect factors influence it. 

In a typical scenario, an electric vehicle should travel at least 100km on a single charge, which should be adequate for daily drives. 

Want to go further? No problem. Most high-end cars, such as the BMW iX xDrive 50 and the Audi e-Tron, can travel up to 630km and 452km, respectively, on a single charge, which should be enough to curb range anxiety.

The battery capacity also plays a vital role in how far the vehicle can go on a single charge, for instance, the higher the battery capacity, the better the driving range. 

Added costs 

Don’t let the less obvious costs take you by surprise after you’ve signed on the dotted line. 

These can come in the form of purchasing a home charger, the price of using a dedicated EV charger, and electricity costs, if you will be charging your vehicle at home. 

It depends on the manufacturer, but most of them charge extra for installing a home charger, which can be a painful expense, if you aren’t prepared for it. 

Battery-pack warranty 

Replacing the battery pack is a costly undertaking. It’s essential to read the fine print and know precisely what you are getting. 

Warranties vary — for example, vehicles such as the Audi e-Tron are backed by an eight-year/160 000km battery warranty, which covers the cost of repairs or part replacements due to mechanical failure. 

Practical intentions 

EVs are generally simple compared to internal combustion engine-powered ones due to the lack of transmission and driveline tunnels but that doesn’t always mean they’re all practical. Doing detailed research on whether the vehicle fits your intended use is a good idea. 

Thankfully, the EV fold in Mzansi caters for everyone. You get everything from the tiny Mini SE to the mammoth Audi e-Tron, BMW iX and Jaguar I-Pace. 

If practicality isn’t at the top of your list, the Porsche Taycan and Audi RS e-Tron GT models are definitely worth a look. 

Final say

Though it might take years for EV charging infrastructure to be rolled out everywhere, GridCars, in partnership with Audi, has installed 70 chargers across South Africa with capacities ranging between 22kW AC to 150kW DC ultra-fast charging.

Until the country can overcome significant hurdles with electricity capacity and charging stations, hybrids and plug-in hybrids remain the go-to models.